This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Susan Dolan: These are landscapes where we have contemporary people associated with landscapes, and their association with them is both historic and current. These landscapes are inextricably related to the cultural identity of the traditionally associated group.
Traditionally associated people, is a term that the National Park Service uses in its ethnography program, traditionally associated people. This means the people that were historically or pre-historically and still contemporary associated with the landscape, and that landscape is inextricably related to the cultural identity of the group, to their life ways, their cultural traditions, their practices, et cetera. Very often, ethnographic landscapes find a home on the National Register as traditional cultural properties.
Here, we’re looking at a brand new TCP, and that is Mount St. Helens in Washington State, listed on the National Register as a traditional cultural property in September 2013, encompassing 12,500 acres of the Mount St. Helens National Monument. This is really for its significance to the Cowlitz Indian tribe and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.
Let’s look at one particular ethnographic landscape that actually is listed on the National Register as a traditional cultural property. I’m going to withhold the identity of this landscape because the nomination is confidential. This can be a challenge with us learning and improving our approaches to ethnographic landscape research, identification, documentation, and management, that much of this information, clearly, is sensitive and not always shared. In this case, this nomination is confidential and so it’s not one you’re going to find, as an example, widely available.
In this particular traditional cultural property that is an ethnographic landscape, the landscape is associated with seven tribes that all collaborated on this nomination. It encompasses 676 acres of land, and the period of significance they did in the nomination is from creation to the present time. The property is encompassed by two contributing resources, two countable resources for the whole of the 676 acre landscape. It has two contributing resources that are sites, and seven non-contributing resources. This traditional cultural property has been significant to the traditional cultural beliefs of the tribes for thousands of years. The contributing resources, the two that are counted as sites, are the entire canyon seen in the lower photograph here, and one entire mountain. Each of those is counted as sites, the mountain and the canyon.
The nomination states in the Section 7 narrative, that also within the traditional cultural property, are character-defining features that “do not lend themselves to the formal process of counting contributing features” as defined by the National Register. This is actually a quote from the nomination, and the character-defining features that are not countable, but are indicated in Section 7, are: a hot springs area, two ceremonial clearings, or circles, one lithic site, one petroglyph, doctor rocks, medicine rocks, big horn sheep, native plants, whiptail lizards, clay, quartz and turquoise, caves, and rock shelters. All of these are recognized in the nomination in Section 7 as character-defining features, but they’re not countable and they potentially could be overlooked.
I’m just going to make some observations and then I’m going to hand off to my colleague Jill Cowley to just wrap this up, this little piece here on ethnographic landscapes. The observations that I have about this nomination is, first of all, the National Register format that we have to work with was not an impediment to the actual listing of this property as a traditional cultural property. It went through, ultimately was listed.
The landscape resources are very generically identified. All those things that are considered character-defining and valuable are just bundled up into two sites that are counted. One whole mountain, one whole canyon, but the two sites are not truly regarded as separate entities by the seven tribes who are the traditionally associated people. For them, this is one entity, and now it’s artificially divided and documented as two.
None of the biotic and abiotic character-defining features that I just shared with you are identified as contributing. They stop short of calling them that in the nomination, and they are not counted in the countable resources. As a result of this, this is really providing insufficient resource information for future land planning and management. Some of these items can be overlooked. They could also be misinterpreted by land managers. Very often, our land managers need to be convinced that something is called out as contributing in a National Register nomination are a countable resource, in order that it be taken account of in 106 actions and adequately protected. Something less than that, a lower tier of documentation can be overlooked or misinterpreted.
Jill Cowley: Just a couple more examples of … There are many, many ethnographic landscapes and traditional cultural properties within park units of the National Park Service in the Intermountain region. Although one good example, I think, of a nomination … this is at the state level, not the federal level … that addresses an ethnographic landscape is Mount Taylor in New Mexico. Some of you may be familiar with this one. It was listed in the state register. Multiple tribes and pueblos and also other groups were involved in drafting the nomination. It covers a large holistic area, over 340,000 acres. Spiritual values are recognized and discussed generally, as appropriate, in the nomination, and private land owners could opt out on having their land be within the boundaries. Since state listing, I know that this nomination is being contested somewhat, and still discussed. I think along with other examples, like Zuni Salt Lake, is an example of a fairly large scale integrated ethnographic landscape nomination.
The one example I wanted to go into a little bit more, is the National Park Service unit in the Intermountain region, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma. This is a combination ethnographic and historic landscape. It has an early 1976 National Historic Landmark nomination. I was talking with the superintendent this week and definitely agree, again, this is a very early nomination that is clearly outdated and does not meet today’s standards for nominations. I was talking with the superintendent recently and he agrees that if the park and NHL had a nomination that does describe the landscape in more detail in terms of contributing and countable resources, this would definitely help the park.
Washita Battlefield is the site of the 1868 massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho tribal folks by the … I think it was the Seventh Cavalry. As you can see in the diagram on the right, the NHL boundary, National Historic Landmark boundary is quite a bit larger … those are sections … than the area included in the Park Service unit, the national historic site. Interestingly, while the NHL boundary is larger, and so the areas within the NHL boundary … there’s some documentation … the nomination serves as supporting preservation of the battlefield event site in those areas. The nomination does not provide any description of the landscape because it’s a very early one. It’s not a very useful tool as far as preservation.
My understanding from discussion with the superintendent is they’re getting oil and gas and other potential developments outside of the National Park Service unit boundary, and potentially, within the NHL boundary. Some have already been constructed, and they’re visible from the Park Service unit. A stronger, more detailed nomination would be useful in helping to address potential external threats.
That’s the points I brought up in the photo at the top. I need to mention that these photos are about 10 years old, so they’re somewhat dated. I know the park has done some work, prairie restoration and so forth. The upper photograph, I believe that some of the oil and gas development may be visible in that photograph now. I’d have to check. Interestingly, at the bottom, the ongoing prairie restoration, the need, the directive to restore what became an agricultural landscape back to one that evokes more of the prairie landscape at the time of the conflict was derived from the legislation. This was actually called for in the Washita legislation, rather than coming from any National Register documentation. So, I guess the bottom line on one is an updated NHL nomination, or even if the associated tribes wanted to develop a traditional cultural property nomination. There may have been discussions … that would be something very useful and needed. Meanwhile, the park … they do have a cultural landscape inventory and cultural landscape report that have been developed in close coordination with the tribes as background and information needed to develop management treatments.