Greybull students qualify for National History Day Contest

Nathan Oster

Deep dives into the plight of Native Americans in the aftermath of the Sand Creek and Wounded Knee massacres and the Japanese-Americans following their release from internment camps have led to some significant honors for three Greybull students.
Jack Pharaoh, whose documentary was entitled, “With Wounded Knee, We Still Stand,” took first place in the senior division at State History Day held April 29 in Laramie.
Middle schoolers Reagan Vigil and Lilliann Otto, meanwhile, placed first with their junior group documentary, “Executive Order 9066 Japanese-American Internment: Behind the Wire.”
All three qualified for National History Day Contest June 9-13 at the University of Maryland, which is located just 12 miles from the nation’s capitol.
Pharaoh, Vigil and Otto were among the three high school and 16 middle school students from Greybull who competed at the state contest, according to Michelle Stebner, who teaches history at GMS.
Pharaoh also qualified last year.  While middle schoolers have not been permitted to attend nationals in the past, that is changing this year, she said.  It was Otto’s first History Day project. Vigil had done one previously, but not a documentary. “So it was a first for both of them,” said Stebner.
Pharaoh’s 10-minute documentary included research on the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, the arrest and subsequent killing of Sitting Bill, and the events that led to the Wounded Knee Massacre on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota at the hands of the Seventh Cavalry, which was seeking revenge from the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Pharoah, who narrated the documentary, opined that, “After Wounded Knee, the battles may have subsided, but the oppression toward Native Americans only intensified, ushering in an era of increased marginalization, discrimination and cultural suppression with no weapons to fight for themselves.”
His documentary touched on the plight of the Native American children who were sent off to boarding schools and into present day, where the attacks on Native American continue with little being done about it.
“Around 30 percent of all national missing persons are Native American women below the age of 20 and over half of all current cases nationally are Indigenous women under 30,” he narrated.“Those statistics are from 2019; the number has only increased.”
The final image of his presentation was a quote: “We exist, we resist, we rise.”
Vigil and Otto focused on Executive Order 9066. Signed into law by President Roosevelt on Feb. 19, 1942, just more than two months after the attack on Pearl Harbor, it led to the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans During World War II.
The students presented research on the conditions prisoners were forced to endure — “harsh, overcrowded and surrounded by barbed wired and arm guards” — and the post-traumatic stress and cardiovascular disease that resulted in a greater likelihood of premature death.
They also detailed how Congress issued $20,000 in compensation to each survivor detained in the internment camps around the United States, including the one at Heart Mountain near Powell.