North Dakotan honored for park system influence

Gerard Baker

An enrolled member of North Dakota’s Three Affiliated Tribes who worked to incorporate Native American history and perspectives into the National Park Service (NPS) was recently recognized as one of seven NPS people with significant influence on the national park system.

Baker and the six other park service people were acknowledged in The Washington Post.

Baker, now living in Montana, said it was “a great honor” to be recognized with the six other NPS people. He retired after 36 years with the park service.

Baker grew up on his family’s ranch near Mandaree on the Fort Berthold Reservation. He got his start with the National Park Service in North Dakota.

During his career his NPS assignments included serving as the second Native American superintendent at Custer Battlefield National Monument in southeast Montana where he oversaw the continuation of changing that park’s name to Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana.

In 2004, he became the first Native American superintendent of Mount Rushmore National Monument in South Dakota.

At one time before he retired he was the highest ranking Native as the assistant director of American Indian Relations, a new position for the NPS.

Baker, who has a Ph.D., is a member of the Sacagawea Project Board, a group formed on Fort Berthold composed of descendants of Sacagawea, Lewis and Clark’s famed guide who led the expedition to the Pacific Ocean. The group released a book about two years ago about their findings that Sacagawea was Hidatsa and Crow, contrary to accounts that say she was Shoshone.

He was among several leading Native scholars and experts in Ken Burns’ documentary, “The American Buffalo.” The documentary aired in October 2023. He has appeared in several of Burns’ documentaries.


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