Storytelling school

Wyoming Voices Video Storytelling Project Focuses on Southwest Wyoming

SOUTH-WEST WYOMING – The Powder River Basin Resource Council (Powder River), in partnership with researchers from the University of Wyoming Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, unveiled Wyoming Voices, a pilot project examining how storytelling can support communities in transition.

Through this process, eight participants from southwest Wyoming not only shared their personal stories of love and life in the region, but also had the opportunity to learn from each other. Of this diverse group of people whose backgrounds and work experiences all differ, a deeper history of the region is more complex than just the economic forces weighing on the region.

“I found that sharing my experiences of living in Southwest Wyoming, and especially the Kemmerer area, gave me an outlet to share what drew me here,” said Bill Price, a storyteller who lives in Kemmerer. “But more importantly, I learned more than I thought I would from listening to other people’s experiences. Listening to the other band members gave us all a strong bond. Reliving the thrill and thrill of my experiences made me relive wonderful sensations. I look forward to hearing more voices that will give me a chance to see southwest Wyoming through their eyes. Participating in this project allowed me to prove to myself that staying here was the right choice.”

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Southwest Wyoming has become an epicenter of the country’s energy transition away from coal. This is illustrated by the upcoming retirement dates for units at the Jim Bridger and Naughton coal-fired power plants, at Rock Springs and Kemmerer, respectively. These closures, and the mining jobs associated with them, will result in lost jobs and lost local tax revenue, but there has been little movement at the state level to help plan for the coming transition from a way that includes the people on the ground in those impacted communities.

The storytelling project aims to elevate local voices in the ongoing conversation about how these communities can thrive as the transition progresses. Stories can help drive change as well as identify what community members themselves see as priorities and opportunities in their communities. Although each video is only a few minutes long, they show the depth and breadth of experiences people have had in the area, why they value the area, and why they stay there despite economic uncertainty.

“A person traveling in southwest Wyoming once said to my grandfather, ‘Anyone who wanted to live here has never lived anywhere else,'” said Roger Varley, a storyteller from Point of Rocks in Wyoming County. Sweetwater. “As for me, I never take it for granted that the beauty of this place escapes most people. Whether it’s a howling blizzard, a severe dust storm, or just a hot dry old day, I can NOT see the beauty. I may not be able to make someone else see what I see, but if they listen, they will know my passion. This is why it is important to tell my story.

StoryCenter, a nonprofit specializing in digital storytelling, facilitated the process to help each person create their stories and share their unique perspective. The University of Wyoming’s Equality State Research Network provided funding. Powder River and Haub School researchers are continuing community-based research around these stories through 2022.

The Powder River YouTube channel and the organization’s website feature the videos. For more information about the video series, contact Powder River at 307-672-5809 or email [email protected]

Background: Biographies of Wyoming Voices Storytellers

Roger Varley
Roger Varley is a multi-generational Wyomingite from Point of Rocks in Sweetwater County. He is married and has two adult daughters. He owns the Travel Center and the small community near the Jim Bridger Power Plant. Point of Rocks is also the site of the historic Overland Stagecoach station and petroglyphs.

Clayton Flint
Originally from Wyomingite, Clayton Flint lives in Fort Bridger where he works in the maintenance of wind turbines. A Navy veteran, he is married with 3 children and sits on the board of directors of the annual Fort Bridger Rendezvous.

susan hunzie
Susan Hunzie of Diamondville has deep roots in the community and in the local chapter of the United Mine Workers Association. She is a retired public health professional and served as mayor of Diamondville. She is married and has children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Dana Furgason
Dana Furgason lives in Sweetwater County near Rock Springs. He is retired from the Jim Bridger Power Plant, where he worked for many years. Dana moved from Oregon to Wyoming in the 1980s during the coal boom and raised his three daughters to love nature as much as he did. Dana is a member of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 127, AFL-CIO.

Fran Murphy
Fran Murphy of Diamondville is a social entrepreneur, particularly within the area’s senior community. She is also the former owner/operator of Circle Cab.

Price charged
Bill Price of Kemmerer moved into the community when he purchased Coast to Coast Hardware, which he later changed to Ace Hardware. He currently sits on city council and is the former chairman of the city’s planning and zoning board. He is also the proud grandfather of three daughters. Bill always tries to see the bright side of life.

Mandy Flint
Mandy Flint landed in Fort Bridger via Chicago and California. An entrepreneur, she owns The Green Eyed Gypsy, Tarot Reading, and is married with three children.

Michele Irwin
Michele Irwin lives near Green River in rural Sweetwater County near the Seedskedee National Wildlife Refuge. She is an artist and organizer for the Powder River Basin Resource Council. She and her husband are raised by buffaloes and Airedales.