This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Eirik Thorsgard: We got involved in this project as part of a BOEM initiative as they started looking at off-shore energy development on the outer continental shelf. When we saw them making proposals and doing the public outreach both to tribes and the general public, we first contacted their contractor who was doing some of the baseline work. Through them eventually, we got ahold of BOEM letting them know we had some concerns that the studies that were being done were solely focused on archaeology and were not going to adequately address our concerns about landscape level issues. As part of that, BOEM recognized that a similar study was being proposed and done through NOAA on the East Coast. And so a combined team was developed by BOEM and NOAA. A contract was floated out, and three tribes were selected, one in Washington, one in Oregon and one in California, to execute this study and to develop a baseline of how to find tribal cultural landscapes.
Grand Ronde was the tribe selected in Oregon. Macaw Nation was selected in Washington and the Yurok tribe was selected in California. I’m not going to focus a whole lot on why the project is. I’m going to focus more on what we are doing specifically for Grand Ronde and our methodology because we’re still early on in the study. We don’t have enough findings to make potential eligibility requirements or anything to go off to the National Register.
The main part of what we’ve started to do is working on a definition of “what is a traditional cultural landscape or a TCL?” We found some pretty consistent themes: place, widened or expansive space, cultural connections and the intersection of cultural and natural, which are often separated into different categories. During the process we had each tribe host different meetings where we had other tribes that were connected to the coast come. Through those 3 meetings with I believe over forty tribes, we managed to get a working definition. Right now [inaudible] set of projects, some of the things we do, we know it, we see it bigger than a canoe, a collection of places, a collection of linked activities and again a cultural connection.
The definition we came out with is “Any place in which a relationship, past or present, exists between a spatial area, resource and then an associated group of indigenous people whose cultural practices, beliefs or identity connects them with that place. A tribal cultural landscape is determined by and known to a culturally-related group of indigenous people with relationship to that place. That’s an awful lot of definition for something so small but we wanted to make sure that our definition was extremely inclusive and allowed as many different indigenous groups, regardless of their legal standing within the United, to have a relationship with the Federal government or attempting to be able to access the methodology that we’re developing.
We developed a methodology for our area and started gathering the information. We’ve been working on revising the definitions with the other tribes and core players from BOEM and NOAA, and Macaw and Yurok. We’ve been re-examining and refining our own methodology that we’ve been using here in Grand Ronde. Again, I’m only going to talk about Grand Ronde’s example. We’ve been trying to make sure that this is a process that can be replicated in another community and that it’s easy to understand so that it doesn’t require specialized or highly-specialized training to be able to executive this study.
We started by going after some of the baseline data that a lot of archaeologists are accustomed to going after, ethno histories, historic maps, oral histories and tradition, those that are both published and the ones that we have on tapes or on VCR cassettes or on DVDs that have been done in our community and oral traditional stories or what we call [inaudible] like the myths like how the world came to be. We broke those down in a way to try to create some broad applicability and some understanding in the basic categories of places, fauna, flora and other. Then we used that data to start looking at geospatial referencing.
Every time, out of one of these sources, one of those four categories was mentioned, fauna, flora, place or other, we had them put in and we ended up having relevance looked at for, can it be geo-referenced? What do they exactly say about it? We had the person who was actually doing the analysis of the documents and the oral history make notes in the margins. We put it all on a spreadsheet so that we could do different statistical analysis. Out of the ten or twelve resources, just the printed ones that we found, you can see the breakdown there. Faunal details: 605 animals, 260 fish, 155 aviary and on and on.
What we ended up finding is we could actually find the importance of given species which were pretty much non-sequitur for us. We knew which ones were important and we did record those, but we also found some that we weren’t expecting.
This is the northern Oregon coast. The big inlet at the top is actually the entrance to the Columbia River. What we did is all of those sites and recorded data, were we either had a place name, an activity taking place at a given location or a given resource that was either floral or fauna that we could geo-reference. We were able to map those and create this density chart showing where the high cultural-use areas are just off of print and oral history information. The big thing is by showing this, we can show what we believe is to be the highest areas of cultural diversity, areas of concern where there might be cumulative impact and where climatic change impacts us.
Anyways, it’s so we can see how these things are going to be impacted by things like sea level rise, channelization streams or when they dump out and change over.
Part of what we did is we had an intern from NASA, who is a tribal member, come in. We had him re-map the entire ocean floor and the coast line from about twenty-five thousand years ago up to the present. Then also given the best data we have, what we’re to expect over the next two hundred years from climate change and sea level rise on the coast as well to get an idea of where our impacts are going to be.
One of the interesting things that we found is that the large blue image that’s inland is actually Lake Allison, which was the extent of the Missoulu or Bretz flood inside of the interior of Oregon that is mentioned in some of our oral histories and our [inaudible] about people trying to escape from the floods. The whole Paleo land form on the coast or South Wind, was very synonymous with what a lot of people assume are Coyote Stories, but on the coast for our Tillamook folks it was South Wind.
His mention of coming in actually coincides with this whole Paleo land form, as you can see the dashed line and then the dot, which is not something we were exactly looking for but was certainly interesting when we found it.
This is a density chart showing the sea level rise as it comes in on the coast and up the Columbia River in the tidally-influenced areas, red being 1 meter and up to 6 meters in change. What we found is that a lot of our identified resources, both for gathering, hunting and traditional food will be displaced during sea level rise on the immediate coast.
We also found that some of our view sheds, as an earlier presenter was talking about, we have rock complexes here as well that were specifically built so that people could have very specific view shed views during certain ceremonial activities. Some of those may disappear. Some of those may be adversely impacted as you can see by some of the change here.
This is actually Tillamook Bay. The image on the left is an old geo-low map, 1858 and 2013, then floral impacts, then geography and then the fauna impacts. You can see how the sea level rise as it comes in adversely impacts each of these resources but we were able to use the data to figure out how much of a given thing is going to be impacted. Some of these like the fauna resources if it’s a fishing site and the fishing site becomes inundated, there is a possibility that it could be replicated up-river or at a nearby area, but the primary fishing location is completely lost. Its the same with flora. If we have plant resources that we know grow in marshy areas on the margin of the bay and the bay with sea level and the bay comes up, the plants may replicate but it also may not be a conducive environment. Some of our traditional foods, basketry material and medicine may, as a matter of fact, just completely disappear by that displacement.
What does it mean? For us this is about developing a methodology so that we can understand clearly an indigenous model of understanding landscape. Again, I’m speaking specifically for Grande Ronde’s instance. We wanted to use not just published data but oral histories with living tribal members and ones that passed away to create a real synthesis of the data to show tenure on the landscape. Some of the things that we’re looking at right now is we’re actually pulling all of the coastal archaeological sites from the SHPO and re-digitizing them into our own models to see which ones of those are going to be impacted as well and if those coincide with the known gathering places and spiritual places in our oral histories which we think they’re going to line up and have the same concentration.
Then the question becomes if we can replicate this kind of a process, can we clearly understand the connection of tribal people to a given landscape? One of the problems we’ve found is that for us when we interact with the general public, it’s hard for them to understand indigenous perspectives from a landscape level because it seems very amorphous and hard to get around. We use the analogy that for a lot of people who are part of the dominant culture, their faith is often given to them by their elders. It’s luckily written down in a book which we all know as the Bible in most cases or as the Torah or Koran. For a lot of indigenous people in North America, ours are given to us through oral traditions. The writing is not actually on paper, it’s on the landscape by the epic-creating figures like [inaudible], South Wind or some of these others. Who literally set the world the way it is so that people could be here.
When these important places disappear because of development, we’re not talking about just some amorphous land form. We’re talking about entire pages or chapters out of our Bible disappearing that are not able to be continued to the next generation but making that connection to the general public and for scientists who are looking into this from a very compliance, regulatory perspective is really the trick. We’re hoping that the tribal cultural landscapes project will not only clearly dictate a good methodology but will put case examples, because we’re going to execute case studies and they will be published I believe at the end of the year and put online.
Barbara Wyatt: Carol Schull has a question for you, Eirik.
Carol Shull: Hi, Eirik. In your methodology, do you have any analysis and time to think about what would make a tribal cultural landscape eligible for the National Register, to try and tie it into probably compliance [inaudible] in some threat from a Federal-assisted project?
Eirik: Yeah. We’re hoping that as we’re executing the case study and the booklet on how-to that we’re going to be able to identify some of those criteria and relate them back. Really the eligibility for these sites is going to be pretty much under 101D6A, sites or places of cultural or religious significance to a tribe or native Hawaiian organization. It’s under the catchall blanket, the one that’s often used for traditional cultural properties, but traditional cultural properties are in our opinion too narrow of a definition because they have a tendency to require points on a map with a narrow constriction where we want to look at things from a much broader perspective. The problem is going to be once we start to get this data together whether or not the entire landscape could be eligible or only portions of the landscape would be eligible and how that would affect an undertaking.
Barbara: It sounds like one of our next National Register bulletins practically that you’re out there helping us write.
Eirik: I hope I’m not doing something that important. That would put me in a bad position.
Barbara: But tell us is there information on your website that people can look at now?
Eirik: No, not yet. Because we’re still a work in progress, all of our information is still being housed by each tribal group. We’re sending updates to the person who’s the main facilitator which is Val Grussing at NOAA. The hope is that the analysis guys and the case studies will be available for the general public in a redacted version later this year.
Doug Harris: Eirik, this is Doug Harris. I’m excited about what you’re doing and would like to collaborate with you because we are approaching the same problem from a very different perspective and could use some of your input. We are also under a BOAM research grant partnering with the University of Rhode Island’s Oceanography Department and our Narragansett Indian Long House and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, based upon the fact that we’ve got a lot of wind turbine development deposed between the coast and the Continental Shelf. Further on in the process we presented our oral history that said that more than fifteen thousand years ago the ancient villages of the Narragansett were out where the ocean is now and that the waters began to rise overnight. The people had to evacuate.
Based upon that, if it is so, what protocol would be used to determine the presence or absence of cultural resources for that time of habitation? They did not have an answer. They said, “Would you be willing to develop a study program that could give us those protocols?” We’re in the beginning of the second year. That project with Dr. John King of the Oceanography Department at URI and Davis Robertson, an underwater archaeologist. We have been able to train some of our people in the basic principles of underwater archaeology. They’ve gotten their certification. They’ve gotten their gear. They’re looking forward to this spring getting in the water. We’re not quite sure what we’re going to find. We’re developing protocols that will help us determine presence or absence, but I think if we can coordinate the approach that you’re using and the approach that we’re using, we might be able to come up with an interesting synthesis that would be very helpful in keeping wind turbines from destroying any of the ancient cultural sites that may still be out there.
Eirik: A thing I guess of interest to me is the fact that we actually when we proposed this, and I know that Val Grussing was working on something very similar with NOAA at the same time and I assume a group over there, the reason we actually brought up this issue was because of Martha’s Vineyard and some of the other things that are going on in your guys’ neck of the woods and use those as an example with BOAM that they needed to take a proactive stance. Just to sing the praises of BOAM which I’m not in the habit of singing the praises of Federal agencies, they actually ponied up a decent amount of money so that this study could be done directed by the tribes that are part of it and not as a BOAM-directed project. It’s a pilot study. It’s not intended, from my understanding at this time, to be developing BOAM policy, or federal policy or anything else. Now what the implications are if it’s a really effective study are, the winds of change will tell us.
Doug: Much success with the work you’re doing.
Barbara: I have a question. It’s something I’m a little confused about. Are the tribes in much communication with each other about studies like this? We’re taking now about, you know, the mutual interests in coastal issues. Is there, I hate to use the word clearing house, but some mechanism nation-wide that tribes are communicating about these landscape issues?
Doug: There are networks but they are not always effective. I would like to suggest that we get you, Eirik, in touch with Robert Turner who heads the Culture Narrative Community of the United South and Eastern Tribes, that include twenty-six federally-recognized tribes from Maine to Texas, and have you come and make a presentation. We could make a joint presentation of what we’re doing to raise the consciousness of those twenty-six tribes. Maybe we can find other forums where we can then explain the same process to other networks.
Eirik: Absolutely. Right now we did some outreach to tribes that were in each of our states that had connections to the coast and asked them for feedback and information. We have been going through the process of trying to pull as much previous studies that are landscape-level studies. The biggest problem that we’ve found is that most landscape-level studies that are done, especially the examples that we could find through National Parks Service, are specifically done for national heritage. It’s all in the interest of the state and not necessarily in the interest of indigenous groups whose tenure and understanding of the landscape is dramatically different and much deeper in time.
Doug: We developed as a part of our project a reporting out and consultation process with regional tribes. We will come together once or twice a year to be informed as to what we are finding in the research in terms of methodologies that will become more appropriate in determining these ancient sites and to get from them an oral history that they may have that would point the direction that the science needs to go in.