Rebekha Crockett ’17 brings historic past to life for diverse visitors

Serendipity brought Rebekha Crockett ’17 to Ripon College, and what she gained here started her on the road to a successful career in anthropology and archaeology.

In November 2019, she defended her master’s thesis, “Bosque Redondo as a Pharmakon: A Contextualized Understanding of Health and Medical Care,” at Eastern New Mexico University. She how is a state historic site ranger-advanced at Fort Sumner Historic Site/Bosque Redondo Memorial for the Department of Cultural Affairs in New Mexico.

“My job kind of makes me a jack of all trades,” she says. “I do research, write articles, help out with events, give tours, answer visitor questions, do interpretation, take care of artifacts, design lesson plans and activities, get and send the mail, help out with maintaining the site and grounds keeping, I clean the main facilities, answer the phone, manage our social media, and even help take care of our flock of churro sheep.

“I don’t do all of those things alone, of course. I work with a great team, but every day is a little different and I get a lot of flexibility depending on what needs to get done and what I feel like doing. I can work outdoors or indoors, which I love. And the site I work for has a dark history and very moving message about resilience and survival. It is very meaningful work where I feel like I can make a difference.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, things have changed. “In a matter of days we went from being closed but working staggered shifts on site to working solely from home if at all possible,” Crockett says. “Working for New Mexico Historic Sites, we are usually heavily focused on in-person type public engagement. We had been working on online programming but that often took the backseat as other things took precedence.

She says the focus right now is digital programming, and Historic Sites is offering online history lessons and an online summer camp with activities for students. She is working on an online book club, children’s story time, articles and other projects. “I have had to polish up my video-making and editing skills for sure,” she says.

The site has installed a new permanent exhibit as they carefully designing reopening plans.

Before coming to Ripon, Crockett had attended another school for two years when her program was cut with no warning in late February or early March.

“There was nothing even similar that I could switch to,” she says. “I was moping around the cafeteria — I knew the people who worked there really well — and one of the workers came and sat with me and asked what was wrong. She told me her daughter was going to Ripon and it seemed like a really good school and I should consider going there. It was all very last minute but I looked at it and the school seemed a great fit. I could keep most of my credits so I transferred.”

At Ripon, she majored in anthropology and minored in Spanish. She also worked as a Phonathon caller and department secretary. This background serves her in good stead in her current job. “Our site is centered on a living history, and many of our visitors come from diverse backgrounds, including Dine (Navajo) and N’de (Mescalero Apache) whose ancestors were interned at Bosque Redondo Reservation under terrible conditions.

‘Anthropology emphasizes cultural sensitivity and adaptability, and this definitely helps me to connect with our visitors to better communicate the significance of this history,” Crockett says. “I also learned a lot about critical thinking, creativity, initiative and research skills at Ripon that help every day.”

One of her most rewarding opportunities at Ripon was getting to design her own research projects, Crockett says. “I did one on cultural hybridity among students, another on the impact of ghost folklore on college campuses. I also really enjoyed a lot of the books I read in my anthropology and Spanish classes. Those were some of the most interesting and thought-provoking things I have ever read. My time at Ripon College also helped me grow as a person, allowed me to meet a lot of interesting people and really kind of figure out who I am and what I want out of life. I also had some absolutely phenomenal professors who taught me so much and who really challenged and inspired me.”

Zoe Hazel ‘22
Friendship, Wisconsin

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