Gregory Nickerson graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and little confidence in his ability as a writer. Now, the Big Horn native caries national recognition for writing and boasts a good handle in the filmmaking world, too.
Nickerson loves history. Because of that deep-seated love, the historian found himself buried in research from the Wyoming Room at the Sheridan County Fulmer Public Library about the Miss Indian America pageant.
“I love digging up those American stories of how we got to be where we are, and the American Indian topics, which are hugely fascinating, especially around Sheridan,” Nickerson said.
Before Nickerson could tell the stories of American Indians, he needed to first brush up on skills he deemed necessary in that storytelling process. So he returned to school and earned a graduate degree from the University of Wyoming.
With pieces coming together, Nickerson gained confidence in his skills and compiled a multimedia telling of American Indian history in Sheridan. Nickerson utilized writing techniques skills he picked up working for WyoFile, an online news source in the state capitol. He also obtained skills in photography and project planning while working in Philadelphia, where he helped create short documentaries as well.
Nickerson remains a believer in learning by doing. Even with two college degrees in hand, Nickerson learned best by thrusting himself into projects that taught him what he needed to know about each medium. Writing is Nickerson’s strength, but filmmaking has become a way for Nickerson to reach different audiences in lifelong goal of teaching others.
“I’m mostly a writer, but sometimes when there are situations when you try and catch people’s attention or can reach a different audience,” Nickerson said.
With solid writing skills, Nickerson still felt hesitant to tell the story he’d been sitting on for years in print form. So he teamed up with experienced Sheridan filmmaker Leon Schatz, along with others to help fund and create a short documentary on the history of the Miss Indian America pageant. The completed documentary commemorates the pageant, which originated from a 1950s campaign to end public discrimination against American Indians in Sheridan County.
“(Video) is nice, particularly in history, because you can really show images and archival things and transport people to other places that they wouldn’t have been able to get to otherwise,” Nickerson said.
With a written script and story flow in hand, Nickerson was finally able to compile a written version of the Miss Indian America pageant. He wrote an article for the summer 2017 issue of “Montana the Magazine of Western History.”
As a writer and historian, Nickerson is now being recognized for his work. The article received the Outstanding Magazine Article Wrangler Award from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.
Montana Historical Society magazine editor Molly Holz said she spoke to Nickerson when he served as director of the Sheridan County Museum and recognized his passion for the Miss Indian America pageant. Through this project, both Nickerson’s writing and filmmaking skills are showcased through the “untouched territory” of the pageant history.
“He’s had a long-term commitment to telling the story,” Holz said, “as has the magazine.”
Holz said the article serves as a “beautiful marriage of local, regional and national history.”
Holz said Nickerson’s professionalism helps him balance the different storytelling mediums while also having the personality with which people want to work and interact.
Through the multiple mediums he works to perfect, Nickerson’s desire is to see people reach beyond cultural differences to increase civility in the nation.