BHSU grad overcomes disability and prepares for wildlife internship

Ellie Froschmayer will graduate from Black Hills State University this weekend with a degree in American Indian Studies. The Waukesha, Wisc. native will then begin an internship with Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge where she'll teach urban students about conserving wildlife.

Eleanor (Ellie) Froschmayer was drawn to Black Hills State University after visiting the Crazy Horse Memorial on a family trip. That inspiration, combined with her American Indian Studies education at BHSU, has created a career path for Ellie to share her passions.

After she receives her degree from BHSU this weekend, Ellie will begin an internship at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge in Commerce City, Colo. Her goal is to work for the U.S. Parks Service or in a diversity center at a university.

"For my internship I will be working with urban students and teaching them about the wildlife and how to conserve it," says Ellie.

Public speaking is no small feat for Ellie. She was diagnosed with dyspraxia, a developmental coordination disorder, in childhood. The disorder affects her speech and fine motor skills.

Ellie says it's difficult for her to pronounce words with more than three syllables.

"I never thought I could do public speaking," says Ellie. "Then I took a speech class at BHSU with Dr. Tim Steckline and with a lot of practice and believing in myself, I've overcome my fear."

Originally from Waukesha, Wisc., Ellie began college in her home state before transferring to BHSU.

"My interest in American Indian culture was sparked after I heard Oglala Sioux warrior Crazy Horse's story, how he stood up for what he believed in. When I switched my major to American Indian Studies I knew it made sense to come to the Black Hills because that's where I found my inspiration," says Ellie.

Ellie had started researching Crazy Horse in Wisconsin. On campus at BHSU it was history instructor Kelly Kirk who helped Ellie move her project to the next step.

Ellie studied scholarly and popular depictions of Crazy Horse including works of art, movies, novels, and interviews to understand how different people in different times defined him and his legacy. With help from her advisors at BHSU, she shared her research with historians at the Western Historical Society in South Dakota and at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research in Memphis, Tenn.

Once again overcoming the struggles of dyspraxia, Ellie worked at Mount Rushmore National Memorial this past summer. She created interpretive talks to share with visitors based on courses she'd had at BHSU.

"Working at Mount Rushmore was one of the greatest experiences. I really felt like I was making a change sharing the stories with people from all over the world who visit the site," said Ellie.

Ellie says her favorite program she created focused on the Lakota language. She introduced herself in Lakota, and shared the history of Lakota, before teaching the visitors how to count to four in the language. She then played and sang "Drums" by Johnny Cash.

Ellie notes the many great classes she's taken at BHSU in the American Indian Studies program focusing on Lakota language, boarding schools, and American Indian issues.

"My advisor Jace DeCory, associate professor of American Indian Studies, has helped me figure out who I am and what I want to do. Her stories to help explain the culture have helped me learn," said Ellie.

As Ellie prepares to leave the Black Hills, a place where she's found inspiration, she says one of her favorite memories was visiting Poet's Table in Custer State Park. Following tradition, Ellie left words of encouragement on postcards for other visitors.

"My overall goal is to teach about Native American culture and issues," says Ellie. "To bring cultures together."