This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Lorna Meidinger: I want to start off with the Denbigh Experimental Forest. We’ve had a number of different projects in the last five years that deal with landscapes, different types of landscapes, and in different ways. This particular landscape is both designed and natural. As you can see in especially the lower portion, as well as the western portion of the screen on the aerial shot, you can see tree rows. What this experiment station did is it tested variations of trees in the sandy soils of North Dakota for what would make a good wind break during the depression era. There is the formalized tree rows areas all were set up by species, in rows, different types next to each other. The northern corner, northwestern corner, is where the buildings were and then the space that is more natural was really your secondary functions: gathering around, if you’re pulling trees out, staging them, anything like that.
This was originally both owned federally and state, it is now all federal property. We felt the whole section is currently owned by the federal government and it was all involved with the experimental station originally even if it was co-ownership. We made the case that both the design portion and the other use areas were valid to the cultural importance of this site and we didn’t really have any push back on that at all, everybody felt that we made the case relatively easily for this particular experiment station.
Custer Military Trail was a little more contentious. We were not allowed, I shouldn’t say we, the Forest Service was not allowed to do testing on any of the private land. All of the homeowners and landowners objected and refused to grant permission. This particular trail is four discontinuous pieces and you can see towards the east that it’s smaller portions. They used literature, they used journals, documentation, as well as archaeological testing to follow the trail. We know that they would have had scouts so its wider than just a single trail. It’s the paths of the soldiers, it’s the best known path of the scouts, and what would have been important because they would have been looking for any native Americans for potential attacks, any animals, better routes, things like that.
You can see from the view, it’s call the badlands because it’s not very easily traversed. The bigger portion that is up on the Northwestern portion of this map is where there was actually a confrontation, it is called locally the “Battle of the Badlands” and that’s why it’s a much bigger area, because we tried to include the military movements, the movements of the warriors, as well as the main conflict from the trail portion.
This one, besides the private owners not being willing, there was no political or government push back on this one in regards to local communities. We did have some rewrites that we needed to do. A couple of the tribal members didn’t like the quotes that were used. The author used a lot of original quotes and as you may all know, original quotes from that time period were not flattering and a lot of the terms they used today were considered derogatory. There was a rewrite done from that perspective but nobody contested the trail itself, it was just the wording on that. This one was done in 2008, really right at the start of the oil boom in North Dakota, so there wasn’t a whole lot of pressure on this particular area at that time.
This is the Theodore Roosevelt’s Elkhorn Ranch and Greater Ranchlands. I know the blue is a little hard to see, there’s a little tiny dot towards the left center that is blue, that is where the actual ranch buildings were that Theodore Roosevelt lived in. The purple is the boundary that we used for the nomination. This includes federal land, both Park Service and Forest Service, there is some state owned land and there is land from one private individual who was willing to be part of this. Some of the other private owners, again, this is an area where they don’t like government very much. They feel that the government came in during the depression and unfairly bought the land for cheap prices. There’s a lot of resentment about that, so a lot of them did not want any participation whatsoever. This one was received a lot of political push back because this is in the heart of oil country and there were land owners, mineral rights owners, and in North Dakota, mineral rights are not fee simple, so the mineral rights owners actually don’t get a vote, so there were some issues and things brought up with that, lawyers got involved.
Originally this was actually drawn much larger to try to include all of the ranchlands that Theodore Roosevelt would have used because he didn’t actually own the property. Trying to define the boundary was one of the more complicated pieces of this nomination, without saying, “hey, this is what he owned” we know exactly what it was. The tradition was a mile or two north and south, and on the river frontage, which goes right through the middle of this, and then basically out as far as they would go. The way ranching was done in the badlands was you turn them loose for most of the year, and then at round-up time you go find them all. Within reason they’re going to stay in the vicinity because you have the water access and certain sheltered areas. This project took quite a long time, a number of rewrites, and ultimately the way we decided on the boundaries was to say that this land is what influenced Theodore Roosevelt’s conservation minded laws and his perspective. There was a view shed analysis done based on where the home buildings were, and obviously he was active on his ranch, we can tell that from his writing, so we know he traveled in this area. We did a view shed analysis, what he would have seen the most, and could see from his home area. Then, we drew the boundaries to include as best as possible, all of that view shed.
White Stone Hill is actually our most recently listed; it was just listed this fall. Again, another long project. The last two were five-plus years per project. This one we owned part of it, there’s the White Stone Hill State Historic Site, which is not how it’s listed on this because this is the quad map, but that’s what it’s known as today officially, that includes monuments, WPA portion that was built up, a lake, and some of the area where the conflict took place. Then there are numerous ranches and all of the ranch owners in this area cooperated and chose to allow both survey and listing of their property within this vicinity.
There was a lot of work with tribes on this, this was a conflict with the Dakota Nations, so we dealt primarily with the Standing Rock Sioux Reservations but we also dealt with Sisseton and contacted a couple other tribes as well. The original author was actually the tribal archaeologist at Fort Gates, unfortunately he had cancer and died during the project. His secondary author just couldn’t get all the pieces picked up and put together and get completed within the time frame of the contract, so we ended up having the SHPO take on a good portion of this, and then a second contractor as well. It was surveyed both by the tribes as well as the SHPO, and then we all contributed to writing the nomination. It was actually written using the funds of an American Battlefields Grant. This was 1863 so it qualified as a Civil War conflict, and is listed officially as a Civil War battle.
Using their parameters, we looked at this property using the maps, using military thinking as far as how you approach landscape and how you define things. I say “OAKOC” because my training’s army, “KOCOA” is what the Park Service does, and that’s actually from the Marines. It’s the same thing, it’s just a different way of saying the acronym. When you’re looking at it from a military perspective, how you’re planning to approach things and enter certain areas, you want to look (observation) where can you see what’s going on, any areas you might need access. At that time of day it would be cannons and rifle fire. The avenues of approach: how can you get to your goal area? The key terrain: are there cliffs in the way? Are there lakes you can’t go through? Is there little ravines? Is there a place that can provide you advantage versus disadvantage. The obstacles are the ones that would be a disadvantage, such as a lake or a cliff. The cover and concealment, cover is actually, basically they can’t get you. If they shot wooded areas, concrete bunkers, that type of thing, which there isn’t in this prairie environment. Then concealment is just a visual way of hiding.
This particular area has a little bit of rolling hills, and there is what is called a ravine that actually played a lot into this particular nomination because the troops had actually split, they went around both sides of the lake and when the Native Americans attempted to flee the area, they ended up trying to use the ravine for the concealment to get out of the area. Now, that’s a double edged sword because it provides some concealment but it’s a lot harder to get out too, if you do get caught or in crossfire.
This particular nomination we really tried hard to cover both sides of the story, both perspectives. This engagement took place as a direct result of the Minnesota Uprising. General Sully and his troops were sent to find the Santee Sioux who were responsible for that. They found this encampment, and then we tried to say from his whole side, from the journals, steps that happened, how things went. Then we also tried to tell from the Native American perspective why they were there in the first place. It was a traditional fall gathering ground, they did hunting, they did ceremonies, things like that. That’s why they were there in the first place. And give a little bit of the background of why things transpired the way that they did.
We put a lot of effort in that and a lot of talks back and forth with the tribes, and I know that was one of the questions the last time I gave this presentation was our involvement with tribes and working with them. Ultimately we didn’t agree on everything. We feel we did the best that was available. The tribes did want us to rename it as a massacre site. That’s pretty controversial. We did mention within the documentation that the tribes call it a massacre, and that they do feel it’s a massacre. What we ultimately named the nomination was simply White Stone Hill, because that’s what it was the day of the engagement and before shots were fired.
The concerns we had, these are both … all of these are similar yet very different properties. Their landscape, they’re natural land, they’re natural landscapes, and what we’ve had problems with is consultants having a clear understanding of “How will I survey this?” If you know the event was there or Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin was there, you already have that documentation, you have an idea of what you want to do. If you’re going out with a survey to see what’s kind of in the way of a pipeline or oil well, what do you need to look for to try to identify these if they’re not previously identified? That’s been a real issue, especially out near the oil fields just because there’s so much going on and with that landscape, we know tribes traveled through there in different areas, we know there was eagle trapping.
We have actually, the Forest Service has started some nominations in those regards as well, but they’re just in early stages with those. Trying to pick out and start getting these to be known without causing cultural problems and on ones like that, how do you define the boundaries? For instance, an eagle trapping site, that’s a very important location and not just the actual pit. There were multiple pits per site, there was a lodge on the site, and scouting the area was all part of it. Where do you draw those boundaries?
Third concern is the actual terrain features. What is important for a terrain feature varies based on what the cultural purpose is. That lake for White Stone Hill was one of the reasons the tribes were there, but it was an obstacle for the military to get around. In different ways, it was important to both sides. When you’re talking about the Badlands, having access to the river is very important. So are draws for shelter during wind storms and snow storms for the cattle. Those draws aren’t necessarily that important when you just come into conservation ideas, other than the fact the cattle used them. Trying to develop a systematic way to look at these types of features and get agreements on those types of features or terrain between political entities, consultants, our office.
Lastly, kind of referring to the beginning, how to recognize cultural value in natural landscapes. If you don’t already know, how do you find it and recognize just during a normal survey.
For the cattle, those draws aren’t necessarily that important when you’re just coming to conservation ideas, other than the fact that the cattle use them. Trying to develop a systematic way to look at these types of features and get agreement on those types of features or terrain between political entities, consultants, our office, and then lastly, referring to the beginning, how to recognize the cultural value in natural landscapes. If you don’t already know, how do you find it and recognize it during a normal survey?
Are there any questions of me?
Doug Harris: This is Doug Harris, Narragansett Tribe, Rhode Island. I’d just really like to compliment you for the fact that you attempted to see the last landscape that you spoke of in stereo, but with one eye toward the military task and objective and the other toward the cultural objectives of the tribal people that often is not done, but you seem to have attempted it quite well. I thank you for that effort on your part.
Lorna: Absolutely. We really tried to balance the story and get the point across that it was a two-story. It was a little more difficult getting some of the interviews with tribal members than it was to just look at the journals from Sully’s expedition.
Doug: In our tradition we are told to let the landscape speak for itself. We were given that advice by an elder medicine man, and we are trying, still, to learn what that really means, but it has a lot to do with mapping from a tribal perspective, a tribal culture perspective. Again, I applaud you for the work that you did.
Lorna: Thank you.
Chrissy Curran: This is Chrissy Curran from the Oregon SHPO. I have a question about the Custer Military Trail. Was there any material culture left along that trail, and, if not, how did you determine integrity of the trail, was it simply the setting? How did that work?
Lorna: There was material culture. Bullet casings, your normal debris from military, a couple of buttons, utensils here and there, broken things that were found along the way, so we combined that with the natural features, because that verified that that is actually where they were, and then knowing that the terrain had only had moderate changes due to weather and natural erosion is how we did the integrity. With that particular one there’s not a lot of roads or power lines, things like that that were carving it up to change the setting of what they would have experienced traveling through.
Chrissy: Were there trail remnants at all in any of the segments?
Lorna: Not that I recall, it’s been a couple of years since I read that one. We have a different one, it’s oxcart trails, where you can clearly see the ruts, and there was nothing like that. There were wagons, of course, for supplies, but a lot of horseback and foot traffic that was completely gone.