Vassar Quarterly - Spring 2018 - 31
Alumni find a synergy and a way
to help the Navajo Nation.
By Julia Van Develder
the late '70s when Eric Beringause '80
was a student at Vassar, he applied for
a summer job as a seasonal interpretive
ranger with the National Park Service
at Canyon de Chelly (pronounced CAN-yon deh SHAY)
National Monument in northern Arizona. "And much to
my surprise, I got the job," he says.
It was the perfect position for an anthropology major.
"Canyon de Chelly is probably one of the most spectacular
places on the planet," says Beringause, "and it is unique in
that it's entirely within the Navajo Tribal Trust of the Navajo
Nation and is one of the few National Park Service units
that's cooperatively managed."
The canyon is the site of some magnificent Anasazi
Indian ruins and also home to a small community of
Navajo or Diné people. "So on the archaeological side and
on the cultural anthropology side, for me it was just a
The experience, he says, was transformative. "Here
I was-this kid from New York. I had no car or anything,
so I ended up hitchhiking a good part of the way there.
And all the folks I met out there, the folks in the tribe-
boy, they couldn't have been nicer."
That first summer, the area's National Park Service
staff consisted entirely of non-native people. Beringause
became friends with a local Navajo guide named Wilson
Hunter and convinced him to apply for a seasonal ranger
job the next summer. Hunter got the job and eventually
made the National Park Service his career. Today he is the
Deputy Superintendent at Canyon de Chelly, the highestlevel Native American in the National Park Service, and he
and Beringause have stayed in touch throughout the years.
Fast-forward 30 years or so. Beringause is now the
CEO of Gehl Foods, the largest manufacturer of nacho
cheese sauce in the world and one of the largest specialty
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