Parks Stewardship Forum delivers interdisciplinary information and problem-solving techniques across all topics relevant to the world’s parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation. The journal represents all areas of inquiry relevant to understanding and management of parks, protected areas, cultural sites, and other forms of place-based conservation, including but not limited to the natural sciences, cultural resources-related disciplines, social sciences, and interdisciplinary perspectives.
Volume 39, Issue 3, 2023
Back to the Battlefields: Historians Take a Fresh Look at American Sites of Conflict
Cover, Masthead, and Table of Contents
Points of View
To Lift All Boats: An Interview with Jerry Emory, Author of George Meléndez Wright: The Fight for Wildlife and Wilderness in the National Parks
In this "Letter from Woodstock," our columnist interviews the author of the first-ever biography of George Meléndez Wright, pioneering conservationist and namesake of the George Wright Society.
Wildfire is natural in many temperate forests but unnatural in tropical rainforests and certain other ecosystems. Human-caused climate change is intensifying the heat that drives wildfire. Preventive burning in temperate forests, halting deforestation in tropical forests, and cutting carbon pollution reduce wildfire risks and increase forest resilience under climate change.
Featured Theme Articles
This short essay introduces the featured theme articles in this issue of Parks Stewardship Forum, titled "Back to the Battlefields: Historians Take a Fresh Look at American Sites of Conflict. In early 2022, we issued invitations to a select group of scholars who had written penetratingly on sites of conflict and commemoration. We asked them to travel to a particular site and take a look at it in a reflective mode, pondering what led to the conflict memorialized at that place and reflecting on the site’s meaning and how it has changed over the years, how their own personal understanding of the site has evolved, and the site’s relevance to America’s current socio-political situation. We also gave them license to analyze how well interpretation at “their” site presents historic events within a broader historical context, connects lessons of the site’s story (or stories) to contemporary issues and concerns, and encourages meaningful engagement from diverse audiences. The essays contained in this section should be approached with this request in mind.
Anthracite coal extraction developed in northeastern Pennsylvania during the late 18th century, and through the early 20th century the industry was supported by new waves of immigration. New immigrant workers faced various forms of structural racism, often being underpaid, assigned the toughest jobs, and provided substandard housing. In 1897, as 400 men marched on a public road with the goal of closing a company mine, a sheriff and his posse fired upon them, killing 19. An additional six men died a few days later of gunshot wounds. While the incident, known as the Lattimer Massacre, was noted as one of the most tragic labor strikes in US history, the event faded from national public memory within a few decades. A type of historical amnesia settled in until 75 years later when the community and labor organizations erected a memorial near the site. Although annual commemorations are now held at the site, the Lattimer Massacre remains absent from textbooks and it is still not part of national public memory. Over the past two decades, as the Hispanic population has increased significantly in northeastern Pennsylvania, so, too, have anti-immigrant attitudes increased in the US. Now more than ever we need to remember the history of racism and xenophobia directed at immigrant laborers.
Historians, community activists, leaders with the Fort Monroe Authority, and the National Park Service collaborated to reimagine the legacy of Fort Monroe, long known as the “Gibraltar of the Chesapeake,” after 188 years of service as a military base. However, Fort Monroe also was the site where America’s institution of slavery began evolving and where that institution also began unraveling. This is the legacy that is foregrounded for 21st-century visitors. In 2019, Fort Monroe hosted the commemoration of the 400th anniversary of the landing of the first Africans in the Virginia colony. A new Welcome Center focuses on this legacy. While Fort Monroe continues to highlight its military history and the natural landscape to countless visitors, the primary narrative interprets 1619 and the Civil War-era contraband story. Adding to this important story is the 2021 designation of Fort Monroe as a Site of Memory Associated to the Slave Route by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Today’s message to visitors is very different than it once was, and much more engaging. In so many ways, the recent changes reflect current historical scholarship and the many voices of those whose lives and history intersected at this site.
The United States built Fort Snelling at the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers in the 1820s. Initially conceived as a means to protect American interests in the region, the fort was used in military operations across multiple wars until it was decommissioned in 1946. This essay examines the fort’s role in American expansion, particularly through the lens of the US–Dakota War of 1862. In the wake of the war, Dakota survivors were forced to spend the winter in a concentration camp erected outside the fort. A century later, efforts to restore and reconstruct the fort led to the opening of Historic Fort Snelling in 1970. The fort’s lengthy history—and its role in so many historical eras and events—has led to continued contestations over interpretation at the site, and even the name itself.
Revisiting Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconciliation at Arlington National Cemetery and Arlington House
Arlington National Cemetery, containing the graves of around 400,000 people, mostly veterans, is one of the United States’ most treasured cultural sites. The site also contains Arlington House, former enslaved labor plantation and home of Confederate general Robert E. Lee. Together, the cemetery and the plantation house played important roles in the divisions of the Civil War; the flawed North–South reconciliation that took place in the decades that followed; and the struggles over racial equality and historical memory that have continued into the 21st century. Following a National Park Service rehabilitation of Arlington House, accounts of enslaved people and their descendants are now considerably more prominent in the historical interpretation. Yet questions remain over how best to remember slavery, the Confederacy, and the Civil War.
Like other sites of Japanese American incarceration, Minidoka Relocation Center was long neglected after World War II. Buildings were removed or deteriorated, and few visited the isolated spot. Increased public recognition of the injustice of mass incarceration, culminating in the Civil Liberties Act of 1988, catalyzed public history projects to preserve sites of Nikkei1 World War II history and led to the eventual establishment of Minidoka National Historic Site. In recent years, significant restoration and interpretation projects have transformed the site, providing visitors with a rich historical context. However, its future is threatened by a proposed massive wind farm near the historic site. The project has mobilized both Japanese Americans and local Idahoans in resistance for divergent reasons that speak to the historical tensions over land use in the American West. The situation underscores the precarious state of Japanese American history, how its establishment and preservation rely upon the community, but is still powerfully shaped by the federal government and, now, the exigencies of responding to global climate change.
The author returns to Gettysburg National Military Park nearly 20 years following the publication of her book The Colors of Courage, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Battles to see how things might have changed in terms of what visitors learn when they come to the park and the surrounding borough.
On November 29, 1864, troops from the 1st and 3rd Colorado Regiments attacked an Arapaho and Cheyenne peace camp along the banks of Sand Creek in southeastern Colorado Territory. The soldiers killed some 200 or more Native people, razed what remained of their village, and desecrated the bodies of the dead. Initially celebrated by Colorado settlers as a heroic battle, in time the violence came to be known nationally as the Sand Creek Massacre. Almost a century and a half later, on April 27, 2007, the National Park Service opened its 391st unit: Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. This essay explores the politics of memory surrounding the Sand Creek Massacre, focusing on the impact of the historic site in reshaping official and popular recollections in the 16 years since it opened to the public.
The author revists Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, created by Congress to commemorate the historic march of 1965. The only African American site in the entire National Trail System, Selma to Montgomery represents the historical tension between the ideals of American democracy, where all citizens have equal protection and equal rights by law, and the reality of the fight waged by Black voters against discrimination in America. Further, the trail represents the struggle to preserve the history and memory of civil rights sites of conflict as a part of the nation’s historical landscape. Finally, the trail represents the symbolic battle, in real time, of the voting rights movement (which some characterize as “a relic of the past”) in the face of ongoing tangible assaults on voting rights in the 21st century.
New Perspectives (Non-Peer Reviewed)
In this excerpt from his introduction to Violence and Public Memory, editor Martin Blatt discusses his family history connected to the Holocaust and how this history propelled him to a lifelong commitment to social justice through the telling of history in public contexts. He then identifies how the relationship of violence to public memory has been a central theme throughout his professional career as a public historian. Blatt proceeds to define how he employs the terms “violence” and “public memory” in this book. He examines contemporary literature and the public history arena to highlight exemplary works focused on violence and public memory. Subsequently, he highlights a range of publications that examine this connection. Blatt explores the contents of this edited volume regarding geography, types of memorialization, and historical timeframe. He stresses his belief that the measure of the integrity of a nation or culture is the degree to which there is an unflinching examination of the violent past and its meaning for contemporary society. He has organized the book into five thematic sections—genocide; slavery; racial and sexual hatred in the United States; apartheid; and fascism and war. Each section includes multiple chapters tied to the specific theme. Blatt concludes the introduction by summarizing each section and chapter (these summaries are not included here).
Advances in Research and Management (Peer-Reviewed)
Thousands of visitors to parks take part in ranger-led programs annually. During these programs rangers work to evoke and maintain interest in order to connect visitors with cultural and natural resources. Researchers have found interest is a powerful driver of learning, yet its role in the experience of adults who participate in ranger-led programming has not been well studied. Open-ended telephone interviews conducted months after a ranger-led hike to a prominent dune in Indiana Dunes National Park illustrate the extent to which visitors’ recollections show continuity with their reasons for attending the ranger-led hike and their uptake of resource messages. Like other ranger-led programming, this hike was designed to make intellectual and emotional connections, to fuel long-held interests, and activate new stewards. The program was the result of collaboration among rangers and local scientists. Responses to a pre-hike survey were matched with post-hike recollections transcribed following an open-ended phone interview. The vast majority of post-hike interviews revealed a match between hike participants’ initial interests and recollected details of the experience as well as new areas of piqued interest. In post-hike reflections, visitors mentioned factors that influenced the dune’s formation, and the majority mentioned the problems caused by trampling. Participants recruited for this study grasped and recollected resource messages connected to their interests. They spoke of the need to protect a popular and puzzling geological formation.
With increasing threats facing ecosystems around the world, conservationists are looking for innovative approaches to address the complex nature of transboundary issues. Large landscape conservation (LLC) extends beyond protected area boundaries and potentially national borders. Though the recognition of LLC is growing, we have a limited understanding of what supports or inhibits LLC efforts across diverse geographies, which limits the efficacy of LLC as a strategy to combat ecological threats. Networks can provide support for individual LLC initiatives through collaboration, knowledge exchange, and resource mobilization. Despite the growth in LLC initiatives around the world, there has been a lack of research assessing a network of initiatives—research that is critical to complement individual case studies. To gain a greater understanding of LLC, we conducted a survey of the Transboundary Conservation and the Connectivity Conservation Specialist Groups of the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas. The survey explored key factors that inhibit or support landscape-scale governance and overall success. Findings reveal key patterns and unique aspects of LLC initiatives. Additionally, this study underscored the need to address the complexity of multiple scales of governance while meaningfully strengthening relationships at the local scale, and specifically with Indigenous populations. These findings can inform best practices and management techniques to increase successful governance by managers, researchers, and other conservation professionals to support effective and equitable LLC initiatives.
Keywords: Connectivity, large landscape, transboundary, global networks, IUCN, World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA)
The Photographer's Frame
This visual essay in "The Photographer's Frame" investigates the potential of using experiential learning in the National Park System to mitigate the repetition of harmful societal practices, such as relying on destructive conflict to resolve differences of opinions and beliefs.
Verse in Place
A poem in the "Verse in Place" section of Parks Stewardship Forum.