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Jason Reher Memorial Gift

Memorial Gift for Beloved Son Supports Next Generations of Archaeologists

Jason Reher

Driving through the peaceful rolling grasslands of eastern Wyoming on Interstate 90, you’d never guess the life and death struggle that took place nearby.

From 1500 to 1800 AD, the Kiowa, Apache, Shoshone, Hidatsa, Crow, and Cheyenne people fed their families by stampeding buffalo over the steep cliffs of the Vore Buffalo Jump. The cliffs surround a sinkhole that formed where gypsum soil was eroded, leaving a steep-sided pit about 40 feet deep and 200 feet in diameter.

This type of hunting was dangerous for everyone involved, particularly for the decoy. Here Meriwether Lewis describes the job of the decoy:

one of the most active and fleet young men is selected and disguised in a robe of buffalo skin ... he places himself at a distance between a herd of buffalo and a precipice proper for the purpose; the other Indians now surround the herd on the back and flanks and at a signal agreed on all show themselves at the same time moving forward towards the buffalo; the disguised Indian or decoy has taken care to place himself sufficiently near the buffalo to be noticed by them when they take to flight and running before them they follow him in full speed to the precipice; the Indian (decoy) in the mean time has taken care to secure himself in some cranny in the cliff ... the part of the decoy I am informed is extremely dangerous.

The history of the Vore Buffalo Jump is investigated and preserved thanks to archaeologists from the University of Wyoming, including the iconic archaeologist George Frison. The first excavation crew was led by graduate student Charles Reher, who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the Vore at the University of New Mexico.  He later returned to UW as a professor of anthropology and is now emeritus.

Jason ReherTragically, the son of Charles Reher and his wife Sandra died at 38 in an industrial accident. Jason was an electrical engineer who loved doing things. He loved working on archaeological digs with his father and traveling the United States with his mother and sister.  He went from playing in the site backdirt piles with his trucks, to taking field classes, to professional employment on site excavations.

Jason loved skiing, and for at least one day in 1986 he was the best skier in Wyoming when he won the Governor’s Cup Race. He could make stone tools, install and repair computer systems, catch trout, and bowl a perfect 300. He loved Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, the Beatles, and science fiction. He was charismatic and kind and loved his cats Milton and Buscha.  He is greatly missed by all who knew him.

Charles and Sandra established the Jason Reher Memorial Fund in his memory, which supports undergraduate and graduate students studying Wyoming archaeology. It is used for fellowship awards; support for archaeological research activities such as stipends, travel, equipment, supplies; and educational activities related to archeological research such as public programs, museum projects, and coordination with Native American tribes.  Preference is given to research activities conducted in the eastern part of Wyoming that involve post-Paleoindian time periods. 

And so it comes full circle.  Families take care of families and pay it forward through centuries, ensuring the next generations.


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