Dr. Brenda Todd, a native of Paonia, has been selected as the next superintendent of Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site in Stanton, N.D. Todd is a 10-year veteran of the National Park Service and is currently the program manager at the Public Lands History Center at Colorado State University. Her new assignment will begin Feb. 4.
"We're pleased to welcome Brenda to Knife River and the Midwest Region in this new role," said regional director Cam Sholly. "Her background and experience in tribal engagement, archaeology, and community engagement will complement the outstanding team there and continue the very positive direction of the park."
Todd has a proven track record of facilitating meaningful tribal involvement and consultation in decision-making. She holds a PhD in anthropology with a specialization in archeology from the University of Colorado Boulder. She has worked with tribes and agencies throughout the country and conducted fieldwork in the Southwest and Midwest.
Her tenure with the National Park Service began in the Office of Indian Affairs and American Culture in the Intermountain Regional Office. She served as a cultural resource specialist and later became a project manager with the Denver Service Center Planning Division. While at the center, Todd worked with over 30 parks on management challenges and oversaw the development of the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site Draft Archeological Resources Management Plan.
"While working on the Knife River plan, I was taken by the peaceful beauty of the park and its amazing archeological resources, its history, and the local community," Todd said. "I am thrilled to implement a plan that I had a significant role in developing. I look forward to bringing my passion for the park, its resources, and working with native peoples and other partners to my role as superintendent."
In 1974, Congress established Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site to preserve, research, and interpret an area rich with history and culture including the remains of three large Hidatsa villages.
Brenda and her husband, Adam Reynolds, are avid outdoor enthusiasts and enjoy hiking with their two dogs, backpacking in national parks, and traveling to learn about history and experience different cultures.
Todd was born in Delta County and attended Paonia elementary, middle and high schools. She graduated from Paonia High School in 1999 as co-valedictorian with Kristin Ridgway. Her parents recently moved to Wyoming, but many members of the large Todd family still reside in the North Fork Valley.
Todd says her interest in anthropology and archaeology was sparked at a young age. "When I was 6, my parents took me to Mesa Verde National Park and I thought it was the most fascinating, amazing thing I'd ever seen," she said. "I knew at that point that I wanted to study the past."
Then in middle school, she had an opportunity to sign up for academy week classes that focused on archaeology. In both seventh and eighth grade, she went on field trips led by Cindy Swartzendruber. Students traveled to Cortez, where they made pottery, studied artifacts and spent time with a professional archaeologist. The opportunity to work with a real archaeologist further spurred Todd's interest in that field of work.
With the assistance of PHS instructor Mike Jensen, she applied for a grant from the Colorado Department of Education to create her own anthropology course. With the $2,000 grant, she immersed herself in a study of people of the Southwest. The course culiminated with an transformative field trip to Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation.
While many graduating seniors struggle to identify a career path, Todd knew she wanted to work in anthropology and archaeology, so she enrolled at Fort Lewis College in Durango. She later earned her master's degree and PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder. To earn her doctorate, she directed excavations of archaeological sites at Chimney Rock National Monument near Pagosa Springs. Chimney Rock was not yet a designated national monument, but the research Todd and her colleagues did into the lives of ancestral Puebloans helped demonstrate its importance. President Barack Obama declared Chimney Rock a national monument in 2012.
Todd became associated with the National Park Service while she was pursuing her master's degree. After completing a student research project, she was invited to join the NPS as a student employee. She worked for the NPS while pursuing her doctorate, then in 2012 became a full-time employee.