The Invisibility of Certain "Traditionally Associated Peoples": Social Construction,
Destruction and Reclamation of Place—Natural, Cultural, and Industrial
Resources and the Establishment of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore
David R. M. White, Applied Cultural Dynamics
February 25, 2003
Abstract: "Social construction of reality" and "cultural sense of place" are two topics much discussed of late. Consideration of historical events and movements of people in the Indiana Dunes region, along the south shore of Lake Michigan, sheds light on the social construction of sense of place, a process more complex and contentious than is often recognized. History of the Indiana Dunes region is briefly summarized, and several groups of people are examined in terms of their relationship to natural and cultural resources of the area. Miami people inhabited the Indiana Dunes until the early eighteenth century. Pottawatomie bands then lived there until their removal in the early nineteenth century. Ottawa people arrived in the 1820s along with French Canadian settlers who preceded Euro American immigrants (primarily Irish and Swedish) of the 1840s and 1850s. From the outset of Euro American arrival on the Indiana shores of Lake Michigan, there were plans for large-scale modification of the natural environment. Joseph Bailly, who established a small "jack-knife" trading post within present-day boundaries of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore around 1824, purchased more than two thousand acres of land with intentions of platting a town, dredging a harbor and developing shipping facilities. Railroads reached the area in the 1850s, facilitating the harvest and export of natural resources including frogs, ducks, geese, and passenger pigeons. Larger-scale extraction of natural resources began with sand mining in the 1880s, and both white pines and tulip trees were cut to depletion by the end of the nineteenth century. Heavy industry came to the Dunes in the 1880s and early 1900s, with establishment of oil refineries and steel mills. Urbanization and industrial development continued, a preservationist movement also began early in the century, and a struggle between two visions of the dunes—as expendable resource to be consumed, or priceless place to be saved—dominated the twentieth century. Establishment of Indiana Dunes State Park in 1926, and authorization of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore in 1966, marked only temporary truces between the warring factions. Different groups of people have had very different interests in the Dunes. The "Dune Bugs" initially built vacation homes and retreats in the Dunes, but surrendered these in favor of the opportunity to have the area preserved for public access; Lithuanian immigrants established a heavy presence in the town of Beverly Shores and successfully resisted authorized Park Service expansion that would have taken their homes. Diverse continuing constituencies of the National Lakeshore include Pottawatomie and Ottawa Indians, Bailly family descendants, multiple urban ethnic groups, an active re-enactment community, and "interest groups" including birders, off-road vehicle users, nudists, pagans, and urban gang members. The range of interests and associations with the park and its resources demonstrates the challenge faced by NPS in attempting to accommodate concerns of Traditionally Associated People.
This discussion focuses on issues pertaining to definitions of "traditionally associated peoples" (TAPs), and also on some reasons why certain groups are effectively "invisible" to National Park Service management. Long-standing antagonisms between local people and NPS can result in people being "invisible." Park superintendents may arrive without adequate understanding of historical conflicts or of traditional uses of park resources. Invisibility may also result from different types of affiliation with a park. There are definitional difficulties in distinguishing TAPs from people who are merely "stakeholders". We might assume that all TAPs are stakeholders, but that stakeholders may or may not be TAPs. Yet the situation may not be that simple. People suspected of being TAPs may not initially perceive a stake in park management, yet they can become stakeholders due to a variety of factors—including the process of consulting with them. Issues become particularly thorny when what is "at stake" for TAPs is at odds with NPS culture or management objectives. Examples are found at Capitol Reef National Park, Badlands National Park, and Indiana Dunes National Park.
Mormon Orchards at Capital Reef National Park
I began fieldwork in 1993 to assess the importance of fruit orchards within Capital Reef National Park (CARE) to local Mormon people (White 1994). The visitor center, picnic grounds and campgrounds at CARE are located in the midst of a complex of apricot, peach, apple, plum and cherry orchards that were originally part of the Mormon community of Fruita. This settlement was established in 1880, more than thirty years after the Mormons came to Utah. It had a growing season of 145 days, compared to only 80 days at "up-country" towns on nearby Wayne County plateaus. Fruita became renowned for its fruits and vegetables, and the exchange of different products between communities allowed people to survive in the area. In the 1920s, during an agricultural depression, Wayne County people began promoting tourism, and the intended centerpiece of this was the "Wayne Wonderland State Park", authorized in 1925. In 1937, this was incorporated into Capital Reef National Monument. The name change antagonized some locals, and subsequent acquisition of private lands (which continued into the 1960s), including the orchards, angered others. But the situation was generally accepted. NPS kept the orchards, and people who had picked fruit there from childhood continued to do so. In 1971, Capital Reef became a National Park.
Not long afterwards, the superintendent ordered removal of more than a hundred peach trees; between 1975 and 1977 another three hundred twenty trees were removed. In 1977, CARE issued an orchard management plan that proposed reducing the number of fruit trees from more than 3,000 to 1,700. Local people were outraged, and although the regional director supported the superintendent, the controversy went all the way to Washington, D.C., and back down. The superintendent retired shortly thereafter, and the next decade was spent in developing an orchard management plan that stipulated keeping 2,500 trees. When I arrived in 1993 to study the importance of the orchards to local people, though, a ranger told me that most of the fruit was being picked by tourists who were surprised to find fruit trees in a national park. He characterized tourists as "an annual crop" rather than a constituency that would expect the trees to be preserved, and he concluded that more trees could be removed without anyone missing them.
At the same time, local people I interviewed claimed tourists were picking so much fruit that they could not satisfy their own needs. They wanted more trees to be planted. Direct observation, however, showed that tourists were picking relatively little of the fruit. I watched 2,702 pounds of apricots being harvested. Twenty-five parties of Utah residents picked 56.4 percent of the apricots, while a single party of Old German Baptists from Indiana picked 23.1 percent; a single party of Arizona and New Mexico Navajos picked 9.3 percent, and 48 parties of out-of-state and foreign tourists picked 11.3 percent. With peaches—by all accounts, the most desirable crop for locals—the contrast was even more marked: with an observed harvest of 3,696 pounds, 36 parties of Utah residents picked 96.9 percent, while 21 parties of tourists picked only 3.1 percent.
Clearly, local people were "invisible" to park administrators; at the same time, tourists were "hypervisible" to both administrators and locals. Busloads of Japanese and German tourists came into the visitor center, and shiny rental cars from Salt Lake City crowded the parking lots. Locals sped past the visitor center in battered pickup trucks, picked a few bushels of fruit, and went back home to "bottle" it. Administrators not only missed the people themselves, but the cultural importance of the trees and the fruit.
When Brigham Young sent people out into the present-day Wayne County wilderness to survive and prosper, a key to their success was the community of Fruita and its trees. Thus they weren't just trees; they were how people obeyed a religious mandate. On into the late twentieth century, when the fruit trees would start blooming in the spring, people from upland communities would bring their children to Fruita, and teach them how their ancestors had complied with the mandate. Trees were pedagogical in nature, so the former superintendent was completely unprepared for the firestorm that ensued when he had trees bulldozed.
Badlands National Park, the Black Hills and the Great Sioux Reservation
I think it important to recognize that there can be cultural or legal affiliation without traditional affiliation, and there can be traditional or cultural affiliation without legal affiliation. The former situation is well illustrated at Badlands National Park (BADL); the latter is better illustrated at Indiana Dunes National Park, as discussed a bit further on. In 1998, I began an ethnographic overview study that culminated in a report entitled Mako Washte, which means "The Good Earth"—possibly the original Lakota term for the Badlands, the latter term apparently introduced by the French because of their difficulty in traversing the area with wheeled vehicles (White 2002).
As an ethnographic overview, the study may focus inordinately (as one reviewer suggested) on the NPS relationship with the Lakota. This came about, however, because the park asked me to do an oral history, and when I asked upon what aspect of oral history I should focus, I was told to focus on whatever the Indians wanted to talk about. Not unexpectedly, they wanted to talk primarily about the U.S. government and the Park Service—often using expletives deleted here. The important thing I learned from the oral history interviews was how keenly aware Lakota people are of their history and of the facts that there were national parks before there was a National Park Service, that those national parks were operated by the Department of War, and that this was prior to the massacre of Lakota people at Wounded Knee, just south of present-day BADL.
In fact, there have been recent discussions about making a national memorial at Wounded Knee, an idea that some Lakota people like and other Lakota people detest. But it is essential to understand the whole history of the relationship between the United States government and the Ogallala Sioux tribe, before one can get an inkling of the sorts of issues that are going to come out of the woodwork on a situation like that.
The Lakota people and the Ogallala Sioux tribe provide a very good example of overlapping typologies of traditional, cultural and legal associations. There are certainly traditional associations of several Lakota bands—Ogallala, Sicangu, Minneconjou, Ohenonpa, Itazipco, and Hunkpapa—as well as Cheyenne people, with the park. It is also true that some bands have longer-term, more intensive connections than others. However, these traditional, cultural connections are not what most Lakota people want to talk about. Any attempt to single out one Lakota band, or a few, as having more traditional connections than others raises suspicion that the Sioux Nation itself is being made invisible.
More pressing, to the Lakota, are legal associations. First and foremost is the fact that under terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the "Sioux Nation" was considered as a single political entity, regardless of the prior sovereignty of its constituent bands. Secondly, the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty established the Great Sioux Reservation, setting aside all of present-day South Dakota west of the Missouri River. Subsequently, the U.S. took the Black Hills, and created several smaller reservations for the various bands within the remaining territory. Lakota people today hold that this U.S. abrogation of the 1868 treaty was illegal. The Supreme Court agreed, but refused to return the land. The Sioux Nation has refused monetary compensation.
The Badlands National Monument was established in 1939 on former Great Sioux Reservation lands north of the Pine Ridge Reservation. During World War II, the north half of that diminished reservation was seized by the Department of Defense, and made into a bombing range. Lakota people were told that this was a temporary matter of national emergency; the land would be leased, and later returned to the Tribe. People were evicted; many say they never received lease payments; and when the bombing range was no longer needed, the land was not given back to the Ogallala Sioux Tribe. Instead it went to the NPS, and with inclusion of the South Unit, Badlands National Monument became Badlands National Park. Is there any wonder that Lakota people express distrust, when NPS proposes to build a Lakota Culture Center, where Lakota history and culture would be interpreted to the public?
Traditionally Associated People and Stakeholders at Indiana Dunes National Park
Indiana Dunes (INDU) was established rather recently, in 1966, and it includes areas that receive intensive recreational use by a large number of urban ethnic groups and special interest groups. It is an ideal setting for contemplating the difference between TAPs and other stakeholders. When I began working at INDU in 1997, I asked two questions: first, who are the traditionally associated people? —and second, which ethnic groups and other stakeholders have connections to the park? A key problem is that Indiana Dunes comprises most of the undeveloped shoreline of Indiana, so it's really something of a suburb and playground for Chicago—a very large city.
There have been many groups of Indian people in northern Indiana. The list of different Tribal names associated with the area takes up more than two full pages of my table of contents, beginning with Anghichia (part of the Miami Tribe) and ending with Wyandot. The three main groups, though, were Miami, Pottawatomie, and Ottawa. During meetings in Indiana, Michigan, and Oklahoma, I found that none had much on-going connection to the park. The federally recognized Citizen Pottawatomie Nation and the Miami Tribe, both located in Oklahoma, expressed little sense of connection to the area. Pottawatomie people in Michigan (who gained federal recognition only as of 1994) and Miami people in Peru, Indiana (who thus far have been unsuccessful in gaining federal recognition) similarly offered little information, yet they seemed to take a new interest in the park as a result of my visit. Knowingly or otherwise, we ethnographers become part the social field when we go out and start talking to people. (A similar thing had happened at Capital Reef; when I called the chairperson at the White Mesa Ute Reservation and asked if Tribal members ever went over to Capital Reef to pick fruit, the response was "Well, oh! It's not that far away, is it?")
Various European ethnic groups associated with Chicago, and the steel mill towns of northern Indiana, show much closer connections with the dunes. There are Germans, Swedes, Norwegians, Danes, Irish, Lithuanians, Poles, Romanians, Jews, Greeks, Italians, and Yugoslavs (Macedonians, Serbs and Croats). There are also French, Assyrian, Lebanese, Syrian, Palestinian, and Canadian people. Hillbillies comprise an identifiable group in the area. Among African Americans, there are Central American Garinagu people in Chicago, and many southern Blacks moved to Indiana to work in the steel mills. Hispanic people include Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Nicaraguans, among others, and Asian people include Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, Asian Indians, Vietnamese, Cambodians, Hmongs, Laotians, Thais, and Pacific Islanders.
Yet none of these ethnic groups have identifiable, bounded connections with the park. The people that I found to have identifiable connections with INDU may be TAPs ("traditionally associated peoples") or they may "only" be stakeholders. This depends in a very fundamental way with how we define the terms. Must TAPs be ethnic groups? Or does a multi-generational connection to an area by a group, regardless of how its membership is recruited and maintained, constitute a traditional association? I am less interested here in answering the question, than in providing several examples for consideration.
In my report to INDU (White 2000), I discussed birdwatchers, off-road vehicle users, nudists, pagans, and urban gangs. All of these people had connections to Indiana Dunes, and they considered the park and its surroundings to be a very important place. A few such groups are popular with the National Park Service, although most are not. Some NPS personnel admitted being a bit intimidated by bird watchers, whose presence in the dunes goes back many decades. They were appreciated for their efforts in creating and expanding INDU; the Audubon Society had been right there to sign petitions, to hand out leaflets and call Congressmen. But a park interpreter said to me, "You know, the Audubon Society once called and asked us to lead a field trip. Can you imagine? None of us could do it. We don't know anything about birds—not like they do." As a birder myself, I had to explain that Audubon field trips aren't explorations by ornithological experts—they include ordinary people interested in birds, who want to visit natural environments and see what's there.
Off-road vehicle use certainly goes back two generations, in the dunes; this was well underway in the 1950s. Groups of ORV users have attempted to insert themselves into management plans, and although they made themselves highly visible—"packing" public meetings in an attempt to secure use rights in the dunes— environmentalists have rebuffed them. The INDU General Management Plan in 1980 included an alternative with a designated ORV use area, but this was not approved. NPS has thus far made clear that ORV user practices do not mesh with Park Service policy.
Urban gangs are understandably seen as purely problematic by NPS. These are, nonetheless, very complex social groups with long histories. Urban gang activity in Chicago goes back well into the early 19th century; these were associated with Irish, German and Swedish as well as Italian ethnic neighborhoods. Sociologists have pointed out numerous positive functions of street gangs, in addition to the more highly publicized connections with crime. The Indiana Dunes have been playgrounds for youth gangs; this is better documented at the Indiana Dunes State Park than at INDU. The region has seen more affluent gang activity as well. Chicago gangsters built lavish homes in Long Beach, east of Michigan City, in the 1920s.
Nudists are another group that is oddly invisible. Former assistant superintendent William Supernaugh (1993) presented a paper on Indiana Dunes nudism to a recreation conference. He noted that nudism in national parks is neither prohibited nor encouraged —a policy remarkably similar to the later Clinton administration's "don't ask, don't tell" admonition regarding homosexuals in the military. NPS personnel seem largely unaware of the extent to which nudism takes place within INDU. In his paper, Supernaugh mentioned an "annual naturist outing to a remote beach" in the National Lakeshore, and noted one citation issued in 1993. The implication in the paper was that nudity in the park happens only occasionally, and mostly at night. However, a guidebook to nude recreation (Baxandall 1991:52) lists several locations in the Indiana Dunes where nude swimming and sunbathing takes place. Mount Baldy, in the Indiana Dunes State Park, is listed as the "nicest, most accessible nude beach in the Chicago to South Bend area." Baxandall also recommended Kemil Road Beach, albeit with a cautionary note, and Bailly Beach was identified as an isolated beach with "no hassle."
Pagans are another "invisible" group at Indiana Dunes. Serendipitous Internet research led me to a chat room where there were numbers of practicing pagans from northern Indiana. I sent out a message that I was doing a project for the National Park Service and was interested in knowing about any activity at INDU. Several people responded with information about three or four "covens" (groups) and about thirty "solitaries" practicing in the area. I learned that Sabbats (equinox celebrations) are held in public, at a local Unitarian Church, but Esbats (nighttime celebrations of the phases of the moon) are sometimes held in the park. Most of those who communicated with me were comfortable with NPS knowing about this, but they were very guarded about specific locations. This closely echoed research I've done with Native American groups, asking about religious rituals and performances and what they want NPS to know. Not surprisingly, the answer usually is to the effect that they want NPS to know of their connection, without revealing much about the content of the connection. It is not always the case, but sometimes, "invisible" people are quite satisfied with that status.
- 1991 World Guide to Nude Beaches & Recreation. Oshkosh WI: N. Editions/Castle-Pierce Printing Co.
Supernaugh, William R.
- 1993 Nude Recreation: The National Park Service Perspective. Assistant Superintendent, Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Paper presented to the National Recreation and Park Association, 1993 NRPA Congress for Recreation and Parks, Education and Training Conference. San Jose CA, October 20.
White, David R. M.
- 1994 By Their Fruits Ye Shall Know Them: An Ethnographic Evaluation of Orchard Resources at the Fruita Rural Historic District, Capitol Reef National Park, Utah. Report prepared for Capitol Reef National Park (NPS Rocky Mountain Region, Denver CO).
- 2000 Roots Eternal and Unshakable: An Ethnographic Overview of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Report prepared for the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Porter IN.
- 2002 Mako Washte: An Ethnographic Overview and Oral History of the Badlands National Park. Report prepared for Badlands National Park, Interior SD.