Dorien Scheets

Dorien Scheets

In May 2020, Monticello resident Dorien Scheets was offered a six-month long paid internship with Tumacácori National Historical Park in Tumacácori, Arizona. This internship is funded through the National Park Foundation’s Women in Parks initiative. The aim of Dorien’s internship is to research and interpret Mission records from the 1700s and 1800s, written exclusively by men, to expand historical storytelling to include women. Her efforts work to uncover how the lives of women during the Spanish colonial era contributed to the culture of the Mexican, O’odham, Nde, and Yoemem communities that exist today.


Tumacácori National Historical Park sits at the cultural crossroads in the Santa Cruz River valley located in the Sonoran Desert. Here, beginning around 1619, O’odham, Yoeme, and Nde people mingled with Spanish European Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries, soldiers, and settlers. Under the guidance of park ranger Anita Badertscher, Chief of Interpretation and Education and Public Information Officer, Dorien will work from June 8, 2020, through November 27, 2020, to illuminate the lives of women in this diverse border area.

Duties that Dorien is responsible for include the translation of mission-era documents from Spanish to English, conducting literature reviews, and working with material culture and primary documents to inform new insights into women’s lives. Dorien is developing a new webpage for Tumacácori National Historical Park, developing two displays, and will present her research virtually to the National Park Foundation. This position is paid through the National Park Foundation’s Women in Parks initiative but is also a designated AmeriCorps position. Thus, upon completion of Dorien’s 900-hour internship with Tumacácori National Historical Park, she will receive a $3,000 education grant from AmeriCorps which will go toward her future graduate studies.

Dorien graduated from Avon High School in May 2017 before coming to Ball State University. She is a Fall 2020 graduate from BSU. During her undergraduate career, Dorien undertook an Honors curriculum in addition to majoring in Anthropology and Public History and minoring in Spanish and Sociology. Dorien has held several research fellowships with the Honors College, participated in various organizations on campus, and even founded her own–Honors Association for Community Engagement. She has also worked on the ground floor of a developing nonprofit, which she helped to establish, called Beneficence Family Scholars Inc., which aims to combat generational poverty in Muncie, IN. Now a graduate, Dorien works full-time at Tumacácori National Historical Park in Arizona conducting research, creating interpretive displays and resources, and working on translating for Spanish park visitors. She is also involved in several freelance editing positions for various books and articles. Dorien plans to go on to graduate school at the University of British Columbia in Fall 2021 with their PhD program in Gender, Race, Sexuality, and Social Justice. 

The following is an interview with Dorien about her experiences and the skills she’s learned. 

How did you decide you wanted to pursue a degree in Public History?

Frankly, the history degree fell into my lap. Growing up, I had always been fascinated by history. I loved that history could give me insight into the workings of the world as well as help cultivate my understanding of why the world is the way it is today. I entered into college with many history credits from AP courses in high school, which is why I initially took on a history major in addition to my anthropology major. But the public history part happened later. I was taking classes for some time in the history department when I began to realize that so often, history books are written for those who study history, for the “ivory tower,” so to speak, rather than for regular people. I thought that was silly. After all, everyone can and should learn from history, and it should be accessible and engaging.

So, I discovered that public history seeks to do just that–make history engaging and exciting for all people, and it attempts to spark curiosity and questions in the public. I wanted to be a part of sparking that questioning, for I believe that when we question, we agitate the status quo. When we agitate the status quo, we can begin to think about how to make the world a better place.

Why were you interested in this specific internship?

This internship caught my eye for several reasons. Firstly, it allowed me the opportunity to use my bilingual abilities and continue to cultivate my Spanish abilities. Secondly, I have always been extremely passionate about learning and promoting the historical narratives of minorities.

So, when this internship appeared to me, which focuses on telling/researching the untold histories of women, I knew I had to be involved. I asked if I could tailor the internship to focus more centrally on indigenous women’s histories and was encouraged. So, that was awesome that I could research that which I found needed most attention and fill in the gaps that I saw needed the most help in the historical record.

What does a typical day at your internship look like?

A typical day in my life as a historical research intern with Tumacácori National Historical Park varies quite a bit. In the beginning, I was doing a lot of preliminary literature reviews of already published academic works concerning Spanish missions, articles and books (frankly, a lot of ethnographies) about the indigenous groups in the geographic regions in which I was focusing my research (like the O’odham, the Yaqui, and the Apache), and research on other topics. This served to inform me about all of the cultural, social, and historical contexts of my research topic.

Once I got a thorough background formed, I transitioned into making site visits to important historical landmarks to gain a better grasp of the landscape that the native women were living and functioning in. I find that geography and environment greatly impacts lived experience, so I wanted to use that to inform my studies.

Next, I tried to dive into researching primary source documentation to piece together these native women’s lives (which is extremely hard). This was the most time-consuming portion of my research. Once I put together some very lengthy notes, I transitioned into making interpretive materials like brochures, posters, and more, so that the public could survey the results of my research about native women’s lives in Spanish missions. I also was invited to give a virtual lecture about my research to the staff of the National Park Foundation, and did, in November. Lastly, I spent a good chunk of time writing a thesis about my research that is some 70 pages long. I hope to develop the thesis into articles for publication.

What are the most valuable skills you have gained from your internship?

I’ve gained so many skills, too many to even name. Some of the skills I most appreciate that I’ve learned during my time at Tumacácori include refining academic style texts down for public consumption, using applications like InDesign to create my own interpretive materials, as well as just learning a lot about my own work style, my pace, and about what kinds of things motivate me and what topics make me most passionate.

What is the most fulfilling part of your internship?

The most fulfilling part of my internship has been just trying to illuminate the lived experiences and stories of so many native women who played really integral roles in their mission communities. So often, their importance goes underappreciated and the dynamic characters that these women had goes unresearched, unexpressed, and unnoticed in the annals of history. If my research can even begin to shed some light on their stories, then I’m beyond thrilled.