Tom and I have been going through orientation for Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site in North Dakota during the last two weeks. Normally we would be onsite for orientation, but Fort Union didn’t let us know until the a couple of days before it started. In addition, we have some obligations here in Ohio at the end of May and beginning of June. We thought about traveling out there for orientation and then coming back, but it is 1,400 miles each direction. The Volunteer Coordinator, Ranger Lisa Sanden, offered to let us do the training via Microsoft Teams and we took her up on that.
Tom and I generally enjoy doing the training for a new National Park site. It is a good time to get to know the people with whom we will be working. Doing it via the computer is interesting. Everyone else is in a room together and Tom and I are on separate computers in Ohio. Ranger Lisa has done a wonderful job of being sure we are included. She has a camera and microphone and we appear on a big tv screen in the training room. We can hear most of what goes on and the group has been turning the camera to face the person speaking.
But the interpersonal aspects of it are still hard. Although we can usually see the person speaking, we can’t see how others are responding. Or what other people are doing during the time a person is speaking. One of the rangers has a habit of making whispered comments that everyone else laughs at but we can’t hear. We are doing a good job of getting the information for training, but having a harder time working out the nonverbal dynamics.
Still, there is lots of information being covered in the orientation. We learned about the National Park Equal Employment policies, which cover things like sexual or racial harassment. Superintendent Alice Hart welcomed us and let us know that the Visitors Center would be open (hopefully) by the end of May. We learned that the park only has two full-time interpretive rangers so they have a lot of duties: Ranger Lisa and Ranger Loren Yellow Bird. Ranger Loren is a member of the Arikara Tribe. The other people in training are three seasonal rangers and a few local volunteers. We have worked with one of the seasonal rangers before: Karl from Grand Portage.
We were given a tour of the grounds by Curator Fred McVaugh (one of the seasonal rangers carried around an iPad during the tour). Ranger Travis Lisenbee is the Maintenance Supervisor and he talked about Operational Leadership (safety). We will be living next to Ranger Travis when we get to the site. All of the seasonal rangers also live in park housing in the same area. After listening and learning a variety of things for two days we spent a third day doing interpretive training for demonstrations, roving and programs.
After three very long days of listening and participating from a distance, Tom and I feel like we are prepared to go to Fort Union. We still have a stack of books to read and lots of information to digest. I’m sure there will be more to learn, but some things you can only learn in person. Although we are enjoying our time in Ohio, we are eager to get back to the National Parks and begin traveling and working again.