This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Deanna Beacham: This is not about National Register. It’s about a topic that’s entirely different but that fortunately Native people seem to resonate to, so it’s become useful through some federal agencies in several different ways. Basically, the indigenous cultural landscape arose out of an effort. I should start with the definition.
This is the definition, it’s written in what I call park speak, which is when they take Indian words and they turn it into something that sounds bureaucratic. It always has words like cultural and natural resources, which I wouldn’t use. But the idea is it’s a landscape that is made up of all of the relations that a community would have and would survive with in an area.
This is my murky swamp of a beginning. The concept actually came out of trying to talk with a group of people that were responding to the Executive Order 13508 in the Chesapeake Bay. This was in 2009. President Obama actually created an executive order to do everything that could be possible to restore and protect the Chesapeake Bay as a treasured landscape. It was thought to be a good idea to have an indigenous voice in the room, but since within the entire Chesapeake watershed, although there are many surviving nations, surviving in some sort of form, none of them is federally recognized. None of them has any resources to make themselves known in ways. A few are state recognized but they are relatively small populations. They don’t own a lot of land, unless they own it together as some sort of corporation.
When people were talking about large landscapes to be protected, no one could think of that in terms of Native people. I had, being the only indigenous voice in this room, which happens a lot in the east coast where there are not so many of us, especially in the mid-Atlantic. I was talking about our areas the way we used them from the time before contact and how a community needed all of the land, and the water, and the flora and the fauna around. It would all be part of their world and their world view and how they would have to know that and be able to move around it without maps or written materials. It was their way of life that went far beyond what people from European cultures would think of today as the archaeological sites that they’ve heard about or the place where some interactions with the European happened or some dot that John Smith put on his map. Eventually, I was convinced to write this down. The National Park Service used it as a concept for prioritization for conservation and the comprehensive management plan of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which through it sort of into the bureaucracy.
Real quick, here are some of the things that have happened with this idea; some of them foremost, some of them not. There was a team that was convened made up of partners from other federal agencies, from tribes, from states, from scholars of various universities to talk about what the criteria ought to be for this vague concept that had been outlined in a four-page paper that Barbara Wyatt has shared with many of you. Criteria were developed and the idea was that this idea should be presented throughout national and state conferences, that sort of thing. A lot of that has been done, including a paper written with some examples from my home state of Virginia. Then a team came from the University of Maryland and created an annotated bibliography, which made it look like it was part of an establishment of academia, which is really riotously funny from my humble perspective. The idea was that we had to create some methodology for being able to identify places or at least the chance that places could be considered that way if they were available to be preserved and possibly interpreted for heritage tourism and used to educate people.
This is a representation of trying to uncover, let’s just say, high probabilities of the existence of indigenous cultural landscapes of places that still retain some of the qualities of our original lands before they were messed up by the Europeans and where they could be possibly used for interpretation, and may or may not be of significance to the local nation that was self-identified. Basically, the methodology here was working with a team of experts that were the usual archaeologists, and anthropologists, and geologists, and the people that knew the history from the history books.
They did everything that was outlined in green, or colored in in green. There is a descendant community that lives there. They don’t have any recognition status but they have an oral history that goes back for a couple hundred years, not the entire four hundred that would be pre-contact but that’s impossible when everyone has lost their language. They actually supplied the information that was colored in purple. As you can see, there’s not a whole lot of interception between the two sources. There were entire areas that were not covered by ethno-history or had any archaeological verification. They actually were able to outline things that were original paths between townships and places where people lived in a very disperse landscape. It wasn’t a match-up but it was the beginning of a methodology, which our group in the Chesapeake Bay office is going to continue to try to refine.
Here are some of the other ways that we used indigenous cultural landscapes at the Piscataway Park, which is ancestral home to the Piscataway people who are recognized in the state of Maryland. There’s interpretation beginning in a project that puts together the oral histories of the Piscataway people as recorded there along with their attachment to the place and how various areas within Piscataway Park, which is very large. Actually, seriously it was a place establish because it provided the landscape across the river from Mount Vernon so that it retained the colonial landscape. Fortunately, in doing so it preserved a huge amount of Piscataway aboriginal territory.
It’s also been used as a Presquile National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. They have a youth education program there at the national wildlife refuge and they’re trying to incorporate indigenous values using some members from the tribes that will come there and talk to the young people, who are learning about the natural world. A lot of these people are from urban enclaves, where they don’t get much introduction to nature. They’re also learning about indigenous values, about protecting the land from the tribal people. It’s also been used as a concept in preserving cultural resources and marine protected areas, which is a concept of NOAA. They’ve incorporated a concept of cultural landscapes into their methodology. The indigenous cultural landscape is recognized because they work with so many tribes, as many of you already know.
A few more things that people are planning for it. The folks in Boston Harbor Islands, where they preserve so many of the islands where probably horrible things were done to the tribes in that area, incarceration and death, but there definitely are indigenous special places. They want to help use this concept with these lands in terms of identifying them. We’re planning mapping for the York River in Virginia if we can get funding and also for the Nanjemoy Peninsula in southern Maryland. The concept is out there. It’s not actually owned by anyone. There’s only been one official paper other than the papers that were contracted by the Park Service, which have been expansions on methodology, which is that small essay that Barbara forwarded to you. If anybody else wants it, it’s also online. It’s useful because it’s not meant to be a legal or a compliance concept so my thinking on it could be truly indigenous and not bounded by the prescriptions of a bureaucracy. Of course, I’ve been told that that’s a naive concept, but I’ve also been told not to lose it. I’ve been inspired not to lose it by listening to some of the work that you are doing with your tribes today. I’m really very honored and humbled by being allowed to talk to you a little bit about this concept.
Barbara Wyatt: If I could I would like to ask you … It comes to mind that the pilot study that Eirik is undertaking in the Northwest seems to have relevance to the Chesapeake Bay as well, and I wonder if NOAA … You did say NOAA is involved in some of your work, it sounds like, in the bay, and Bill, I don’t know much about that agency, but do you see this, and maybe Eirik, you could even comment if you’re still there.
Deanna: I think we might ask Val to join in at this point, because I’ll be honest, I didn’t insert myself into that process. I was gently urged to join it by Dr. Grussing. Val, you out there?
Val Grussing: Sure, I’m here.
Deanna: So, in what way do you think it might be relevant to … I mean, I’ve heard about the work from you, I’ve heard about the work that’s being done with the three tribes in the Northwest. I don’t know how it fits.
Val: Well, we have two primary initiatives going on right now that are different, and the one that you heard about from Eirik is a project that I am coordinating that’s funded by BOAM and so, the case studies that each of the three tribes is conducting, they’re determining their own priorities and message. So I think there would come down to Eirik and the other folks, the other THPOS of the Makah and the Yurok, to lead any discussions about how this methodology may be applicable elsewhere. We’re still in the early phases of determining what those are going to be, and how to incorporate what they do into the analysis guide, the how-to guide, which is actually going to be the primary deliverable out of that.
The other initiative is a culture resources toolkit for marine protected area managers that we’re working on under a small grant from the National Fish & Wildlife Foundation, and those Eirik and his archeologist Briece as well as Deanna are involved in that. It’s going to be a website that can validate standards and guidelines, and best practices for culture resource management, particularly in a coastal and marine environment, targeting marine protected area managers and staff who may not have any prior background or training in CRM. And so, we’re intending for that to be an open-ended process, if you’re interested in participating and contributing to this toolkit we’re also in the early phases of that project. So, obviously tribal and indigenous communities and issues, and legislation and other factors, are going to be an important part of that. But as far as what that particularly looks like at this point, it’s going to be determined by the task group that’s leading the construction of that component. And I’m sure that ICL will be a part of that as well.
Barbara: Thank you, Val, that’s interesting and that toolkit sounds fascinating and very useful. We’ll look forward to seeing how that develops. Any other questions for Deanna?
John Mark Joseph: Excuse me, this is John Mark Joseph from over here in Guam. I have to say the sun has risen, and I appreciate everything that everybody’s presented. It’s really eye-opening for me here, and I think will help the SHPO here, and in the other Northern Marianas Islands.
Barbara: Well, good morning, and thanks for being with us. I’m so glad this is helpful to you. I think it’s going to be helpful to our whole initiative. … Anybody else want to ask something? We’ve really received so much information today, and so many really good ideas for all of us to consider in the National Register and beyond.
Doug Harris: This is Doug Harris, Narragansett Tribe of Rhode Island. The work that we’re doing with BOEM I think has a lot of potential for assisting tribes all along the East Coast. The oral history of 15,000 years ago prompted the geologists of the region to acknowledge that the geological record establishes that at least 24,000 years ago, the outer continental shelf was an open and vegetated plain, and that water did in fact, as the tribal oral history said, they rose and they covered that whole area. We know that there are finds by fishermen and scallop dredgers all along the coast in Maryland, off the Delmarva Peninsula, they have found not only mastodon bones, but blades and points. And these go back 23,000 years, and so at some point we have to look at the fact that our ancient homes were not on the shore where they are now, but they were out where the ocean is. So I would ask that especially Deanna, the work that you’re doing there should include what’s happening out on the continental shelf, because the cultural resources are eventually going to be located out there, that tell the story of when we actually lived out there on that part of the land.
Deanna: That’s really a good piece of advice … Then I will probably try to get in touch with you further to talk to you more about that concept. I’ve been aware of things that have been found on the continental shelf that indicated the evidence that you’re talking about, some off the coast of Virginia as well, so it’s something that we should all be remembering.
Doug: Just from up here in the Northeast, this has been a wonderful, wonderful opportunity to exchange, and I wish there was an East Coast opportunity for us to replicate this, and to take this on the road all the way across the country, because … The turtle effigy up there in [Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara country … We have those here, and that’s indicative of the fact that we were a common culture all across coast to coast. We know that the Yurok, more than 2000 years ago, followed the ice sheets out to the West Coast. They started on the East Coast, they are an Algonquian people, their language is similar to that of the Narragansett. There’s a lot about ourselves that has been buried, but that doesn’t mean that it’s hidden forever.
Barbara: Well, I appreciate your words, Doug, and your enthusiasm, and the enthusiasm of everyone we’ve heard today, and I’d like to remind everyone that one of our missions is to think about and figure out what kind of guidance we need to provide from our office, what the issues are, but also we want to identify ways that we’re going to continue
Note from Deanna
This presentation was made in 2014, and is very much out of date. For recent and far superior research on the ICL by National Park Service, please use the summary file which is part of this presentation package. This summary has active links to all the pertinent reports and materials from indigenous cultural landscape research.