Brad Barr: Our final speaker in this session is Deanna Beacham. She is the American Indian Program Manager for the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay office. She previously worked as an American Indian program specialist for the commonwealth of Virginia and served on the advisory counsel for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
As an advisory council member, she participated in the National Park Service response to the 2009 Chesapeake Bay executive order, and authored an essay on Indigenous Cultural Landscape as a way to explain an indigenous perspective of the unspoiled large landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay region. The concept is now being utilized and further explored by NPS and other organizations. Deanna received her undergraduate degree from Duke and a master’s degree from the University of Colorado. Deanna.
Deanna Beacham: How do I make this work for a small person? Ah, that will work, I think. I don’t like being tied to a place either. I come to you not only without pretty pictures to show, but without anything to read. So as usual, ten minutes before, I’m thinking why do the ancestors want me to be here to talk? And ultimately it boils down to, because where I live in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, most of you, unless you live there or work there or have at some time, have absolutely no idea that there are still indigenous peoples that are living on their ancestral lands. And they’re living in communities that are, with some of the same names that the ones that John Smith wrote down when he first came through. And you don’t know we’re even there.
So ultimately, everything that happens about the Indigenous Cultural Landscape and how it fits with maritime cultural landscapes, which thanks to Paul Loether, I now realize that’s what they’re all living on. I mean, I’m learning all this stuff as I go along but it’s basically because there are Indians in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which is 64,000 square miles; or so they tell me.
This is a cheat sheet and you have one on your table and it has all the information about how the Indigenous Cultural Landscape team got to be formed and what they’re doing now. But I will talk to you personally about some of the highlights that I see as it’s happening. As was mentioned in my bio, when we were talking about saving large landscapes in the Chesapeake Bay, I was the only indigenous person in a room full of people that really wanted to save large landscapes, especially the unspoiled large landscapes, that as we all know protect the waters of the Chesapeake Bay where it’s rising. Probably more than it is anyplace else.
So to do that, I was met with this wall of misunderstanding or a lack of knowledge how an Indigenous Cultural Landscape, isn’t that like an archeological site or maybe a place that used to be sacred to the Indians? It’s always in the past that any of this ever happened. And the only way that I could think to talk about an indigenous landscape, in a broader perspective, was to wave my arms, like I’m doing now, and to say it’s all the things that a community would have used and needed and gone to and all the places they had to know in order to live their lives; considering that they had no written material, they weren’t writing things down, and everything was oral; and you had to memorize, and you had to learn. And you had to plan, and you had to go to the right season for where the men were supposed to go and the women were supposed to go. And I explained this over and over again, and say, it’s really no different from most of the national wildlife refuges that you go to.
The places in the Chesapeake Bay area that are unspoiled, when I think of those, I think of places like Presceal or Blackwater. And they’re naturally Indigenous Cultural Landscapes, because they’re the kinds of places where native communities would’ve lived to support themselves. And people said, you have to write this down. And I’m like, no. I talk store it. I don’t write things down.
But, you know, ultimately that was the essay that became something that the Captain John Smith Trail superintendent, at the time, said this would be a trail related resource along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake Trail. We can actually use it to help educate people about how the cultures lived; still live in some ways. But it got into the National Park Service through that door. And my consultation on it, sort of, went along with that. And the ancestors keep putting me in places that I don’t know anything about what I’m talking about.
So the entire name is actually a problem for people now, because I used some terms that meant something to the National Register people. At the time, I didn’t really know any. And to the other people that think in the little categories or boxes that the National Park Service have. And now they’re trying to marry these concepts or find ways to help expand them; and I think that’s absolutely wonderful. And I have heroes in this room, that don’t even know that they’re heroes to me. Like Jim Delgado, who doesn’t even know me, really, but when he stands up there and talks about national cultural resources being the same thing, I’m thinking, well yeah. I mean, he gets it. Every indigenous person could’ve told you that.
From the first time I ever even said anything about this concept, I just had all these other Indians coming up to me and saying, well yeah, thanks for saying that, because why aren’t they listening? And I’m saying, I don’t know. You know, maybe cause I have gray hair and I talk loud and fast. But the Indigenous Cultural Landscape became a part of the National Park Service that way. That meant it had to be put into some boxes, that included things like, getting the methodology written; which was done by a very good group of University of Maryland graduate students working under Earv Chambers. And they did a great job; and I watched that happen, thinking the whole time, my God, I’m glad I’m not doing that.
But they were actually breaking it down into steps. You have to ask these questions about, you know, how … And you have to get the indigenous communities involved from the very beginning. And you have to ask about, you know, how long a period of time do you want to look at? You know, what kinds of communities do you want to look at? And then you take the criteria that we had already put together; same basic criteria based on the kinds of places where indigenous communities would’ve lived 400 years ago. And expand that; and it turns out that when you get an active indigenous community involved in this, they always want to take it beyond contact because they’re like, hello we’re still here.
And that became another mind blowing thing for people that the indigenous communities are always going to pull this concept into the present in every way. Because they haven’t gone away and they’re still evolving and they’re still changing. And they don’t want to be thought about as living in the 17th century or the 16th century or even 20,000 years ago when their ancestors were there. They are expanding the concept when they get involved, as well.
So the steps are outlined here. For me, one of the most really exciting periods of this, by this time, I had actually been hired by the park service. There was something about the Indigenous Cultural Landscape and the job description that made me think that maybe I better apply. And I say that with a wink of course, because I really wanted to work for the park service by this time. I thought, oh this is another place where I can tell the stories, you know. This is a place where the tribes can get really involved and sometimes they want to get really involved. And sometimes they’re like, oh Deanna you’re doing a fine job. Just go ahead, do what you do. We’ll let you know when we want to talk. But it is …
In around 2014, the park service decided, because of several different factors, and I sometimes think that Mallows Bay, coming up in the future might’ve had something to do with that; that the next study should be of a place that’s called the Nanjemoy Peninsula, which is in southern Maryland. If you are looking at Washington D.C. on a regular map and you let your eyes just drop down southward, into the Potomac River, there’s a sort of drooping peninsula that goes out into the Potomac in a, sort of, down river direction. And that was where that Nanjemoy, and the Mattawoman, and the Portobago Indians were living, at the time of John Smith’s contact. And those nations, mostly were subsumed under the Piscataway, who were living a little bit further up river, but are now one of the largest and most powerful Indian groups; powerful in terms of their influence, at least, on the state in which they live.
There are two state recognized tribes now in Maryland and they are both Piscataway. They are the only state recognized tribes, so far, in Maryland. And there’s several historic Virginia state recognized tribes, as well, and they knew about the Piscataway all along. So the Indians always know who the other Indians are and you find that out. The Piscataway really, really wanted to get involved. And I really knew who I wanted to do the study; and she has done that study working with other archeologists.
Her name is Julia King. She works as a professor of anthropology and archeology for the St. Mary’s College in Maryland. Many of you might know her. She did an eight year term on the advisory council; and highly respected. And I knew that the Piscataway really respected her and that the archeological community did too. So that has just been completed. I wish I could’ve brought it to you today. I wish I could post it on the website that you see is listed here; can’t because we haven’t finished having the Piscataway take a look at it yet. And it’s very important for us that the people that helped inform the study have the first say and the last say on how it’s done. So it will be available within the next couple of months; it will be posted.
There is in this document, one of those blue colored URLs. The easiest way to find out whatever is going on in the Indigenous Cultural Landscape team, is just go to nps.gov/chba; Chesapeake Bay. That’s pretty easy to remember. And that’s the homepage; and on the homepage, because our website people keep moving the Indigenous Cultural Landscape around to different places so they decide where it belongs. We just got a link on the homepage that always will take you to the Indigenous Cultural Landscape page cause that seems to be the easiest way to do it.
I would be available to ask questions at length cause this is a ages long, 20,000 years in the making. And the idea is not mine. It belongs to all the native people and to all the people working for all the federal agencies that want to make it become an important way to protect places. Thank you very much.
Brad: Does anybody have any questions for Deanna?
Speaker: I don’t have a question, as much as I have a comment. Thank you for all the work.
Deanna: Okay. Well thank you.
Speaker: It’s really important work. Thank you.
Deanna: Apparently, this is what the ancestors want so I’m just going along with them. Yes, sir?
Speaker: When will your project be applied to the Columbia Plateau and the Columbia River Basin?
Deanna: Well, whenever somebody in the Columbia Plateau or the Columbia River Basin start doing that, in other words, it doesn’t belong to the Chesapeake Bay; it doesn’t belong to the park service. It belongs to the indigenous people and to whoever wants to do the work. So whatever we’ve done so far is going to be available to the public because it’s being done with public money, as soon as it is. And if somebody else wants to use the idea … It belongs to the universe so if someone wants to I hope they do. Yes, sir?
Speaker: Just want to make a point on that. Just the [inaudible] to work on a multiple property document [inaudible] area and [inaudible] certainly no [inaudible] just to be part of it, and one of the purposes for doing this to provide [inaudible] with similar resources particularly the park service’s involvement [inaudible]. Hopefully down the line on the river basin [inaudible] not only in and of itself but also [inaudible]
Deanna: Yeah. We are hugely excited about that multiple property listing. And I especially, in addition to being thanked … I’d like to thank all the people that contributed to this, besides indigenous people; contributing to my thinking are all the anthropologists and the landscape architects and the archeologists, believe it or not. The historians that have taught us things that we didn’t know and that we’re constantly incorporating into our evolving nations so … And Mr. Harris who got me started. Thank you.
Brad: Thank you, Deanna.