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Paleontology Department Plans Museum

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History in North Dakota stretches farther back than most of us can really comprehend. Hidden treasures are piling up in a building on the Standing Rock Reservation, and some say they're far too valuable to remain tucked away.

This vacant space could one day be the home of the Standing Rock Institute of Paleontology. The tribal paleontology department recently applied for a $1.4 million grant that would allow them to transform the old library into a museum.

"Standing Rock is a huge reservation and it's right in the middle of dinosaur country. And the nice thing about it is we get a lot of famous dinosaurs that people really know and are excited about, triceratops, Tyrannosaurus, some of these other duckbilled dinosaurs, armored dinosaurs. So, we're right in that time frame just before dinosaurs go extinct. And they're showing up right here on the reservation," says paleontology director Allen Shaw.

The Standing Rock Paleontology Department  houses more than 10,000 fossils. But none are on public display. An Administration for Native Americans grant could change that, bringing new educational opportunities for children.

"We tend to do outreach for hundreds of kids throughout the reservation in many different grades, showing and taking fossils to them. This would allow us to the fossils, where something like this or like this is not easily transported to the school," says Shaw.

The museum would also create new and unique employment opportunities for people on the reservation. Derek Jamerson has worked as a fossil preparator for about four years.

"I would have never thought I would be working in paleontology in my life. You know, when I first graduated high school, I didn't even know there was a paleontology department here. So, I just think of them as an important resource to protect and preserve," says Jamerson.

If the department receives the grant, workers could begin construction as early as January.

Standing Rock is the only tribe to have a paleontology department and a legal code pertaining to fossils found on the reservation.




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