Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Of Tradition, Culture, And A Traditional Way Of Life

I suppose that considering the controversy that has surrounded events here at Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area and the fact that our story is finally beginning to reach so many, that one day, perhaps, someone will write a book about these events. I hope we win.

If we were going to tell this story it would be filled with actions by several that have resulted in violation of federal law as well as a host of less than credible assertions made by those that would prefer we loose access to these beaches. And that list is to long for me to repeat here but if you go back to the beginning of this rant, blog, whatever, you'll get a taste of it.

And all this time, these four years and counting, we as a community, visitors and residents, have been insulted repeatedly by the actions of the National Park Service. And no longer do they hide their agenda, the elimination of ORV and significant pedestrian access at the Seashore.

But that's against the law, this is, after all, a recreational area.

1940: Congress amends 16USC459 formally changing the name from Cape Hatteras National Seashore to Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area. (in part: “said area shall be, and is, established, dedicated, and set apart as a national seashore recreational area for the benefit and enjoyment of the people and shall be known as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreational Area..”)
There is one aspect of the law that I have only just mentioned before which constitutes yet another example of federal law that NPS is desperately trying to ignore and it's all about tradition and culture. In this case the NPS finds itself n a bit of a quandary because this issue is a bit large to simply ignore and there is that pesky National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) that says they cant.

More specifically, I refer to provisions contained within the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) and its corresponding relationship with the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).

At issue here is something called a TCP or Traditional Cultural Property.

A quick google search will show that there are many types of TCP's which can include historic sites, structures and even ships such as the U.S.S. Constitution for example.
Honestly, I'm not the person to opine upon this subject, Jim Keene, former President of the North Carolina Beach Buggy Association knows this subject and much of what follows will tell the story in his words.

In 2009, a concerted effort was put forth to bring this subject to the attention of NPS and others. This effort has been ignored for the most part though again we find NPS giving minimal lip service to an important issue if only because they had to say something. After all, if NPS were to do the job they are required to do by law, their agenda would fall to pieces at their feet.

Within the efforts put forth for TCP recognition, four areas of the Seashore were specifically mentioned though after learning of the necessary qualifications set forth in the guidelines for TCP establishment, I think the entire Seashore qualifies. In this case, the areas held up for consideration were/are; Bodie Island Spit and Adjoining beaches, Cape Point, Hatteras Inlet, and South Point, Ocracoke and their adjoining beaches as well.

The standards for TCP designation are set forth within the National Park Service National Register Guidelines for Evaluating and Documenting Traditional Cultural Properties. In question relevant to the Seashore is:
Are these areas:
a) components of a rural community whose organization and patterns of land use reflect the cultural traditions valued by its long-term residents; and
b) a location where the communities have traditionally carried out economic and other cultural practices important in maintaining their historic identity.
c) whether these traditions and cultural practices have been extant for more than 50 years making them considered of historic age.

Without further delay, I'll hand the microphone to Jim Keene as he tells it best.

"When the CHNSRA was being established, the director of the National Park Service Conrad Wirth promised Outer Banks residents in a published letter that their communities would always have access to their traditional use beach areas (Blinkley 2007:117). The communities have long viewed this document as a binding social contract.  In the context of Section 106 of the NHPA, the letter clearly underscores that as early as 1952 the federal government recognized the importance of maintaining traditional Outer Banks culture as it relates to federal lands and undertakings. Some 50 years later, traditional elements of Outer Banks life ways are increasing threatened and need protections that the NHPA of 1966 as Amended was specifically designed to afford."

"As TCPs the historic properties in question not only help maintain the traditional identity of Outer Banks communities, but these same communities have been historically shaped by the long standing use of these beach landscapes. Historically, Outer Banks culture has been inextricably tied to the surf zone, and remains so today. The surf zone has traditionally sustained the island economy and culture through commercial fishing, and also by way of recreational fishing and tourism. These latter activities have been ongoing for more than 50 years and are therefore considered to be of historic age. More importantly, the landscapes in question are held in importance by Outer Banks communities in a way that transcends heritage and the traditional economy. Cape Point stands as a defining physical feature of the Outer Banks, which consist of narrow strips of land perched as much 30 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean. The other landscapes considered TCPs equally comprise the transitional realm between island home and the sea. As such, the historic properties continue to provide island folk with a profound sense of place and their use helps sustain the collective identity of their communities."

"Importance of Recreational Surf Fishing:

Recreational surf fishing itself, particularly for the iconic red drum has in itself long held a defining place in Outer Banks culture. This sporting pursuit has historically been undertaken by generations of Outer Bank residents and visitors alike, and continues to be of great economic and social importance today. The very fact that non-residents and visitors participate in the traditional use of the historic properties in no way diminishes the cultural and historic value of those properties. In fact the opposite is true. In many ways, Outer Banks culture is resilient, inclusive, and dynamic. Having non-residents participate in aspects of traditional barrier island life is enriching to the public and makes protecting and preserving this cultural resource all the more important. In addition, the portions of the properties remain the focal point for the local surf dory seine net fishery. This economic activity represents a nearly extinct folkway as the CHNSRA In recent historic times, traditional commercial beach fishing has been eclipsed in beaches are one of the very last places in the country in which this traditional commercial fishery is practiced. The 1980 amendments to the NHPA specifically call for protecting and preserving these kinds of cultural activities."

"The historic properties are considered potentially eligible to the NRHP based solely on their constituting TCPs held in cultural importance by Outer Banks communities. However, the same properties should be considered potentially eligible to the NRHP as historic cultural landscapes. Components of these cultural landscapes include dune systems, road traces and dune overpass ramps features that are of historic age. These features were first constructed as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) public works programs. We urge the National Park Service to formally recognize the landscapes as cultural entities and we remain confident that the agency will fully comply with Section 110 of the NHPA of 1966 as Amended and continue to work in good faith to identify evaluate, and manage all cultural resources under its stewardship."

"Much has changed on the Outer Banks since the establishment of CHNSRA. However, it is also remarkable how little has changed in terms of the local cultural landscape and its traditional use. This use is predicated on vehicular access to the surf zone, which supports the traditional local economy as well as being integral to the social and cultural fabric of the Outer Banks communities."

"It should be noted that the maintenance of barrier island culture is largely unique to portions of the North Carolina Outer Banks. Across much of the Eastern Seaboard, traditional barrier island settlement, economic systems, and life ways have been obliterated by a transformation of coastal areas into nothing less than urbanized commercial districts. Other areas, most notably the Virginia Eastern Shore barrier islands have been abandoned to human settlement and use. This entire barrier island chain is in private conservation ownership as a wilderness reserve. The widespread loss of traditional barrier island culture makes preserving the surviving elements of historical Outer Banks life ways absolutely critical."

"In summary portions of the CHNSRA consisting of Bodie Island Spit and Adjoining Beaches, Cape Point and Adjoining Beaches, Hatteras Inlet and Adjoining Beaches; and South Point Ocracoke and Adjoining Beaches are deemed historic properties potentially eligible to the NRHP as TCPs under Section 106 of the NHPA of 1966, As Amended. These historic properties and their traditional use have long been, and continue to be, integral to the social and cultural fabric of the Outer Banks. The properties have traditionally sustained the local economy through commercial fishing, recreational fishing, and other beach activities. Recreational surf fishing has also historically become a part of Outer Banks culture. As cultural landscapes, the historic properties provide Outer Banks residents and visitors with sense of place and help to sustain the collective identity of local communities. Therefore, the continued traditional open and socially and environmentally responsible access to these properties is essential to preserving the traditions and maintaining the historic identity of the Outer Banks and its people."

And to sum it up, he also wrote (in part):

"The facts remain that:

1) The properties clearly meet multiple criteria for consideration as TCPs based on the NPS' own published guidelines (National Register Bulletin #38).

2) The NPS formally recognized the traditional cultural importance of open access during the founding of the Seashore.

3) This traditional cultural importance has not diminished since then and it can be argued that it has actually grown.

4) The NPS has long implicitly recognized the traditional cultural importance of open access by its established management practices.

5) The NPS implicitly recognized the traditional cultural importance of beach access through publication of Ethnographic Study of Eight Seashore Villages as well as explicitly recognizing the same in by the data therein. The stated reason for publishing the above voluminous work was in recognition of the existence of traditional communities within the park and to help assesses the impact of the parks' management decisions on these communities.

Now with arguably the greatest single change in Seashore management since its creation, the ethnographic study or the communities' traditional values are not even mentioned in passing. One thing to remember is that the NPS cannot simply ignore the TCP issue.

As the lead federal agency for the federal action (ORV Plan), it is up to the NPS to make the judgment whether Section 106 must be addressed. In essence, these determinations are made by all federal agencies in all federal actions. For example, if Mike Murray changes a light bulb in his office that is a federal action. Is that subject to Section 106 of the NHPA?--of course not--that would be silly. However, if the NPS were to double the size of the Manteo HQ parking lot and add storm water retention ponds but not take into account potential impacts to historic properties (a catch all phrase meaning archaeological resources, architectural resources, historic landscapes and TCPs) then there will be some serious repercussions as federal law has been broken.

The TCP thing falls squarely in the second scenario. If a property has been formally identified as a potential TCP (YES), if that identification meets basic common sense criteria and is not frivolous(YES), the community in question maintains that the property it traditionally important (YES) and if the property meet National Register Bulletin #38 guidelines (YES), then it is up to the federal agency to prove it is not a TCP not the other way around. This could can only be done through the Section 106 consultation process. This has not been done. In fact, the process was never initiated."

Thank you Jim Keene! Excellent information and a great summation.

And for your viewing pleasure, here is an example of a Traditional and Cultural use of Cape Point that predates the 50 year historic age mandate mentioned above, and at 58 years old, also predates the dedication of the Seashore. Robert Doswell, photo.

That is one very neat part of history!

Well I started this post talking about how NPS had blown off the whole TCP thing and once again hung us out to dry.

If you read about TCP designations, you'll see that a lot of the discussion centers around Native American tradition, culture, sites of significance and such but also recognizes other types of places, artifacts, etc.

So as NPS was pushed to consider TCP's at the Seashore, they in effect pulled a fast one in an attempt at brushing this all under the rug. NPS out-rightly ignores all of the historical information contained within even their own documents and instead writes the Native American Tuscarora Nation to see if they attach any traditional or cultural significance to the Seashore.

The reply, as one would expect, was no.

NPS then considered the case closed and therefore not worthy of further consideration. In the process, NPS also ignores it's own guidelines.
"The Guidelines explicitly state that TCP designations are not to be limited to properties held in importance by Native Americans or other minority groups but that Americans of every ethnic origin have properties to which they ascribe traditional cultural value. Further, if such properties meet the National Register criteria, they can and should be nominated for inclusion in the NRHP." (Keene)

So yes folks, once again NPS reveals it's agenda and slaps the visitors and residents of the Seashore squarely in the face.

When you write and call your elected representatives, remember to tell them that the Seashore should be considered as a Traditional Cultural Property by the National Register of Historic Places.

Thanks again for listening!.

Tight Lines,



1 comment:

  1. the Tuscarora? Really? Why didn't the NPS contact some of the traditional Outer Banker Families? How long have some of the long standing families lived on the outer banks? Several hundred years in some cases.