Sand dunes at Padre Island National Seashore; Blockhouse at Fort Larned National Historic Site, Hopewell Mounds from the Mound City Group, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park.
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary  
Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures
Explore their Stories in the National Park System


Text Only Version

Please note that this text-only version, provided for ease of printing and reading, includes more than 250 pages and may take up to 40 minutes to print. Printing this page will print the introduction, both essays, the list of sites, and all of the descriptions for the sites featured in the itinerary. If you would like to print a specific section, click on one of the links below, and mark the section you would like to print.

Introduction
America, the Nation of Nations
Divided We Stand: Markers of Conflict and Change on the Landscape
The National Park Service: Preserving the Places and Stories of America's Diverse Cultural Heritage
List of Sites and Descriptions
Maps (print separately)
Learn More (print separately)
Credits (print separately)

Introduction

The National Park Service and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers invite you to learn about the many diverse peoples who have played a role in American history by visiting the units of our National Park System that preserve and tell their stories. The Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary features more than 150 exciting destinations to explore in the National Park System, most of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, which the National Park Service expands and maintains on behalf of the nation.

The Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary offers several ways to discover and experience the historic places that bring alive the stories of people from all over the world who have come together to create and shape the history of the United States of America, the most culturally diverse nation on earth.

Descriptions of each featured unit of the National Park System on the List of Sites highlight their significance, photographs and other illustrations, and information on how to visit.

Essays on the many different peoples who have settled the nation, conflicts they faced, and the role of the National Park Service in preserving and telling their stories provide background for understanding the culturally diverse history of the United States and the historic places featured in the itinerary.

Maps to help visitors plan what to see and do and get directions to historic places to visit.

• A Learn More section provides links to websites of featured units of the National Park System and tourism websites with information on cultural events and activities, other things to see and do, and dining and lodging possibilities. This section also provides a bibliography.

View the itinerary online or print it as a guide if you plan to visit in person. The Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary, the 53rd in this ongoing series, is part of the Department of the Interior, National Park Service’s strategy to promote public awareness of history and encourage visits to historic places throughout the nation. The itineraries are created by a partnership of the National Park Service, the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers, and Federal, State, and local governments and private organizations in communities, regions, and heritage areas throughout the United States. The itineraries help people everywhere learn about and plan trips to visit the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The National Park Service and its partners hope you enjoy this itinerary and others in the series. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on “Comments or Questions” at the bottom of each page.

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America, the Nation of Nations

Americans are people on the move. From the earliest human beings who migrated to the North American continent 13,000 years ago on foot or in flimsy water craft, to the most recent arrival at LAX or Kennedy International airports, we have been a people that has been cast and recast many times by migrations, voluntary and involuntary. The only way to keep pace with a people in motion is to follow in their paths, to see who went where through the twin lenses of time and space. The National Park System encourages visitors to take such a walk through the past via its richly interpreted sites.

The peopling of North America did not begin in the 15th century court of Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain, where an earnest Italian captain promised riches from abroad. It began in the huts of north central Asia where itinerant hunters during several periods of the Pleistocene Ice Age walked on a land bridge that is no longer in existence, across the Bering Strait from what is today Siberia to Alaska’s Seward Peninsula: a distance of approximately 55 miles. At other times, these wanderers may have traveled by small boat or canoe hugging shorelines. Although the land bridge between Russia and Alaska is long gone, visitors to the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve can ponder how plants and animals as well as humans migrated from one continent to another. Visitors see how a Native American tribe, the Inupiat, follow the agricultural patterns of their forbears. Recognizing that the heritage of the land bridge belonged to Russia as well as to the United States, Russian President Mikhail Gorbachev and U.S. President George H. Bush signed an agreement to establish heritage parks on both sides of the strait in the waning days of the Cold War. Thanks to the internet, an American can visit the other side of the Bering Land Bridge without vacationing in Siberia.

The initial migrants crossing the land bridge were searching for sustenance. Dispersing across North America over centuries, they became divided by rivers, valleys, and mountain ranges. Different tribes with unique cultural patterns evolved. Those on the trail of the first Americans today will find treasure troves in the National Parks. Chaco Culture National Historic Park in New Mexico has thirteen significant archeological sites illuminating the Pueblo pre-Columbian civilization. The Aztec Ruins National Monument opens a door on an ancient civilization of legendary strength and complexity; and Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument offers a glimpse into the homes and lives of the Mogollon people who, over 700 years ago, lived in what is today the American Southwest.

By the late 15th century, Native Americans were no longer alone in the Americas. They encountered Europeans who were engaged in exploration. Christopher Columbus, John Cabot, Hernan Cortes, Jacques Cartier, Samuel de Champlain, and Henry Hudson, among others, all explored North America for the European powers. Sites throughout the country allow visitors a sense of what European explorers saw and experienced. As early as 1686, Henri de Tonti built a trading post called Poste de Arkansas at the Quapaw Indian village of Osoturoy, now Arkansas Post National Memorial. It was the first semi-permanent French settlement in the Lower Mississippi Valley. The post’s importance is closely linked with the imperial competition of England, France, and Spain for colonial possessions in North America. The flooding of the Arkansas River caused the trading post to move seven times during its existence, but its location near the meeting of the Arkansas and Mississippi Rivers made this post strategically important militarily. At various times French and Spanish forts, respectively, were located there. In 1800, the French gained control of the fort from the Spanish, and it was included in the Louisiana Purchase negotiations between France and the United States in 1803 by President Thomas Jefferson.

The heart of English settlement in the colonial period was along the Atlantic seaboard. There, religious dissenters such as the Puritans and the Pilgrims sought not just economic opportunity but freedom of religious expression. Those who sought toleration were not always tolerant of others, however. When Puritan minister Roger Williams preached doctrine that was not in conformity with the beliefs of Massachusetts Bay community elders, he was banished. He founded his own congregation in Rhode Island in 1636. Today visitors can pay tribute to Williams and his belief in religious freedom at the Roger Williams National Memorial. The visitor center for the Memorial is one of the oldest commercial buildings in Providence.

Further south at Colonial National Historical Park at Yorktown, Virginia, there is a monument to others among the first colonists. The park’s Cape Henry Memorial marker designates the approximate site of the first landing of Virginia’s Jamestown settlers. The monument overlooks the Chesapeake Bay location where the Battle of the Capes occurred--the naval battle decisive in the British surrender to George Washington’s troops at Yorktown during the American Revolution.

Unfree laborers such as indentured servants and slaves often provided the labor needed to conquer the environment and make it yield sustenance. White European settlers negotiated indenture contracts with other white Europeans who wanted to emigrate to the American colonies but could not afford to do so. Often these indentured servants were the second or third sons of landed English families. Under the laws of primogeniture, eldest sons inherited all their families’ wealth, and indenturing themselves was often the only path to upward mobility for siblings. Not all indentured servants were white. Some were people of color or of mixed blood and also in need of opportunity. By the 1640s, contemporary court records dealing with cases of runaway indentured servants, such as those of the Virginia General Court, suggest that some of these servants were in fact enslaved for running away. Enslavement was a penalty meted out only to nonwhites. Increasingly, black slaves were brought in chains as part of an international slave trade, an involuntary migration from Africa.

Slavery, an ancient institution mentioned in humanity’s earliest records, including the Bible, became an increasingly popular means whereby Europeans acquired low cost agricultural labor to farm rice, tobacco, and cotton crops, especially but not exclusively in the Southern colonies. Initially Europeans had attempted to enslave the Native Americans, but a combination of factors including familiarity with the environment, tribal unity, and combat experience made such enslavement a costly and often futile endeavor, as the Spanish learned in Central and South America. African slaves themselves became critical commodities in the Atlantic community. Although the United States’ Constitution provided for the end of the cruel slave trade by 1808, slaves were bred on plantations and smuggled into the United States prior to the Civil War.

By the beginning of the American Civil War in 1861, over four and a half million slaves were in the U.S., most of them concentrated in the southern States. Many northern States, not finding slaves an economical labor force, stopped supporting the institution by the 1820s.

The National Park System offers a variety of places where visitors can learn about the involuntary migration of black slaves to North America and about the anti-slavery struggle. Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John had been the home of the Taino people for thousands of years, but Europeans drove the tribe into extinction in the 17th century and then brought slaves to work in sugar cane production. Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Natchitoches, Louisiana includes the grounds of the Oakland and Magnolia Plantations. Here, slaves once lived and labored. The mixture of French, African, and Spanish traits along with some from Native American tribes among the older families is a reminder of the rich heterogeneous ethnic heritage that is a legacy of the cruel institution of slavery in this region. Visitors can find another plantation in the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve which includes Fort Caroline and Kingsley Plantation in Jacksonville, Florida. Kingsley Plantation was the abode of Zephaniah Kingsley, his African wife Anna, and the hundreds of men, women, and children who were enslaved on his plantation.

Not all those of African heritage were slaves in North America before the Civil War. The Boston African National Historic Site includes the largest area of antebellum black-owned buildings in the U.S. and is the perfect place to pursue the history of antislavery reform. The two dozen sites on the north face of Beacon Hill were businesses, churches, homes, and schools belonging to a robust black community that struggled to free their enslaved brothers in the South. Further south in the Anacostia area of Washington D.C. is the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site. Here at his Cedar Hill home, the escaped slave and later great abolitionist Frederick Douglass resided and entertained some of the most influential individuals of his era. In a small stone house, known as the “growlery,” behind the mansion Douglass wrote and thought, growling at those who showed the temerity to disturb his peace and quiet.

After the Civil War and the emancipation of the slaves by the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution in 1866, some former slaves, or freedmen, migrated west. Organizing themselves into colonies during the Reconstruction era, these freedmen headed west to Kansas. The Nicodemus National Historic Site at Nicodemus, Kansas helps visitors to understand the role of African Americans in western expansion and the settlement of the Great Plains. It is the oldest and only existing Black Town west of the Mississippi River.

African Americans migrating out of the South after the Civil War found themselves competing for jobs in northern cities with the millions of immigrants who had arrived in the United States in search of jobs and liberty in the two decades before the Civil War. This first great wave of European migration to the United States in the 19th century occurred between 1840 and 1860 when 4.5 million newcomers arrived, most of them from northern and western Europe. The largest groups were the Irish. Over 1.25 million Irish, most of them Catholics from the Southern provinces, arrived in search of work and in flight from starvation, especially during the Great Famine of the mid-1840s. While many participants in this Irish diaspora were unskilled laborers, the growth of American industry offered opportunities. Lowell National Historical Park commemorates the early years of America’s industrial revolution. At Lowell and other such mills, low cost Irish labor replaced the farm girls who worked in the mills to earn dowry money.

Others arrivals to antebellum America included Scandinavians and migrants from the German provinces. Among the former was almost one fifth of the population of Sweden in flight from poverty and in search of opportunities to own their own land. The Germans included skilled artisans and craftsmen seeking to preserve their status as masters and apprentices by avoiding the increasing number of factories and assembly line jobs in Europe. Among the Germans were also radicals who had fled the abortive revolutions of 1848. Many of the German Jews who arrived in this period became peddlers and roamed the farmlands of America selling their wares to the wives of farmers and perhaps settling down and opening stores in the Midwest or the South.

Immigration was a State, not a Federal matter, until the end of the 19th century. In busy harbors, State officers ran facilities where they interrogated and inspected new arrivals, and sought to protect them from the con artists who roamed the docks seeking to bilk the immigrants out of their savings. In 1855, Castle Clinton, constructed on landfill in New York Harbor as a fort for the War of 1812 and later an opera house (1840-1855), became Castle Garden, the site of the New York State Emigration depot in 1855. There New York State officers counted and processed the new arrivals while volunteer physicians conducted perfunctory health inspections. Today, visitors to Manhattan’s Battery Park can buy their ticket for the boat trips to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island inside the thick round stone structure, the remains of Castle Garden.

Not all of America’s peopling was the result of migration. Conquest and annexation also played a significant role in the 19th century. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that concluded the Mexican War added a significant amount of territory and Mexican population to the United States. Mexicans living in the territory that was annexed by the United States became Americans. At the time of the Mexican War, perhaps as many as 80,000 Mexicans lived in the territory the U.S. annexed. Sixty thousand resided in what is today New Mexico and 20,000 in California. Another 5,000 or so lived in Texas, which had been annexed in 1845. The treaty gave all Mexicans on U.S. territory the right to stay or go. Three thousand returned to Mexico. All of those who stayed were guaranteed the rights of citizens, although those rights were often violated, especially in New Mexico and California. Many lost their land and became aliens in what had once been their own country.

By the end of the 19th century, the United States was again in the midst of a great wave of immigration, now largely from South and Eastern Europe as well as China, Japan, and parts of Latin America. Between 1880 and the 1920s, 23.5 million newcomers arrived in the United States. The size and complexity of the migration led the Federal Government to assume responsibility for the processing and inspection of the newcomers. Facilities were established in every port, and in the busy port of New York, the Federal Government created an immigration depot on Ellis Island, opening a wooden depot in 1892. It burned down in 1897 and the red brick building that still stands in New York Harbor opened in 1900. Restored and reopened for visitors in the 1990s, Ellis Island is among the most popular National Park sites.

Federal depots such as Ellis Island did not process all immigrants. Those who traveled first and second class passage received their inspections in the comfort of their cabins. Only those who traveled third class or steerage often stood in long lines to be interrogated by Federal immigration officers and inspected by the Federal physicians of the U.S. Marine Hospital Service (later renamed the U.S. Public Health Service). At all U.S. depots, including San Francisco’s Angel Island where most Asians entered the country, procedures were similar. By the 1920s, the United States had enough workers to satisfy the needs of American industry. Congress passed highly restrictive legislation. The Johnson-Reed Immigration Act of 1924 included a national origins quota system, which slowed migration to the United States from Southern and Eastern Europe. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 had already curbed the migration of laborers from China.

Migration and annexation had long been factors in Hawaii’s relationship to the United States. Annexed by the United States and formally made a U.S. territory in 1900, Hawaii was the doorway to the United States for many Asians, especially Japanese at the turn of the last century. Visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, not only see the results of 70 million years of volcanoes, but also the results of early migrations. At Kalaupapa National Historical Park, the story told is the intersection of migration and disease. From 1866 to 1969, the facility built at Kalawo on the windward side of the Kalaupapa Peninsula is where Hansen’s disease (leprosy) patients were sent to live their lives separately from the rest of society.

Some of the Japanese immigrants who entered the United States through Hawaii established lives on the west coast. Some owned rich farming land and contributed significantly to agricultural development in California. Almost from the first arrival, Japanese immigrants confronted racial discrimination. In the Gentleman’s Agreement of 1903, the Japanese Emperor agreed to curb migration to the United States in return for President Theodore Roosevelt’s intervention to end school segregation and other acts of discrimination in California. Hawaii, however, remained an entry port for some Japanese. Anti-Japanese feelings persisted, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor that drew the U.S. into World War II. Some Americans, especially on the west coast, which had a history of anti-Japanese feeling, thought Japanese residents would be a security risk. One hundred and twenty thousand Japanese living on the west coast of the United States, including many who were American citizens, were placed in internment camps in compliance with Executive Order 9066. In one of the greatest injustices in American history, people of Japanese ancestry were moved to internment camps in isolated, often desolate, locations. Manzanar National Historic Site is one of 10 permanent war relocation camps that existed and were the temporary home of more than 10,000 people from the spring of 1942 to 1945. For thousands of years it had been the home of the Paiute tribe before they were marched to Fort Tejon in the mid-1800s to make way for European ranchers and farmers. During World War II, Manzanar again played a role in the history of American migration and ethnicity.

Similarly, the Minidoka National Historic Site near Twin Falls, Idaho housed 13,000 people of Japanese descent, most of whom had been residents of Washington, Oregon, or Alaska. Bainbridge Island, Washington, a unit of the Minidoka National Historic Site, is where President George W. Bush established the Nidoto Nai Yoni (Let it not happen again) Memorial. In March 1942, 227 men, women, and children were escorted from their homes on the island by armed U.S army officers. Each was allowed only two suitcases. Official apologies and some financial restitution in 2001 were grim reminders that the peopling of America did not occur without painful and dishonorable episodes.

After World War II, civil rights activists launched a movement that would transform the nature of racial relations in the United States. Descendants of the black slaves brought from Africa still did not enjoy a full measure of political rights a century after their emancipation following the Civil War. Court cases and non-violent protest were the instruments of the Civil Rights movement. The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site at Topeka, Kansas commemorates the 1954 Supreme Court decision that ordered the nation’s schools desegregated. No figure in the Civil Rights movement looms larger than Martin Luther King, Jr. His philosophy of non-violent protest and his relentless struggle for civil rights ended only by his assassination in 1968 can be pondered by visitors to the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia. The site includes the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King’s father and grandfather were pastors before him.

During the Cold War, immigration became an issue of national security. The McCarran Internal Security Act of 1950 barred members of the Communist Party and anyone who would “endanger the welfare or safety of the United States.” In 1965, major immigration reform ended the highly restrictive national origins quota system and replaced it with a generous system of hemispheric quotas and an emphasis on family reunification.

By the 1970s, a fresh wave of newcomers headed to the United States. The end of the Vietnam War brought many Southeast Asians to the U.S., while economic downturns in Mexico and other parts of Latin America brought millions of newcomers across the country’s southern borders. By 2010, over 36 million residents of the U.S. were foreign-born, approximately 12.1 per cent of the population; high, but still not as high as the 14.8 per cent in 1910. Unlike earlier waves of migration that brought millions of Europeans, today’s top ten nations whose nationals emigrate to the U.S. include Mexico, China, Philippines, India, Vietnam, Cuba, El Salvador, Dominican Republic, Canada, and Korea.

Economic and political pressures often cause migrants to elude long waiting lists and paperwork and enter or remain in the United States in an unauthorized status. By 2010, approximately 1.25 million newcomers in various legal statuses were arriving each year.

Immigration remains a perennial issue of controversy in American society. Throughout our history as a nation, some Americans have feared that newcomers would be unable or unwilling to integrate into American society, or would change the nature of American culture, or would compete with native-born Americans for jobs. Others have countered that newcomers have always integrated into American society within several generations after arriving and that the diversity and economic advantages that new arrivals bring enrich our diverse, multi-cultural society in many ways. After the 9/11 attack on the U.S. by Islamic extremists, immigration has again become a factor in the debate over national security. The Patriot Act tightened procedures and a new office of Homeland Security consolidated and recast the administrative machinery of U.S. immigration policy. In spite of contemporary controversies over immigration, however, the United States today has more immigrants than the rest of the world combined.

No doubt, the current arrival of immigrants from abroad will inspire yet new National Park sites to educate visitors about one of the most important dimensions of the American national experience. In the meantime, the Statue of Liberty National Monument in New York Harbor remains a monument to the masses, the ordinary individuals who peopled the United States and through their labor and genius created a great nation. The statue called Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States and opened to the public in 1886. It has become a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. Replicas of it are often carried by freedom fighters in other countries, most memorably in China’s Tiananmen Square. Though originally intended to celebrate Franco-American friendship and common values, the Statue has also come to symbolize America’s welcome to the foreign born. A poet of Jewish immigrant heritage, Emma Lazarus, won a poetry contest sponsored by newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer to raise money for the Statue’s base. “The New Colossus” includes a famous verse referring to the foreign-born engraved on a plaque at the statue’s base. Lazarus envisions the Statue saying “with silent lips,”

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

While at times the welcome Lazarus envisioned seems more of an aspiration than a reality, her verse remains a compelling poetic expression of the American debt to immigration and the need to appreciate and understand why it is embodied in so many compelling sites treating America’s peopling that are in the National Park System.

Alan M. Kraut is Professor of History and an affiliate faculty member in the School of International Service. He is a Non-resident Fellow of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington, D.C. He specializes in U.S. immigration and ethnic history, the history of medicine in the United States, and the American Civil War, co-directing the AU Civil War Institute. He is the prize-winning author or editor of eight books and many scholarly articles. His research has been supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, NEH, the Smithsonian Institution, and the National Institutes of Health. He chairs the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island History Advisory Committee and is a consultant to the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. He is an historical consultant on PBS and History Channel documentaries. He is the past President of the Immigration and Ethnic History Society. In 1998 he received the Scholar/Teacher of the Year Award, AU’s highest honor. In 2009 he was elected a fellow of the Society of American Historians.
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Divided We Stand: Markers of Conflict and Change on the Landscape

On January 25, 1900, a new child breathed life in Little Italy, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Anthony DiLieto’s parents had entered America past the gaze of the Statue of Liberty and through the portals of Ellis Island five years earlier. Of Neapolitan Italian stock, they had come to the United States seeking a new life, like most immigrants. Three years later, on Christmas Day 1903, Catherine Borup entered the world. Her father Andrew, hailed from Denmark; her mother Mary Star grew up in County Mayo, Ireland. They, too, had settled down in New York City. Borup was Presbyterian and Star a Roman Catholic—a highly unlikely marriage given the times, but nevertheless, a model that would serve Catherine and her future spouse Anthony DiLieto well in the 1920s, once she met and pursued the unusually blonde Italian fellow, who was a trolley car driver.

I knew DiLieto and Borup well—they were my maternal grandparents. Growing up in a large extended family, I listened to my grandparents regale me with tales of what it was like living and courting one another during the early 20th century. What was so unusual was that in spite of their varying European ancestry they were able to cross over lines that were taboo. Traditionally the Irish and the Italians did not get along, and conflict often was evident in places like the Bowery or New York’s Washington Square. Yet DiLieto and Borup cast aside the prevailing conventions of the time, marrying and raising three children. When discussing American immigration in my classroom I invariably turn to the memory of my grandparents, simply telling my high school students I am a “smorgasbord.”

The lives of my grandparents and their immigrant forbearers fit the quintessentially cherished American narrative we call the melting pot, that amalgamation of various European stocks that merged together to create a particular image of the United States. Clearly, my grandparents had to navigate through conflicts of an ethnic nature, but it was easier for them than for some. What about other Americans who did not have it as easy as my grandparents and their conflicted stories and places in American history where the narrative of the melting pot ran smack into a wall? This too is part of the American tale. The most recent generation of historians has laid out stories that counter the myth of the melting pot; slavery, for instance, does not fit comfortably in the Euro-American narrative, nor does much of what American Indians and other people of color, who help define who we are as a nation, experienced.

The National Park Service can help us understand the matrix of the human experience in the United States. Through a variety of well-interpreted historic and cultural sites in all regions of the United States, visitors catch a glimpse and contextual recognition of the power of conflict and subsequent reconciliation. These historic places tell the stories of social, economic, political, and military conflicts.

Standing on the Montana knoll known as Last Stand Hill at Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, a visitor can see the power of place in a pristine environment not much changed since that fateful Sunday, June 25, 1876. Here, the flamboyant General Custer, then a Lieutenant Colonel, met his doom along with those under his immediate command in a story often muddled with myth in phrases like, “there were no survivors of Custer’s Last Stand.” What about the members of the Sioux and Cheyenne nations who brought down the golden haired American hero, surely “they” were survivors! Visitors to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument will encounter not only Custer’s ghost, but also the more than century long struggle to define this place, formerly called Custer National Battlefield. Today, the site of one of America’s most iconic moments remains one of the most contested grounds in the nation. Here the spirits of Custer, Sitting Bull, and Crazy Horse collide in a kaleidoscope of interpretations. On the surface, the Indians who defeated Custer and remnants of his 7th Cavalry won the day, but in doing so, they laid the groundwork for one of their culture’s most significant unintended consequences—the demise of many and relegation to second-class citizen status.

Other sites help flesh out the particular and tragic narrative of cultural conflict, a story that really began with the settlement of the New World, in English North America at Jamestowne, Virginia. Commemorated at the Jamestowne unit of Colonial National Historical Park is the struggle between the first group of Englishmen to successfully colonize North America and their interaction with the powerful tribes of the region led by Chief Powhatan. Here visitors will learn much more about this story than a fanciful tale of star struck lovers, the Indian maiden Pocahontas and John Rolfe, the member of the Jamestowne colony she married.

Moving two centuries ahead of Jamestowne, explorers of history encounter the continuum of the saga of the American Indian while driving along Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, which meanders through nine States of the American Southeast. Close to 5,000 Cherokee people perished along the infamous Trail of Tears—the result of President Andrew Jackson’s policy of Indian Removal. Ironically, some of these Cherokees settled in Oklahoma, owned slaves and even fought for the Confederate States of America, most notably at the battle of Pea Ridge on March 7 and 8, 1862. You can visit Pea Ridge National Military Park in northwestern Arkansas while ambling along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. Here you will come face to face with the 1st and 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles that were led respectively by Colonel’s John Drew and Stand Waite, both full blood Cherokees. In his after action report, Confederate General Albert Pike recorded that after the battle, these Cherokee were the ones who took scalps. In a conflict filled with many twists and turns, the 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles, under Drew, have the distinction of being the only Confederate unit en masse to defect and join Union forces. Promoted by the end of the war, Stand Waite was the last Confederate general to surrender at the conclusion of the Civil War.

Six years later at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, United States military and Indian agents signed the Treaty of Fort Laramie, forever prohibiting white men from settling the Black Hills of the Dakotas, sacred ground to the Plains Indians. All bets were off after the 1872 discovery of gold in the Dakotas set the stage for the Battle of the Little Big Horn. Visitors can explore Fort Laramie National Historic Site and follow a similar drama at the various units of Nez Perce National Historical Park located in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington State, noting the four-month long struggle in 1877 between the American army and the 800 members of the Nez Perce people. Of particular interest are the Big Hole and Bear Paw battle sites in Montana. At Bear Paw, the Nez Perce were prevented from crossing into Canada to freedom and safety and Chief Joseph uttered his immortal words, “From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

In the words of historian Richard Norton Smith, the United States is “always in the process of becoming.” The American story is a narrative of a people and society continually evolving. That process involves conflict, particularly where culture and boundaries, both real and perceived, are at stake. Our national historic sites, monuments, parks, and battlefields are an extension of our democratic experiment. They are places that glorify and romanticize our past and illustrate where we have fallen short of the mark. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in the sites that recall the African American experience. One historic place loaded with such memory is Harpers Ferry National Historical Park. Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, the park spans three states—Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. I always launch field trips for the public history high school class that I teach in Applied History at Harpers Ferry. Visitors who internalize their Harpers Ferry experience are forced to confront a number of issues that reach back to our past but also are relevant today. Harpers Ferry is associated with John Brown’s October 1859 failed raid on the federal armory by which Brown hoped to spark a slave rebellion, an event author Herman Melville argued was “the meteor of the Civil War.” The bucolic setting can stir unsettling emotions, especially when the question raised is, “When does freedom fighting become terrorism?” Brown, an unabashed abolitionist, who, with his white abolitionist brethren, was “enlightened” when it came to race relations, is himself a symbol. He still is perceived in a variety of ways in different regions of the country. To some he is a hero and saint, to others a cold-blooded murderer. Ironically, the first man killed by the raiders was the Harpers Ferry railroad station baggage master Heyward Shepherd, a free black. In the 1930s, the United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Sons of Confederate Veterans erected a memorial in Harpers Ferry to the “loyal” Shepherd. That monument, like the town where it resides, remains at best contested, with the National Park Service deftly interpreting the inscribed stone slab as a vestige of a particular time and place in American history.

The story of self-emancipation, so often ignored in schoolbooks, is crucial in understanding the collective tale of African American oppression and struggle. Nowhere is this better understood than at sites dedicated to the story of emancipation and Civil War. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site honors the greatest abolitionist of the 19th century, a man who endured slavery, worked for and saw it ended, and then fought against injustices to African Americans after the end of Reconstruction. Douglass’ reach can be felt in places like Boston African American National Historic Site when visitors stand before one of America’s greatest public sculptures, Augustus Saint-Gaudens’ 1897 Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. As Shaw and his black troops march off to their inevitable destiny in the relief sculpture, the bodies of the 16 African American figures that are part of the ensemble move forward in a singular motion. Viewers can read on their faces determination and fortitude, a solidarity that binds them together as they seek to liberate people of their own race and color. They embody Douglass’ words, “Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letters, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on the earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.” Douglass helped recruit the regiment across the North, and his two sons Lewis and Charles served with honor.

In 1900, the first African American to receive a Congressional Medal of Honor was Sergeant William Carney, who during the regiment’s gallant assault on Fort Wagner safely returned to Union lines with the national colors. Black troops also paid the price for self-emancipation in front of the Confederate trenches in and around Petersburg, Virginia. Petersburg National Battlefield honors their memory, particularly in the story of the battle of the Crater, a military fiasco on July 30, 1864. In this battle, Union forces dug a tunnel underneath the Confederate earthworks and created a mine packed with tons of gunpowder to blow a hole in the Confederate defenses. A specially trained African American division, consisting of nine regiments of the United States Colored Troops, was prepared and drilled to exploit the breach. At the last minute, because of the potential political ramifications that could occur should the attack fail, Union commanders replaced them with an untrained white division. Of the 15,000 Union soldiers who went into the battle, the black troops charged into the Crater last. Fighting heroically in what has been described as a “horrid pit,” they were eventually overwhelmed in the Confederate counterattack. Of the more than 180,000 African American soldiers and sailors who served the Union cause, 30,000 paid the ultimate price. Abraham Lincoln gave credit where credit was due in claiming that the presence of black soldiers in the Union army made the difference in the balance of the war.

Other sites in the National Park System that honor the continued African American commitment to the nation’s military include Fort Davis National Historic Site in Texas and Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas. Both forts were garrisoned by the Buffalo Soldiers, the nickname given to black troops who served on the frontier after the Civil War. Near San Francisco is the site of a little known event during World War II that became a unit of the park system in 2009, Port Chicago Naval Magazine Memorial. On July 17, 1944, a huge explosion ripped through this naval munitions-loading facility killing 320 men, mostly African American naval personnel assigned to the hazardous duty of loading munitions on warships bound for the Pacific front. The tale incorporates all the seminal elements of America’s racial history—segregation, discrimination, and white ambiguity.

World War II propelled the struggle for civil rights in the United States. Having just defeated Nazi Germany and liberated the death camps of the Holocaust, America could no longer ignore the denial of the blessings of liberty to a large percentage of its population. By 1954, the Supreme Court declared the 58 year-old doctrine of “separate but equal” unconstitutional, opening a sea change for American society that was laced by conflict. The National Park Service commemorates the march for Civil Rights at a number of significant sites where Americans can ponder the plight of racism that has tormented much of our history. In Topeka, Kansas at Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, visitors meet Oliver Brown and his daughter, Linda, the champions who opened the legal salvo of America’s Second Reconstruction. Thurgood Marshall, the chief attorney for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, argued the case before the court. Little more than a decade later, Marshall became the first African American to serve on America’s highest bench. Several years later and 353 miles to the south in Little Rock, Arkansas, the courage of the black community and nine teenagers is measured at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site. In an attempt to enforce the Brown decision, President Dwight Eisenhower ordered elements of the 101st Airborne Division into Little Rock to restore order and escort the “Little Rock Nine” to their classes. For today’s youth, who attend schools across the United States that are as diverse as the nation has become in the intervening generations, this saga seems as distant as the Middle Ages, even though Linda Brown and the Little Rock Nine are still alive. By the time of the Little Rock Crisis of 1957, the new medium of television was helping the Civil Rights movement in ways no one could have anticipated.

The man who came to recognize the power of the visual impact was Martin Luther King, Jr. whose life and times are enshrined at Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Park in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia. Stepping into the King boyhood home one sees immediately that this champion of social justice was not raised in poverty, but rather in a level of affluence only seen in limited pockets of the black community of the South. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King preached some of his most important sermons and where he was buried in 1968, is a shrine in and of itself. King championed nonviolent direct action or resistance. Three major television networks of the time covered the gentle warriors of the Civil Rights movement, many of them children. Images of peaceful protestors being hosed down or attacked by police dogs seen around the globe galvanized people of all races, creeds, and colors to make the American dream a reality for those long denied.

The place where all of this comes together most fittingly is Selma, Alabama. Start at Selma’s Brown Chapel, cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and make the 54 mile trek to the State capitol at Montgomery along the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail to learn about and understand why people endured poundings by State police billy clubs and a tear gas barrage in an effort to secure the right to vote. As a result of the Selma to Montgomery March modeled on Gandhi’s March to the Sea, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act of 1965 ensuring that all Americans could participate in our democracy. None of this could have happened without the Brown decision, the courage of the Little Rock Nine, and the vision of Dr. King.

Located at the western terminus of the National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial is perhaps the best place in America to appreciate and put into a larger context the story of our collective conflicts and struggles. The Lincoln Memorial is not only a memorial honoring the memory of the man who preserved the nation during the Civil War; it is also a place where historic events occurred. In 1939, after being denied permission to sing at DAR Constitution Hall and in a District of Columbia High School auditorium, the incomparable contra-alto opera singer Marian Anderson gave an Easter Sunday concert from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to an integrated crowd of 75,000 people. The following day, Mary McLeod Bethune, educator and civil rights activist whose life and contributions are interpreted by the National Park Service at the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site in Washington, DC, wrote to Charles Houston, Dean of the Howard University Law School and mentor of Thurgood Marshall, about the historical significance of the moment. “We are on the right track. Through the Marian Anderson protest concert we made our triumphant entry into the democratic spirit of American life.” At the Lincoln Memorial 24 years after Marian Anderson’s concert in 1963, Dr. King would continue that spirit by delivering his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech in Abraham Lincoln’s shadow.

Americans of all backgrounds and of every generation endured the conflicts that are part and parcel of the American experience. A decade ago in my book, Divided We Stand: Teaching About Conflict in U.S. History, I wrote, “Conflict has many shades, subtleties, and nuances…Americans need to wrestle with issues about conflict in relation to the quest for the American dream. Our nation was born out of conflict, but yet conflict did not go away when the nation was launched. In some cases, conflict actually escalated as different people and groups sought to direct the new nation.” Herein lies the great trap and paradox of being an American--we strive for perfection, making that goal our national totem, but being fallible creatures can never truly achieve it. What is really important are the journey and the struggle inherent in living in a democratic republic. Sites administered by the National Park Service can help us see our way forward and understand everyone a little bit better along the way. I encourage you to continue the journey, in all of its dimensions.

James A. Percoco has taught United States and Applied History at West Springfield High School in Fairfax County, Virginia since 1980 and is a Member of the National Teachers Hall of Fame. As an advocate of history education Percoco is a speaker of national recognition and the author of three books, A Passion for the Past: Creative Teaching of U.S. History, Divided We Stand: Teaching About Conflict in U.S. History and Summers with Lincoln: Looking for the Man in the Monuments. He is History Educator-in-Residence at American University and has been a consultant to the National Park Service.
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The National Park Service: Preserving the Places and Stories of America's Diverse Cultural Heritage

"There is nothing so American as our national parks.... The fundamental idea behind the parks ...is that the country belongs to the people, [and parks make] for the enrichment of the lives of all of us."

President Franklin D. Roosevelt made this statement in 1936, shortly after he issued an executive order transferring 19 battlefields from the War Department to the National Park Service, and placing an additional 30 mostly historical parks under the jurisdiction of the park system. Since then, the National Park Service has grown to almost 400 parks, of which nearly 70% tell stories of our amazing history, prehistory, and cultural diversity. From the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde National Park and the ruins of Chaco Culture National Historical Park that tell us much and pose many questions about ancient peoples, to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail where African Americans struggled for civil rights, our parks weave a rich tapestry of our history and heritage.

But, National Park Service programs recognize, help protect, and interpret many more historic places all over the nation. The National Park Service expands and maintains the National Register of Historic Places, which lists well over a million and a half individual historic sites, buildings, and structures, many in historic districts, in almost every community--over 20,000 of which are in National Parks. The National Park Service joins with local, State, and private entities to promote the cultural, historical and natural assets of about 50 National Heritage Areas that provide economic stimuli to their regions and communities. In Louisiana, both the Cane River National Heritage Area and the Cane River National Historical Park within it celebrate and tell the story of the distinctive Creole architecture and multi-cultural legacy of Creole culture. The National Park Service also administers the National Trails System with its network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails. National historic trails, such as the Santa Fe Trail, commemorate historic (and prehistoric) routes of travel that are of national significance.

Our parks represent us at our best, as at Independence Hall in Independence National Historical Park, where our forefathers voted to revolt against Great Britain and later crafted our government that has endured for over 200 years. Yet, we are not afraid to tell of our tragedies or the stories that do not put us in the best light. On the evening of July 17, 1944, the Port Chicago Naval Munitions base on San Francisco Bay was the site of the largest stateside military disaster of World War II, when a horrific explosion killed 320 men and injured another 390 men.

Of the 320 men who lost their lives, 202 were African Americans. After the tragedy, many of the survivors received orders to transfer to other facilities, including the over 300 mostly African American men ordered onto the loading pier of the Mare Island Naval facility, a few miles away. Most of the black sailors refused the order, citing their continued lack of training and that Mare Island had the same poor equipment as Port Chicago—thus the clear possibility of another explosion. Some 250 African American sailors who refused the transfer orders were arrested and charged with mutiny. About 200 reluctantly agreed to return to duty, but the 50 who still refused to load munitions were tried under courts martial proceedings.

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial became the 392nd national park when President Barack Obama signed the legislation creating the park in December 2009. The park tells the story of the tragic explosion, the subsequent courts martial of African American sailors, and how this event became a catalyst for integrating the armed forces after the war.

Another tragedy of World War II was the relocation of Japanese Americans from their homes and business on the Pacific Coast, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Approximately 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry were rounded up, sent to 10 major relocation centers, and held there for the duration of the war. The National Park Service interprets this story at Manzanar National Historic Site in California and is developing Minidoka National Historic Site in Idaho and at Bainbridge Island, Washington. Another internment camp, Tule Lake Relocation Center in California, is included in the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument.

Port Chicago, Manzanar, Minidoka, and World War II Valor in the Pacific National Historical Park are just some of the parks that weave a tapestry of heroism, sacrifice, and tragedy from the World War II era in our history.

To better balance the interpretation of the events and stories of all Americans, several parks have shifted their focus to be more encompassing. In 1991, the National Park Service changed the name of Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument and expanded the story it tells. Along with the name change, the interpretation shifted from a primary focus on Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer and his 7th Cavalry, 263 of which were killed, including Custer, to also discussing and commemorating the several thousand Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne Indians who won an overwhelming victory in the battle on June 25, 1876.

What was a low point for most Americans—the overwhelming defeat of Custer, a hero of the American Civil War on the eve of the Centennial of the American Revolution—was a huge victory and cause for great celebration for other Americans, the Lakota and Northern Cheyenne people. In addition to the markers, monuments, and gravestones that mark where Custer and his men fell, the park now has an Indian Memorial and several monuments to individual Indians who died or were heroes in the battle, such as the monument to Crazy Horse.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma and Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in Colorado paint quite different pictures. In 1864, Colonel John M. Chivington led approximately 700 United States volunteer soldiers to a village of about 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho people camped along the banks of Big Sandy Creek in southeastern Colorado. Although the Cheyenne and Arapaho, under Chiefs Black Kettle and Left Hand, believed they were under the protection of the U.S. Army, Chivington's troops attacked and killed about 150 people, mainly women, children, and the elderly. Ultimately, two federal investigations condemned the massacre.

Then, in 1868, Lieutenant Colonel Custer led an attack on the Southern Cheyenne Indians, killing Black Kettle, Indian warriors, and a number of women and children at a site now called Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in Oklahoma. At the time, many viewed the attack as a victory for reducing raids on white settlements, but over time, it was regarded as a massacre. Black Kettle had been attempting to negotiate peace for his people. Washita and Sand Creek put the United States government and military in a very poor light, but both are important parts of our history teaching Americans lessons about events in the past, which hopefully will not be repeated in the future.

Of course, not all national parks tell negative stories. Booker T. Washington National Monument in Virginia highlights the story of an African American man born into slavery on this plantation, who then returned to the same site over 50 years later as a leading American educator and orator. Booker T. Washington was the founder of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site also commemorates Washington’s work and the work of the professor he recruited to teach agriculture, George Washington Carver. Carver understood the problems with raising cotton in the South—soil depletion and boll weevil infestations—and advocated crop rotation, by encouraging planting peanuts, sweet potatoes and other legumes. He also developed new uses for these crops, making them more profitable. Like Booker T. Washington, Carver came from humble beginnings, a small farm in Missouri, which now celebrates his life at George Washington Carver National Monument.

Tuskegee Institute also became the training facility during World War II of the now famous African American Tuskegee Airmen. African American men from around the country joined the Army Air Force and came to Tuskegee for training. In all, nearly 1,000 pilots went through Tuskegee and other training facilities during the war. They flew mostly single-engine fighter planes, attacking enemy positions in North Africa and Europe, and gained enduring fame as bomber escorts throughout Europe. Many were honored for their exploits, and very few of their escort missions resulted in the loss of any bombers; in 2007, 350 airmen or their widows received Congressional Gold Medals. The 1995 film, The Tuskegee Airmen, starring Laurence Fishburne, told the story of the airmen, including the racism they faced. The film portrayed the Tuskegee Airmen as warriors who fought two wars—one against the Nazis and one against racism. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site commemorates their stories.

As the Era of Reconstruction was drawing to a close, the 15th child of 17—Mary McLeod Bethune—was born to former slave parents in the South Carolina. Educated by missionaries in the rural South, Ms. Bethune recognized the value of education for the struggle toward civil rights. In 1904, she founded the Daytona Educational and Industrial School for Negro Girls in Daytona Beach, Florida, which later merged with the Cookman Institute to become Bethune-Cookman College. Later, she moved to Washington, DC and founded the National Council of Negro Women, a coalition of national African American women’s organizations and community-based programs in 1935. She was an advisor to 4 presidents, and was a recognized national leader for the cause of human rights. Ms Bethune’s life and work is celebrated in the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site, which was her home in Washington, DC as well as the headquarters for the National Council.

The Tuskegee Airmen sought refuge from the racial prejudice many experienced by volunteering as pilots during World War II. Many miles away, and many years earlier, Hawaiian warriors sought a different type of refuge. A pu’uhonua was literally a refuge where vanquished warriors from the losing side of a battle could find safety. It also was a sanctuary for natives who violated laws that were punishable by death—such as entering space reserved for the royal family or eating forbidden foods. If the vanquished warriors or anyone who violated a taboo could reach a pu’uhonua, they would be safe. Pu’uhonua o Hanaunau National Historical Park commemorates this important part of native Hawaiian culture on the original site of one of these sanctuaries.

Religion was central to native Hawaiian culture. So, when Kamehameha I, also known as Kamehameha the Great, was consolidating his power over the islands in the late 1700s, he directed, together with chiefs, commoners, men, women and children, the construction of a temple, called a heiau, on the island of Hawaii between 1790-91. This temple was constructed to incur the favor of the war god Kuka'ilimoku. John Young, a British sailor left behind in Hawaii by an American ship in 1789, observed the construction and dedication of the temple. He reported that during the dedication, the sacrifice of a chief rival of Kamehameha I pleased the war god Ku. Young became an advisor to Kamehameha I as he waged battles using Western military strategy and weapons to extend his control over all Hawaiian Islands. The monarchy he established lasted 83 years, from 1810-1893. Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site preserves the temple and the remaining structures of the homestead granted to John Young by Kamehameha I.

In one of the greatest bargains in history, William Seward, the American Secretary of State, negotiated the purchase of Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in 1867. Before the Russians settled in Alaska, and well before the United States purchased the territory, Alaska had a rich native culture. Some 13,000 years ago—possibly even earlier—Native peoples from Asia migrated across the land bridge that connected with North America during the last glacial epoch. The National Park Service protects the land bridge and over 2,600,000 acres of natural beauty in the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Established in 1910, Sitka National Historical Park, the oldest national park in Alaska, interprets the Russian settlement in Alaska, in the Russian Bishop’s House built in 1842, and the site of the last battle between the Tlingit Indians and the Russians in 1802. Native totems, both new and old, stand in the park, and the Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center in the park visitor center provides the opportunity for visitors to watch modern Native artists at work.

The purpose of Russians’ presence in Alaska was primarily to exploit fur-bearing animals along the coast. Secondarily, missionaries from the Russian Orthodox Church built nearly 90 churches throughout Alaska, with the purpose of converting the native Alaskans to Christianity. By the early 1800s, they had converted nearly 20,000 natives to the Christian faith. The Russian approach to religion was to allow the natives to maintain their native cultures, while at the same time helping them to develop alphabets for written literature, including an Aleut dictionary for hundreds of languages and dialects, based on the Russian alphabet.

Unlike the Russians, who recruited volunteer missionaries from the Russian Orthodox Church to go the Alaska, the Spanish settled what would later become the American Southwest by sending soldiers, settlers, and Catholic priests into new areas together. Such was the case with the settlement of San Antonio. In 1718, Martin de Alarcon arrived on the banks of the San Antonio River with 72 soldiers and settlers. Father Antonio de San Buenaventura de Olivares, a Franciscan missionary, accompanied Alarcon, and immediately started the construction of a mission, called San Antonio de Valero. Within two years, this mission became overcrowded, and a new mission, San José, was built five miles south on the San Antonio River. Eleven years later, Missions Espada, Conception, and San Juan were also built near the San Antonio River.

As San Antonio grew from a small settlement to the capital of the combined states of Coahuila and Texas, and after Mexico gained its independence, these missions continued as places of worship. Mission San Antonio de Valero, later known by its more famous name—the Alamo—was eventually abandoned as a church. Today, Missions San Juan, Espada, Conception, and San Jose are part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park. The park is unusual in that the National Park Service interprets the missions for park visitors, but all four continue as active parishes and hold regular church services.

The English, compared to the Spanish, were relative latecomers to the Americas. After the ill-fated colony on Roanoke Island off the coast of North Carolina—the colonists disappeared in 1587—Jamestown became the first permanent settlement in Virginia in 1607. The English method of settlement was mostly through private investors in the joint stock company known as the London Company. A joint stock company, in this case the London Company, received a royal charter, which allowed it to sell shares to investors with the hope of profiting from the investment.

The English selected Jamestown Island mostly because it offered a favorable strategic defensive position against other European forces, which might approach by water. In addition, no local American Indians inhabited the site. The colonists soon discovered that mosquitoes plagued the isolated site, the tidal river water was unsuitable for drinking, and the location offered limited opportunities for hunting and little space for farming.

The colony struggled in its early years from starvation, hostile relations with the natives, and lack of profitable exports. Colonist John Rolfe, however, introduced a strain of tobacco, which the colony successfully exported in 1612, greatly improving the financial outlook for the colony. Rolfe married the young Indian woman, Pocahontas, daughter of Wahunsenacawh, Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy, which ushered in a period of relative peace with the Indians.

By 1619, the prospects for profit attracted additional investments to the Virginia Company. That same year, another, more ominous event took place. A British pirate ship, under a Dutch flag—the White Lion—landed near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in need of repairs and supplies. On board were 20 African slaves, which the Virginia settlers purchased, thus beginning the institution of slavery in the future United States.

Jamestown is now a unit of the National Park Service, part of Colonial National Historical Park. The National Park Service manages the site in a partnership with the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities, which has conducted archeology on the site for the past century. From the site, the archeology, and the interpretation, visitors can gain an understanding and appreciation of this first permanent colony in the United States.

Settled by so many culturally diverse people who are part of our history, the United States borrows much of our culture, ideas, games, place names, political models, and cuisines from other places, but one idea is uniquely our own: the concept of “national parks.” Over 100 years ago, we decided that the most beautiful scenery, the highest mountains, the tallest trees, the most important prehistoric and historic sites, the most significant battlefields, the most significant ecosystems--in short, the best and most important of what we have and who we are, should be set aside as national parks forever. We have set the model. Other countries, all over the world, have copied us.

Robert K. Sutton is the Chief Historian of the National Park Service. Formerly, he was the superintendent of Manassas National Battlefield Park. He has worked for the National Park Service for 28 years.




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List of Sites

African American Sites

African Burial Ground National Monument New York
Booker T. Washington National Monument Virginia
Boston African American National Historic Site Massachusetts
Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site Kansas
Cane River Creole National Historical Park Louisiana
Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site District of Columbia
Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument Ohio
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia Colonial National Historical Park Virginia
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park Ohio
Fort Davis National Historic Site Texas
Fort Scott National Historic Site Kansas
Frederick Douglass National Historic Site District of Columbia
George Washington Carver National Monument Missouri
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida
Hampton National Historic Site Maryland
Harpers Ferry National Historical Park West Virginia and Maryland
Independence National Historical Park Pennsylvania
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Louisiana
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Lincoln Memorial District of Columbia
Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site Arkansas
Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site Virginia
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial District of Columbia
Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site Georgia
Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site District of
Columbia
New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park Louisiana
Nicodemus National Historic Site Kansas
Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial Ohio
Petersburg National Battlefield Virginia
Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial California
Richmond National Battlefield Park Virginia
Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail Alabama
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve Florida
Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site Alabama
Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site Alabama
Virgin Islands National Park St. John, Virgin Islands
 
 
Alaska Native sites
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Alaska
Cape Krusenstern National Monument Alaska
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve Alaska
Katmai National Park and Preserve Alaska
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Alaska
Noatak National Preserve Alaska
Sitka National Historical Park Alaska
 
 
American Indian sites
Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument Texas
Aztec Ruins National Monument New Mexico
Bandelier National Monument New Mexico
Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site Colorado
Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Alaska
Big Cypress National Preserve Florida
Big Hole National Battlefield Montana
Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Wyoming
Canyon de Chelly National Monument Arizona
Cape Krusenstern National Monument Alaska
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument Arizona
Chaco Culture National Historical Park New Mexico
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Delaware, District of Columbia,
Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Colonial National Historical Park Virginia
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area New Jersey and
Pennsylvania
Effigy Mounds National Monument Iowa
El Malpais National Monument New Mexico
Everglades National Park Florida
Fort Bowie National Historic Site Arizona
Fort Laramie National Historic Site Wyoming
Fort Larned National Historic Site Kansas
Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site North Carolina
Fort Smith National Historic Site Arkansas
Fort Stanwix National Monument New York
Fort Union National Monument New Mexico
Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site North Dakota
Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve Alaska
Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument New Mexico
Grand Portage National Monument Minnesota
Great Smoky Mountains National Park Tennessee and North Carolina
Hohokam Pima National Monument Arizona
Hopewell Culture National Historical Park Ohio
Horseshoe Bend National Military Park Alabama
Hovenweep National Monument Colorado and Utah
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site Arizona
Independence National Historical Park Pennsylvania
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Missouri
Katmai National Park and Preserve Alaska
Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site North Dakota
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve Alaska
Lava Beds National Monument California
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument Montana
Mesa Verde National Park Colorado
Montezuma Castle National Monument Arizona
Natchez Trace Parkway Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee
Navajo National Monument Arizona
Nez Perce National Historical Park Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington
Ocmulgee National Monument Georgia
Pea Ridge National Military Park Arkansas
Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico
Petroglyph National Monument New Mexico
Pipestone National Monument Minnesota
Piscataway Park Maryland
Poverty Point National Monument Louisiana
River Raisin National Battlefield Park Michigan
Russell Cave National Monument Alabama
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument New Mexico
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Texas
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site Colorado
Shiloh National Military Park Tennessee
Sitka National Historical Park Alaska
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve Florida
Tonto National Monument Arizona
Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia,
Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee
Tumacacori National Historical Park Arizona
Tuzigoot National Monument Arizona
Walnut Canyon National Monument Arizona
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site Oklahoma
Whitman Mission National Historic Site Washington
Wupatki National Monument Arizona
Yosemite National Park California
Yucca House National Monument Colorado
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Arizona
 
Asian American sites
Golden Spike National Historic Site Utah
Manzanar National Historic Site California
Minidoka Internment National Historic Site Idaho
Tule Lake Unit, Part of WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument, California

European sites
Arkansas Post National Memorial Arkansas
Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor Massachusetts and Rhode Island
Castle Clinton National Monument New York
Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park District of Columbia and Maryland
Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network Delaware, District of Columbia,
Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia
Christiansted National Historic Site St. Croix, Virgin Islands
Colonial National Historical Park Virginia
Father Marquette National Memorial Michigan
Fort Caroline National Memorial Florida
Fort Frederica National Monument Georgia
Fort Necessity National Battlefield Pennsylvania
Fort Raleigh National Historic Site North Carolina
Gloria Dei Church National Historic Site Pennsylvania
Grand Portage National Monument Minnesota
Independence National Historical Park Pennsylvania
Jamestown National Historic Site Virginia
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve Louisiana
Keweenaw National Historical Park Michigan
Lowell National Historical Park Massachusetts
Natchez National Historical Park Mississippi
River Raisin National Battlefield Park Michigan
Roger Williams National Memorial Rhode Island
Saint Croix Island International Historic Site Maine
Sitka National Historical Park Alaska
Statue of Liberty National Monument New York
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve Florida
Virgin Islands National Park St. John, Virgin Islands
Voyageurs National Park Minnesota

Hispanic sites
Cabrillo National Monument California
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument Florida
Chamizal National Memorial Texas
Cesar E. Chavez National Monument / Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz California
Channel Islands National Park California
Coronado National Memorial Arizona
DeSoto National Memorial Florida
Dry Tortugas National Park Florida
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail Louisiana and Texas
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail New Mexico and Texas
El Morro National Monument New Mexico
Fort Matanzas National Monument Florida
Fort Union National Monument New Mexico
Golden Gate National Recreation Area California
Gulf Islands National Seashore Florida and Mississippi
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail Arizona and California
South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Washington
Old Spanish National Historic Trail New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California
Padre Island National Seashore Texas
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park Texas
Pecos National Historical Park New Mexico
Point Reyes National Seashore California
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument New Mexico
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve St. Croix, Virgin Islands
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park Texas
San Juan National Historic Site Puerto Rico
Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area Colorado
Santa Fe National Historic Trail Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve Florida
Tumacacori National Historical Park Arizona
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area Arizona

Pacific Islander sites
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
Kalaupapa National Historical Park Moloka'i Island, Hawai'i
Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
National Park of American Samoa Tutuila, Ta’u, and Ofu Islands
Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
Pu'ukohola Heiau National Historic Site Hawai'i Island, Hawai'i
War in the Pacific National Historical Park Guam

African Burial Ground National Monument, New York

For a century, from the 1690s to the 1790s, a small plot of land in Lower Manhattan became the final resting place for over 15,000 free and enslaved Africans. The burial ground was then lost under years of urban development and landfill, until workers rediscovered the burial ground in 1991 during an excavation of the land for a Federal Government office building. Excavations at the site revealed the remains of 419 Africans and over 500 individual artifacts. Considered one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century, the African Burial Ground is of national significance because of what it can tell us about the lives of Africans and African Americans in an urban context. Both the deceased and their possessions help piece together a more complete history of New York City in the 17th and 18th centuries and what life was like for Africans in the city. The discoveries demonstrate the power of collaboration between anthropology, archaeology, and history.

In the 1640s, the Dutch granted conditional freedom to a group of African men and women. This action would serve as the impetus for the creation of an African community in New York. Settling themselves outside of town, roughly a mile from the tip of Manhattan, the African community developed a distinct culture. In 1697, Africans were not allowed to bury their dead in what had become New York’s primary burial ground. Scholars believe that this ban was the reason Africans used the burial ground today recognized as the African Burial Ground National Monument. Forced to establish their own burial ground, Africans created their sacred space in what was at the time the “Commons” area away from the bustle of the city. Today the burial ground is in downtown Manhattan.

Little was known about the African community in New York in the 18th century until the discovery of the burial ground. This site provided anthropologists, archaeologists, and historians with new evidence about the funeral practices, nutrition, disease, physical stress, injury, and various occupations within the African community. These discoveries sparked considerable interdisciplinary research that led to the establishment of a visitor center and museum with persuasive exhibits that demonstrate the site’s contribution to history. This is by far the largest excavated African burial ground--by several hundred identifiable persons. Africans created their own sacred space that was unknown until accidentally discovered and investigated over two centuries later.


Howard University scholars led a collaborative team that conducted intense research including excavation of the site. This work resulted in three collaborative reports, that presents to African Burial Ground Final History Report, Final Skeletal Biology Report, and the Final Archaeology Report which are accessible by African Burial Ground National Monument in the Archaelology Report Webpage. These reports present historical, bioanthropological, and archaeological analyses of the artifacts found at the African Burial Ground.

Visitors will find both indoor and outdoor activities at the African Burial Ground National Monument. The visitor center has exhibits, replica artifacts, and a 25-minute video about the history of the site. A collection of commissioned commemorative artwork is also available for the public to view. National Park Service rangers provide interpretative educational programs. Outside the visitor center, for those looking to reflect, artist Rodney Leon’s memorial provides a tribute to the 15,000 people interred beneath Manhattan. In addition, 90-minute walking tours on the subject, “A Broader View: The African Presence in Early New York,” offer visitors information about the social, political, cultural, and economic aspects of African life in colonial New York City.

Recognizing the site’s importance, the Secretary of the Interior designated the African Burial Ground a National Historic Landmark in 1993, and it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In 2006, the African Burial Ground became a national monument administered by the National Park Service. The African Burial Ground evolved further with the dedication of Rodney Leon’s memorial in 2007, and the opening of the new visitor center in 2010. The African Burial Ground National Monument provides visitors with insights and important lessons about the roles and lives of free and enslaved Africans in colonial America.

Plan your visit

African Burial Ground National Monument, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located in Lower Manhattan, close to Foley Square and just north of City Hall in New York City, NY. The visitor center is inside the Ted Weiss Federal Building at 290 Broadway. The memorial is located behind the Ted Weiss Federal Building at the corner of Duane Street and African Burial Ground Way (Elk St.). Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The visitor center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Saturday, except for Federal holidays. The memorial opens daily at 9:00am and closes at 5:00pm except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. However, during the winter, the memorial closes at 4:00pm.

For more information, visit the National Park Service African Burial Ground National Monument website or call 212-637-2019.

 

Booker T. Washington National Monument, Hardy, Virginia

Booker T. Washington was one of the most prominent African American educators and orators of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, rising from slavery to a position of power and influence over the course of his lifetime. After the Civil War, Washington worked tirelessly to help African Americans by promoting his strong beliefs about the benefits of self-help, hard work, and practical education. Booker T. Washington National Monument preserves his birthplace and childhood home and tells the story of the life of this influential American. Washington lived at this farm for the first nine years of his life, from his birth in 1856 until his emancipation in 1865. At this place, he formed his initial impressions about education, race, and labor--impressions that would influence his life, career, and ideas until his death in 1915.

Born April 5, 1856 to an enslaved plantation cook on the Burroughs tobacco farm in Hardy, Virginia, Washington lived in a one room log cabin, which doubled as the plantation kitchen and his family home. In his autobiography, Up From Slavery, Washington remembered the cabin as without glass windows and with a dirt floor where he and his siblings slept. Close to the kitchen cabin, James and Elizabeth Burroughs lived in the “big house” along with several of their 14 children. James Burroughs owned about 10 slaves, about the usual number of slaves on small farms in the region. Everyone was expected to work on the 207 acre farm, even the Burroughs. Washington remembers that his master and sons worked side by side with the slaves, which was necessary to keep the farm running efficiently.

As a very young boy, Washington performed simple chores on the plantation, cleaning the yards, carrying water to men in the fields and corn to the mill to be ground, and when he became strong enough fanning flies from the table in the "big house" at mealtimes. During these early years on the farm, Washington was exposed to school but not permitted to attend, because it was illegal to educate slaves. He carried one of the Burroughs daughter's books to school in Franklin County, Virginia, but was not allowed to enter the schoolhouse because he was a slave. This deepened his desire for education. He once wrote, “I had the feeling that to get into a schoolhouse and study would be about the same as getting into paradise.” Carrying his mistress’ books to the schoolhouse but not being permitted to learn and fanning flies from his master’s meals but not having meals at a table with his own family helped Washington’s understand race relations, labor, and education.

Today, stones outline the sites where Washington’s family cabin/kitchen and the Burroughs home once stood to provide an understanding of the overall layout of the plantation and its buildings. Visitors can follow “Plantation Trail” through the historic area of the park and view reconstructions of the 19th century farm buildings similar to those that stood on the Burroughs Plantation when Booker T. Washington lived there as a boy. The “Farm Area” has sheep, pigs, horses and chickens to help set the scene of an 1850s tobacco farm. The “Garden Area” allows visitors to learn about the gardening techniques that Burroughs and his slaves likely used.

In April of 1865, after years of farming and gardening alongside their master, Booker T. Washington and all of Burroughs’ other slaves listened to the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation in front of the Burroughs home. Free of the system of slavery that had for so long dictated their lives, Washington and his family soon left the plantation and moved to Malden, West Virginia, to join his mother’s husband. Here, the young Washington took a job in a salt mine that started at 4:00 a.m. so that he could attend school later in the day.

In 1872 at the age of 16, Washington heard about Hampton Institute, a school General Samuel Armstrong established that focused on agricultural and industrial education to give ex-slaves the skills they needed for economic advancement in the South. Armstrong believed that newly freed slaves did not have the cultural or moral qualities necessary to participate in politics and thus should focus on getting an industrial education for their own economic advancement. This educational philosophy made Hampton Institute acceptable to whites in the South. Washington agreed with Armstrong’s educational philosophy and supported its practical application in a society still divided by many racial issues. Washington started the 500 mile journey to Hampton, Virginia aboard a train, and after his tickets ran out, he walked the remaining miles to the Institute.

Washington attended Hampton Institute from 1872 until 1875, and returned to Hampton as an instructor in 1879. In 1881, he founded a secondary school for blacks in Tuskegee, Alabama. Students cleared the land and constructed the original buildings of Tuskegee Institute. At Tuskegee, Washington received recognition as the nation’s foremost black educator. Basing the curriculum on his experiences at Hampton, he enforced an educational system of hard work, discipline, and self-help. The practical education students received at Tuskegee prepared students for economic independence by giving them specific trade skills, discipline, and a distinct set of cultural values. He chose this system because it effectively educated African Americans without antagonizing whites.

Washington’s famous Atlanta Address at the 1895 Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta outlined his philosophy. He spoke of the need for mutual prosperity of black and whites through education while indicating that racial integration was not necessary for such an outcome. The address made Washington nationally famous. Whites immediately identified Washington as the leading spokesperson for African Americans, while some blacks were upset by what appeared to be Washington’s acceptance of segregation and inequality. Many well known African American activists, including W.E.B. Dubois, saw Washington’s approach as too accommodating to whites. We now know that Washington secretly funded anti-segregationist activities.

Washington obtained funds for his educational system by compromising with white philanthropists. While Washington’s accommodationist approach permitted forms of racial inequality, it also allowed him to obtain support to provide essential education and training for many African Americans. His vision of education as essential to freedom began on the Burroughs Plantation and stayed with him throughout his career.

Plan your visit

Booker T. Washington National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 12130 Booker T. Washington Highway, Hardy, VA. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Booker T. Washington National Monument website or call 540-721-2094.

Booker T. Washington National Monument is associated with the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site in Alabama and also appears in the National Park Service’s Museum Management Program exhibit, entitled, “The Legends of Tuskegee.” The following lesson plans & teacher guides are available for download from the Booker T. Washington National Monument website: To Be a Slave, Lifting the Veil, War on the Home Front, Cast Down Your Bucket, and Clash of the Titans.

 

Boston African American National Historic Site, Massachusetts

At the end of the American Revolution, Massachusetts had more free black people than slaves, and by 1783, Massachusetts had abolished slavery. The first Federal census in 1790, recorded Massachusetts as the only State in the Union that had no slaves. Between 1800 and 1900, most of the free African Americans in Boston lived in an area now called the North Slope of Beacon Hill, a hilly neighborhood with winding streets and narrow pedestrian alleyways. The people there actively participated in the Underground Railroad and worked to better the rights of all African Americans. Boston African American National Historic Site preserves many of the buildings and a memorial associated with this thriving community. Fourteen sites linked by the 1.6-mile Black Heritage Trail tell the story of the struggle, perseverance, and commitment of this African American community to black equality.

African Americans in the Beacon Hill neighborhood worked to find decent housing, educate their children, establish independent supportive institutions, and abolish slavery in the rest of the nation. Beacon Hill's historic buildings are its homes, businesses, schools, and churches. The community was a safe haven for many runaway slaves and became an important stop on the Underground Railroad.

The easiest way to see and experience Beacon Hill is to follow the Black Heritage Trail, which starts on the Boston Common at the Robert Gould Shaw/54th Massachusetts Regiment Memorial. Sculpted by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, this memorial is dedicated to the 54th Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. During the Civil War, the 54th Regiment was the first all black regiment recruited in the North. The next stop on the trail is the George Middleton House. Constructed in 1787, this is the oldest African American built house in Beacon Hill. The original owners were George Middleton, an African American veteran of the American Revolution, and Louis Glapion, an African American hairdresser. Both men were members of the African Lodge of Masons, which black educator Prince Hall established.

Other stops along the trail include the Phillips School, the John J. Smith House, and the Charles Street Meeting House. In 1855, the Phillips School became one of Boston’s first integrated schools. Before 1855, African American children in Beacon Hill attended school on the first floor of the African Meeting House and by 1834, at the Abiel Smith School. The Charles Street Meeting House was a segregated church at the time. In the mid 1830s, white abolitionist Timothy Gilbert challenged this segregation by invited African American friends to share his pew. The church expelled Gilbert, who eventually helped establish the First Baptist Free Church, “the first integrated Church in America.” Abolitionists like John J. Smith, whose shop was a center of abolitionist activity and runaway slaves, and Timothy Gilbert influenced the lives of many African Americans.

The trail leads from the Charles Street Meeting House to the homes of other abolitionists. The Lewis and Harriet Hayden House was the residence of an escaped slave and his wife. Lewis Hayden and his wife Harriet Hayden became leaders in Boston’s abolitionist activities and even turned their home into an Underground Railroad station. Reputedly, the Haydens kept kegs of gunpowder under their front porch, and when visited by authorities looking to retrieve runaway slaves, would come to the door with lit candles, threatening to blow up their own home rather than surrender ex-slaves in their trust. Hayden served as a recruiting agent for the 54th Regiment.

The remaining stops along the trail, the John Coburn House, the Smith Court Residences, the Abiel Smith School, and the African Meeting House, tell more stories of Beacon Hill’s African American community. John Coburn was at different times in his life a clothing retailer, a gaming house owner, the treasurer of the New England Freedom Association, a member of the Boston Vigilance Committee, and a cofounder and captain of a black military company. The final two stops are the Abiel Smith School and the African Meeting House.

The Abiel Smith School was a public school for black children constructed in 1834 with money that a white philanthropist left to the city of Boston for the education of black children. The school was the first of its kind in the nation. Before the dedication of the school in 1835, African American children in the Beacon Hill neighborhood attended school on the first floor of the African Meeting House.

Beyond serving as a school, the African Meeting House was also the center of Boston’s 19th century African American social, educational, and political community. Constructed in 1806 with money raised by both whites and blacks, the African Meeting House is the oldest existing black church building in the entire United States. African Americans mostly built it. Many events associated with the Abolitionist Movement occurred there. William Lloyd Garrison established the New England Anti-Slavery Society here in 1832, Frederick Douglass gave his anti-slavery speech in the building in 1860, and the Meeting House was a recruiting station for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment.

Boston African American National Historic Site preserves and interprets the sites, stories, history, and struggles of the diverse, lively, politically active, and very important African American community on Beacon Hill. Stops on the Black Heritage Trail bring the neighborhood alive. Visitors should also be sure not to miss the Museum of African American History's exhibit galleries and the National Park Service visitor center in the Abiel Smith School. The visitor center offers maps and site brochures for those who would like to follow the trail on their own, or sign up for a ranger led tour.

Plan your visit
Boston African American National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 46 Joy St., Boston, MA. This is the location of the Museum of African American History's Abiel Smith School, which contains the museum and the National Park Service visitor center, which is open to the public Monday through Saturday, from 10:00am to 4:00pm. The African Meeting House is currently closed for major restoration and will reopen in December 2011. For more information, visit the National Park Service Boston African American National Historic Site website or call 617-742-5415.

Part of the Boston African American National Historic Site, the Abolition Church and the William C. Nell House have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The Boston African American National Historic Site is featured in the National Park Service Aboard the Underground Railroad Travel Itinerary.

 

Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, Kansas

Well into the 20th century, the doctrine of “separate but equal” had a profoundly negative impact on African Americans living in the United States by inhibiting their access to proper education, adequate transportation, and employment opportunities. Following the “separate but equal” doctrine, many school districts throughout the nation practiced racial segregation by providing separate educational facilities for white and African American children. Parents, educators, children, scholars, and Civil Rights advocates alike saw this segregation as an outright abuse of the rights of African Americans as American citizens.

It was not until May 17, 1954, that the United States Supreme Court unanimously decided in the case of Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka that “…Separate education facilities are inherently unequal.” The court found that the doctrine of “separate but equal” was a violation of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka, Kansas commemorates this landmark Supreme Court decision, which established the legal framework for dismantling racial segregation in public schools and marked a major victory in the Civil Rights Movement.

The Oliver L. Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka et al. case has its roots in post-Civil War America. After the Civil War, a number of States codified their pre-existing social patterns of discrimination. Harsh counter reactions to the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution resulted in the repression of many newly freed African Americans. States created laws that relegated African Americans to separate public facilities or barred them from some facilities altogether.

Particularly in the South, States and localities created obstacles and mandated practices that further marginalized African Americans. Discriminatory poll taxes and literacy tests prevented African Americans from voting. Public amenities such as railroad cars, drinking fountains, waiting rooms, and public toilets were segregated. African Americans throughout the United States contested the reality, morality, and constitutionality of the "separate but equal" doctrine.

In 1892, Homer Plessy, an African American New Orleans citizen, challenged the Louisiana Separate Cars Act by attempting to sit in a whites-only railroad car. Plessy was arrested for this action of “civil disobedience,” and a District Court judge upheld the legality of the Separate Cars Act. Ultimately, on appeal, the case reached the Supreme Court as Plessy v. Ferguson. In 1896, the Supreme Court upheld the earlier decision and ruled that separation did not in itself deny equality before the law. This case institutionalized the “separate but equal” doctrine. Civil rights advocates would have to work for decades against laws and regulations that used the Plessy case as their legal backing for sanctioned segregation and disenfranchisement.

The Plessy v. Ferguson decision set the precedent for future court decisions regarding the “separate but equal” doctrine. As opportunities for African Americans steadily declined, the negative effects of the ruling on public education were especially pronounced. African American schools had insufficient funding, inadequate and irregular transportation, meager school supplies, and deficient school buildings, which had a profoundly negative impact on the quality of education African American students received. African American students sometimes went to school in converted church basements, vacant stores, or empty school buses.

By 1948, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) decided to take on the Plessy decision directly to try to get the decision overturned. The injustices African American schoolchildren suffered had gone on far too long. The NAACP took five separate cases that contested the inequalities in public education to the Supreme Court; the Court consolidated them as Oliver L. Brown et al. v. The Board of Education of Topeka et al. The five separate cases included Belton (Bulah) v. Gebhart (Delaware), Bolling v. Sharpe (District of Columbia), Brown v. Board of Education (Kansas), Briggs v. Elliott (South Carolina), and Davis v. County School Board (Virginia).

Throughout the case, Thurgood Marshall, the NAACP Chief Counsel, argued that racial classifications and segregation were inherently unconstitutional (as were separate educational facilities) stigmatizing African Americans and denying them equal protection under the law guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. On May 17, 1954, Chief Justice Earl Warren, in a unanimous decision from the court, declared that, “We conclude that in the field of public education the doctrine of “separate but equal” has no place. Separate educational facilities are inherently unequal.” The court overturned the Plessy decision and re-affirmed the 14th Amendment.

Monroe Elementary School, now the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, was one of the four segregated schools for African Americans in Topeka, Kansas. The school is an ideal place to remember this landmark decision and to learn about African American struggles for equality. The Monroe School serves as a symbol of the importance of equal educational opportunities. Visitors can walk its halls and imagine what it was like to attend a segregated school and explore the history of Brown v. Board of Education by viewing the exhibits located throughout the building.

Plan your visit
Brown v. Board National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1515 SE Monroe St., Topeka, KS. It is open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm year round except for Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. For more information, visit the National Park Service Brown v. Board National Historic Site website or call 785-354-4273.

Monroe Elementary School has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Park Service’s Midwest Archeological Center has posted online an article regarding the Brown v. Board National Historic Site. The Brown v. Board National Historic Site is the subject of an online lesson plan Brown v. Board: Five Communities That Changed America. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana

In a rural and pristine area of western Louisiana near the winding Cane River, visitors can experience over two centuries of history by exploring Cane River Creole National Historical Park, a National Park System unit within the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area. Cane River Creole National Historical Park preserves the landscapes and many buildings and structures of two historic plantations. At Oakland and Magnolia plantations, visitors can learn about plantation economies, slavery, cash cropping, Creole culture, the Civil War, sharecropping, and modernization to see how different people, both black and white, lived and adapted to historical, economic, social, and agricultural change.

In 1789, Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme established Oakland Plantation on a land grant from the Spanish government. By the early 1800s, Prudhomme began using his plantation, originally named Bermuda, to grow cotton, a major cash crop. Through cotton production, Prudhomme amassed great wealth. To ensure success, Prudhomme used enslaved laborers year round to grow, harvest, and bail cotton, which is a labor intensive crop.

In 1859, for instance, 145 slaves, who lived in 30 dwellings at Oakland Plantation, produced 698 bales of cotton and 7,000 bushels of corn. While many of the slaves toiled in the cotton fields, others worked as midwives, nurses, cooks, weavers, shoemakers, brick masons, painters, and ginners. The success of Oakland Plantation allowed Prudhomme and his descendants to expand the land holdings of the estate and to construct multiple outbuildings on the property. The Prudhomme family resided on the plantation until late in the 20th century.

A self-guided tour winds its way through the grounds and many of the original buildings and structures of this once bustling plantation. Visitors can see the main house, the carriage house, the doctor’s cottage, slave/tenant quarters, the overseer’s house, the cotton gin ruins, the store and post office, and many sheds, shops, and storehouses. Most likely built by enslaved African Americans in 1821, the Oakland Plantation main house is an example of a raised Creole plantation house constructed of bousillage. Bousillage is an infill material of mud, Spanish moss, and deer hair.

The historic landscape of the main house includes an 1835 bottle garden and a short alley of live oaks. Believed to be one of only two such gardens surviving in the Mississippi Valley, the bottle garden displays parterres outlined by bottles from Scotland, Ireland, England, and France. A number of sheds and shops remind visitors of the many “behind the scenes” tasks that went into the smooth running of a plantation. The old store is evidence that even when slavery ended and a sharecropping system replaced it, many freed people were still tied to a plantation-like system.

Magnolia Plantation still has 21 standing historic buildings and structures. Visitors can see a slave hospital, a pigeonnier, eight brick slave houses, a gin house, and a plantation store. While Jean Baptiste LeComte I originally acquired the land on which Magnolia Plantation stands in 1753, it was not until about 1840 that Ambrose LeComte II built the first main plantation house on the grounds. By the 1860s, the LeComtes expanded the landholdings of plantation and shifted to cotton production. Magnolia Plantation soon became the largest cotton-producing plantation in Natchitoches Parish, with the LeComtes owning the most slaves in the area.

Enslaved African Americans lived in a double row of eight brick slave houses at Magnolia. On both Oakland and Magnolia plantations, the slave quarters were places where enslaved workers created their own institutions, community, internal governance, recreation, and religious practices. Out of sight of their masters within these slave communities, they married, started families, and produced domestic goods such as clothing, furniture, tools, and toys. They also had their own gardens where they raised crops of sweet potatoes, watermelons, turnips, and other vegetables.

The 1860s brought great changes to both plantations and to the southern plantation system way of life. During the Civil War, Union troops swept through the area burning a steam cotton gin and 400 bales of cotton at Oakland Plantation. Union soldiers burned the original main house at Magnolia Plantation in 1864. Following the fire, the LeComtes lived in the former slave hospital and did not rebuild the main house until 1899. The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation had lasting effects on southern plantations. After the war, many freed slaves became sharecroppers on plantations under conditions that were not very different from slavery. Under the sharecropping system, freed workers became forever indebted to the plantation store for what they needed and were never able to secure the land, money, education, or skills necessary to move beyond plantation life.

Visit Cane River Creole National Historical Park to better understand this diverse and controversial period of American history in a park that brings alive the world of plantation owners and African Americans in this part of the South.

Plan your visit

Cane River Creole National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System. Oakland Plantation, a National Historic Landmark, is located on Hwy. 494, 12 miles south of Natchitoches, LA and is part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park and the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area. Magnolia Plantation, also a National Historic Landmark, is located at 5487 Hwy. 119 in Derry, LA. Magnolia Plantation Home is privately owned and is open for tours from 1:00pm to 4:00 pm daily. Both plantations are open for self-guided tours from 8:00am to 4:00pm, daily, except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Guided tours of Oakland Plantation are offered daily at 1:00 pm. Formal tours of the Magnolia grounds are given only on Saturdays and Sunday at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Click here for Oakland Plantation’s National Historic Landmark registration file:
text and photos. Click here for Magnolia Plantation’s National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Cane River Creole National Historical Park website or call 318-356-8441.

Oakland and Magnolia Plantations are also featured in the National Park Service’s
Cane River National Heritage Area Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service Archeology Program has online tours of the Oakland Plantation and Magnolia Plantation. The National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey has documented several different buildings at the Oakland Plantation. At the Magnolia Plantation, the Historic American Buildings Survey has documented the Plantation, Slave Quarters, and Cotton Gins and Presses.

 

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site, District of Columbia

Carter G. Woodson Home National Historic Site highlights Carter G. Woodson's contributions to the nation. Around the turn of the 20th century as he began his own academic career, Woodson noticed a glaring hole in the educational system in the United States. The public knew very little about the role of African Americans in American history, and schools were not including African American history in their curricula. He worked tirelessly throughout his life to remedy this problem becoming nationally recognized as the “Father of Black History.” Woodson exposed the American public and education system to the lives and history of Americans of African descent and their profound impact on American society through such endeavors as establishing The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and the Associated Publishers, starting The Journal of Negro History, and founding Negro History Week.

Born on December 19, 1875, Carter G. Woodson was the son of former slaves. As an African American boy growing up in central Virginia during the late 19th century, Woodson had few educational or employment opportunities. He did not have the chance to attend school. In pursuit of a new life, he and his family moved to Huntington, West Virginia, where he worked in the New River Gorge coalfields to help supplement the family’s income. Finally, by the time he was 20, Woodson saved enough money from his days as a coal miner to begin his formal education at Douglass High School, one of the few black high schools at the time. He received his diploma in just two years, as he was already self-taught in basic reading and arithmetic. Woodson then went on to obtain his first collegiate degree from Berea College in Kentucky and continued his education at the University of Chicago obtaining another Bachelors and a Masters degree. In 1912, he earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University, making him the second black American, only following W.E.B. Du Bois, and the first person of enslaved parents to receive such a degree from the institution.

While studying for his own education, Woodson also held many teaching positions. As he immersed himself in the education world, he noticed the prevailing ignorance and lack of information concerning black life and history. In an attempt to correct such an obvious oversight, Woodson, in 1915, founded The Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, now the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History. The organization aimed to inform the American public of the contributions of black Americans in the formation of the country and its history and culture. The association had its headquarters at 1538 9th Street, NW in Washington, DC, in the basement and on the first floor, while Woodson resided on the second floor from 1922 to 1950. This Victorian row house is now a National Historic Site. The National Park Service and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History are working as partners to restore the circa 1870s home.

As he ran the organization, Woodson also took on many other roles within the academic world. He taught at both the public school and collegiate levels, trained researchers and other staff at the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, and wrote books and articles on the subject that was his life’s work. Woodson held the position of dean at the School of Liberal Arts and Head of the Graduate Faculty at Howard University from 1919 to 1920. He also served as dean at West Virginia Collegiate Institute, now West Virginia State College. Although very well-respected and sought after in the academic arena, Woodson retired from teaching in 1922 to devote his full attention to the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History and to research and writing.

Woodson also started the academic publication of The Journal of Negro History, The Negro History Bulletin, and Associated Publishers, Inc. This publisher took on works others would not such as the writings of black scholars on African American history and acted as a fundraising component for The Association for the Study of African-American Life and History.

Carter G. Woodson’s best-known contribution occurs every February. He initiated celebration of the first Negro History Week in 1926, focusing on black history. Woodson chose the second week of February for Negro History Week because it corresponds with the birthdays of both Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln. Over the years, support grew, and the week became a month in 1976. February of each year is now Black History Month. Today, people celebrate Black History Month in many ways, and schools across the nation take a closer look at African American history during the month of February.

Carter G. Woodson passed away at his Washington, DC, home on April 3, 1950. After his death, the public and a variety of organizations began to honor his many achievements through such activities as naming schools and a professorship at Berea College after him. The nation recognized his achievements in 2006 when the Carter G. Woodson Home became a unit of the National Park System. Together, the National Park Service and the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History are working to rehabilitate and restore the historic building, develop and install interpretative exhibits, and produce and distribute educational materials. Parking and signs will also be part of the site improvement. A Historic Resource Study is being completed to serve as the basis for better understanding the site and creating interpretive information. The home is not currently open to the public, but a plaque on the exterior of the home identifies it. While visitors are not able to enter the house, they can view the front façade of the building.

Plan your visit

The Carter G. Woodson Home, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1538 9th St., NW, Washington, DC. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The home currently is not open to the public but may be viewed from the exterior. For more information, visit the National Park Service Carter G. Woodson National Historic Site website or call 202-673-2402.

The Carter G. Woodson Home is included in the National Park Service’s Washington, DC: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.

 

Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, Ohio

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Wilberforce, Ohio, honors the accomplishments of Colonel Charles Young (1864-1922) and the illustrious service of the “Buffalo Soldiers.” The large two story brick house was built in 1856, and once served as a stop on the Underground Railroad to help runaway slaves escape to freedom.  In 1899, Colonel Charles Young bought the home and named it “Youngsholm.”  Here, Young lived with his wife, Ada, and raised a family.  Young traveled all over the globe up to the end of his life, but Youngsholm was his sanctuary. 

Born to enslaved parents, and faced with the obstacles of overt racism and stifling inequality, Colonel Charles Young became the highest ranking African American officer serving in the regular Army of his time.  Charles Young was born in May’s Lick, Kentucky in 1864.  That same year, his father escaped enslavement and in February 1865 joined the 5th Regiment, U.S. Colored Heavy Artillery.  In June 1866, two-year-old Charles and his parents moved to Ripley, Ohio.  Charles thrived in Ohio, and graduated at the age of 17 with academic honors as a member of his integrated high school class of 1881.  After teaching elementary school for a few years and continuing his own education through tutelage and college courses, Charles was accepted to the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1884.  Young was the ninth African American accepted into the prestigious military institute, and the third to graduate. 

Three months after his graduation from the military academy in 1889, 2nd Lieutenant Young was in charge of the 9th Cavalry at Fort Robinson, Nebraska to begin his military career.  Young was only permitted to lead African American regiments, nicknamed “Buffalo Soldiers.”  American Plains Indians who fought against these soldiers, specifically the 10th Cavalry, referred to the black cavalry troops as "buffalo soldiers" because of their dark, curly hair, which resembled a buffalo's coat, and because of their fierce nature of fighting.  Soon after, the nickname became synonymous with all African American regiments. These Buffalo Soldiers were part of the six all-black regiments, later consolidated to four, established by Congress in 1866 to help rebuild the country, and to fight the “Indian Wars” out west.  Though these men were only paid the low wage of $13 a month, they enlisted because of the better treatment they received in the military versus civilian life.  In addition to their regular duties, the Buffalo Soldiers also served as the first care-takers of the national parks.  As the leader of some of these men, Young was the first African American superintendent of a national park when his troops were tasked to manage and maintain Sequoia National Park in northern California.  The Buffalo Soldier regiments went on to serve the U.S. Army with distinction and honor for nearly the next five decades. With the disbandment of the 27th Calvary on December 12, 1951, the last of the storied Buffalo Soldiers regiments came to an end. 

Early in his career in 1894, Young received a detached service assignment as an instructor of military science and tactics at Wilberforce University.  Young remained an instructor until 1899 when he began his university teaching.  During his time in Ohio, Young bought a large home, which he named “Youngsholm,” about a mile from campus.  Youngsholm would serve as a meeting place for friends and colleagues, including the world renowned poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Young’s close friend, W.E.B. Du Bois.  After marrying his wife, Ada, in 1903, it would also serve as the place Young raised his family.  Young referred to Youngsholm as his sanctuary where he raised a family, mentored a successive generation of leaders, and found intellectual refuge.

Young went on to serve with distinction in the Philippine-American war, became the first African American national park superintendent, was appointed as the first military attaché to Haiti and the Dominican Republic, served as the military attaché to Liberia two separate times, and trained African American recruits during World War I.  During his second appointment as the military attaché to Liberia, Young became gravely ill and died at the British hospital in Lagos on January 8, 1922.  Before his death, Young had risen to the rank of Colonel, making him the highest ranking African American officer at the time.

The Youngsholm house, located off U.S. Route 42, is the site of the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument today. In 2011, Omega Psi Phi Inc., and the Ohio Historical Society sponsored the Charles Young Historic Marker, and on March 25, 2013, President Obama designated the house as a national park. On May 10, 2014, the anniversary of Young’s acceptance to the U.S. Military Academy, the home was dedicated as a historic landmark and national park. The house serves to commemorate the achievements and life of Colonel Charles Young as well as the achievements of the "Buffalo Soldiers." 

Over the years, the two-story brick house suffered from some minor structural issues. It is currently being developed for people coming to see the historic landmark and visit the historic site. Visitors can park in the small lot to the left of the house, and observe the house from the outside. Also to the left of the house there is a historic marker, embedded in stone, that describes the significance of the home and the achievements of Colonel Charles Young.

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is currently under development, and the house is not yet open to the visiting public.  However, interpretive programs and exhibits are being developed.  For up-to-date information on the history and planning of the park, information on tours and information on volunteer opportunities, please contact the park staff.

Plan Your Visit

The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument, a unit of The National Park System that has been designated a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1120 US Route 42, Wilberforce, Ohio. The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument is not yet open for the visiting public, but interpretive programs and exhibits are being developed.  For more information visit the Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument website or call 513-607-0315.
The Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Colonial National Historical Park, Virginia

Colonial National Historical Park is where English Colonial America began and ended. At the Cape Henry Memorial, Historic Jamestowne, Yorktown Battlefield, and on the Colonial Parkway, visitors can follow a historical and chronological path through English Colonial America. The scenic 23-mile Colonial Parkway connects Jamestown, Yorktown, and Colonial Williamsburg. Visitors travel the parkway to sites and landscapes that will transport them back to the days of Colonial America and the birth of the United States as an independent nation.

The story begins in April 1607, when after many months at sea, 144 Englishmen made landfall on the eastern coast of America where they anchored their ships in the deep and protected waters of the Chesapeake Bay. Sending a small party of men to shore, they built a wooden cross, planted it in the sand, and named the place Cape Henry. Today, a ten-foot high granite cross of the Cape Henry Memorial stands at the approximate location of the colonists’ initial landing in memory of the wooden cross built by the English colonists.

By May 13, 1607, about three weeks after this initial landing, colonists traveled up the James River to Jamestown Island and established the first permanent English colony in North America. This settlement, today known as Jamestown or Historic Jamestowne, served as the seat of colonial government in Virginia for 92 years where the first representative assembly in the New World met in 1619. It is also where the first recorded Africans arrived in English America and the site of Bacon’s Rebellion.

Under the leadership of John Smith and the Reverend Robert Hunt, the colonists endured hard times and great strife during the early years. Starvation, conflicts with American Indians, inclement weather, and lack of supplies threatened the survival of the colony. In the early months during the first winter, many of the original colonists died of starvation. The colony eventually prospered as the colonists found ways to survive and to co-exist with the Powhatan, which historians estimate had a population of 13,000 to 14,000 in 1607 in the Tidewater Virginia area. The Powhatan had an important impact on the survival and everyday lives of the colonists.

Concentrated along the rivers, Powhatan settlements sometimes contained as many as 100 homes. The tribe built houses by bending saplings for a frame and placing woven mats or bark atop this structure. In the settlements, individual gardens produced corn, beans, peas, squash, and sunflowers, while the area’s waterways and woods provided fish, shellfish, nuts, fruits, and berries. The men and boys hunted mammals using hunting bows, while the women gathered wood, made pottery, prepared food, dressed hides, and tended to the gardens. Members of the tribe worked together to utilize the natural bounty of the area in ways that were efficient, effective, and useful. As the English colonists began to settle the small peninsula near Powhatan settlements, a middle ground emerged between the two groups.

In this middle ground, conflict, compromise, and trade each played pivotal roles. The English needed the Powhatan for food, furs, survival tips, and as guides, while the Powhatan saw the English’s technological trade goods as useful tools to help make their lives easier and expand their influence. The English and the Indians exchanged goods and cultural practices establishing interdependent relationships. John Smith’s friendship with Pocahontas, the daughter of the Chief of the Powhatan Confederacy who acted as a messenger between the two groups, helped the colonists obtain from the Powhatan much needed food and furs that helped them to survive. Pocahontas’ marriage to John Rolfe, the English colonist credited with producing the first marketable tobacco export for the colony, provided a few years of peace between the English and Powhatans. Today, visitors to Historic Jamestowne can walk the grounds of the initial fort, the place where the “middle ground” between the English and Powhatans greatly affected the lives and the intertwined futures of both groups.

By the 1620’s, as Jamestown matured as a colony, residents began moving to the area slightly east of the old three sided 1607 fort. Here, in “New Towne,” Jamestown took the shape and form of an established town. Governors, planters, merchants, and visitors used the area for a variety of purposes. Colonists constructed a statehouse, church, roadway, workshops, dwellings, warehouses, wharves, and taverns. Visitors can follow the New Towne walking tour to view the ruins and archeological remains of this once bustling town. The Old Church Tower is the only original 17th century structure still there. Many of the recovered artifacts from Historic Jamestowne are on display in the museum in the visitor center.

After the Jamestown statehouse burned to the ground first during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676 and again in 1699, the colonists moved the capital of Virginia a few miles away to Williamsburg. Most of Jamestown’s merchants followed the government to Williamsburg, which precipitated Jamestown’s steady decline. Visitors can follow this historical move by taking the Colonial Parkway from Historic Jamestowne to restored Colonial Williamsburg.

After exploring Historic Jamestowne, the beginning of the British colonial experience in the eastern part of North America, visitors can tour Yorktown, where the British colonial experience in eastern North America ended. On October 19, 1781, after the battle at Yorktown, General George Washington’s allied American and French army forced the British army under General Charles Lord Cornwallis to surrender.

In 1691, Virginia’s colonial government established Yorktown as a place to regulate trade and collect taxes on both imports and exports for Great Britain. As the center of such activity, the town emerged as a major port and economic center with docks, storehouses, businesses, stately homes, taverns, and shops. Between 1740 and 1770, at the height of its prosperity, Yorktown had a population of nearly 2,000 people and 250 to 300 buildings. By 1781, because of its strategic location and importance, Yorktown would play a pivotal role in the American Revolution.

In March 1781, British General Cornwallis celebrated a crushing victory at Guilford Courthouse near present day Greensboro, North Carolina. While the British army won this battle, they lost over half of their soldiers. Cornwallis then retreated to Yorktown where he planned to regroup, wait for supplies, and establish a naval base. To prevent this from happening, on September 28, 1781, approximately 17,600 allied American and French soldiers marched from Williamsburg to Yorktown, where they besieged Cornwallis’ 8,300 British, German, and American loyalist forces. The colonial allied artillery crews continually fired on Cornwallis’ troops for many days, knocking most of their guns out of action by October 11. On October 17, realizing the situation was hopeless, Cornwallis sent forth a British drummer with a white flag and a note requesting a cease-fire.

Cornwallis and Washington then exchanged notes to provide a framework for surrender. The following day, four officers--one American, one French, and two British--met in “Mr. Moore’s House,” the location Cornwallis selected for the negotiations, to settle the surrender terms. Visitors can still see the Moore House where this significant negotiation and event in world history occurred. With the Articles of Capitulation signed, on October 19, 1781, Cornwallis’ army marched out of Yorktown between two lines of allied soldiers, to a field now known as Surrender Field where they laid down their arms. The fighting, and Britain’s colonial experience in eastern North America, was over.

After the destruction caused by the 1781 siege, fewer than 70 buildings remained in Yorktown, and the 1790 Census recorded only 661 people in town. By taking the ranger guided Siege Line Walking Tours and/or Yorktown Tours or by simply walking Yorktown’s streets and fields, visitors can learn about the 1781 Siege of Yorktown and view a town that has seen over 300 years of American history. In addition, self-guided auto tours lead to various points of interest on the battlefield.

Visitors can stop by the Nelson House, the home of Thomas Nelson, Jr. a signer of the Declaration of Independence and a commander of the Virginia Militia during the Siege of Yorktown. The old York County Courthouse (1697), the York Parish Church (1697), and the Customhouse, where taxes were collected on imported and explored goods passing through the port, are still standing as well. The Customhouse is the oldest building in the Yorktown Historic District. While exploring the 18th century Georgian buildings that line the streets of Old Yorktown, visitors can imagine what it was like to live in Colonial Virginia when Yorktown was a bustling tobacco port and what it might have been like to witness the last battle of the American Revolution.

Colonial National Historical Park, with the Cape Henry Memorial, the Historic Jamestowne Site, the Yorktown Battlefield, and the Colonial Parkway, provides visitors with a range of opportunities to experience and contemplate the people, events, and places that directly affected the birth of the United States of America.

Plan your visit

Colonial National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located near Interstate 64 (I-64) in VA. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Historic Jamestowne Visitor Center at 1368 Colonial Parkway, Jamestown, VA and Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center at 1000 Colonial Parkway, Yorktown, VA are open daily from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm, except on Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1. All park grounds close at sunset. For more information, visit the National Park Service Colonial National Historical Park website or call 757-898-2410.Yorktown Battlefield Visitor Center, 23690.

Colonial National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey and by the National Park Service’s Archeology Program.

 

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, Ohio

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, three different men from Dayton, Ohio used creativity, ingenuity, and courage to positively challenge the world around them and thus influence American and world history. While many of the sites in Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park follow the incredible story of Orville and Wilbur Wright and their quest to better understand and master the principles of flight, another unit within the park commemorates the story of the influential African American poet, Paul Laurence Dunbar. By the end of his short life at the young age of 33, Dunbar was the author of dialectic poems, Standard English poems, essays, novels, and short stories.

Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial, a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and a National Historic Landmark, tells the story of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the first African American writer to win high distinction in American literature. Born June 27, 1872 to Joshua and Matilda Dunbar, two former slaves, Dunbar had parents who loved books and reading and told stories about slave life and the Civil War. Matilda Dunbar shared her love of poetry, songs, and storytelling with Dunbar and encouraged him to read. Inspired by his mother’s love of language, Dunbar began writing and reciting poetry as early as the age of six.

While attending Dayton public schools as the only African American in his class, Dunbar used poetry to express his own personal thoughts, his observations of society, and the experiences of his parents. His works often addressed the difficulties African Americans faced in their struggle for racial equality in America. He contributed poems to his high school newspaper, served as its editor, was on the school’s debate team, and was president of his school's literary society.

Throughout these formative years, Dunbar received support from his classmates, his parents, and his teachers. One of his classmates and friends was Orville Wright. Orville and his brother Wilbur later supported Dunbar by printing Dunbar’s Dayton Tattler, a newspaper published for the area’s African American community. The Wright brothers’ printing business, Wright & Wright, Job Printers, was in the office suites of the Hoover Block, which is today a unit of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and the main visitor center for the park. In this historic building, the Wright brothers printed Dunbar’s newspaper as well as tickets and handbills to Dunbar’s public readings.

Upon graduation from Dayton Central High, Dunbar faced the reality of racism when he encountered limited employment opportunities. In the years after graduation, he worked as an elevator operator and a dishwasher in a downtown Dayton building. His employment did not deter him from continuing to write, often on the job between calls. By 1892, Dunbar had written and published his first book of poems, Oak and Ivy. He personally paid for its publication and sold it for one dollar a copy, often to people who rode the elevator he operated. By 1893, the book and Dunbar’s reputation spread, and he received an invitation to speak at the World’s Fair, where he met renowned abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

By 1895, two men from Dayton befriended Dunbar, Charles Thatcher and Dr. Henry A. Toby, who together funded the publication of Dunbar’s second book, Majors and Minors. This book received favorable reviews from well-known critic William Dean Howells. Howells’ favorable review, which appeared in a column in Harper’s Weekly, launched Dunbar into national and international fame. Howells praised Dunbar as the first African American writer to have “evinced innate distinction in literature.” This praise and publicity were catalysts for the publication of Dunbar’s third book, Lyrics of Lowly Life, for which Howells wrote the introduction. With the success of these books, Dunbar traveled to England to recite his works on a reading tour.

Upon returning from England, Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress in 1897 and married Alice Ruth Moore, an author and a teacher. In 1898, he resigned from his position at the Library of Congress and dedicated himself to writing full time. In 1899, Dunbar was diagnosed with tuberculosis, and, in 1902, his marriage ended. He continued to write through these upsetting times and lived with his mother, eventually purchasing a house in Dayton, his home until he passed away in 1906 from tuberculosis.

Dunbar’s last home became the first home of a public memorial to an African American. After Dunbar’s mother passed away in 1934, the State of Ohio purchased the house, furnishings, and personal belongings at the site and turned the property over to the Ohio Historical Society to use as a State memorial and museum. The Dunbar House is a late 19th century – early 20th century red brick, nine-room Italianate building. Today, visitors can take guided tours of the site and observe many of Dunbar’s original manuscripts, personal belongings, and family furnishings, as well as his library, typewriter, and desk. Restored to appear much as it was when Paul and Matilda Dunbar lived in the house and with new interpretive panels installed to enrich the visitor’s experience, the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial offers visitors an opportunity to learn about this distinguished African American author and the struggle for racial equality in the United States.

Other units in Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park commemorate the lives of Orville and Wilbur Wright, the pioneers of flight. The Wright Cycle Company Complex, the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, and the Huffman Prairie Flying Field and Interpretive Center are all in the park. Within the Wright Cycle Company Complex, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in the restored Hoover Block is right in the heart of the West Third Street Historic District in Dayton. At the interpretive center, visitors can learn about the lives and legacies of these three creative and exceptional men.

Paul Laurence Dunbar and to Orville and Wilbur Wright lived in the West Third Street Historic District, also known as Wright-Dunbar Village. Developed as a streetcar suburb in the 50 years after the Civil War, the area became a part of Dayton when the city annexed it in 1869. For many years, the neighborhood saw an influx of immigrants from Romania and Eastern Europe who came to work in the Dayton factories. In the 1920s, the district became a thriving community where many African Americans owned businesses, including the Palace Theatre. This preserved neighborhood is a reflection of Dayton’s history and a lasting testament to Orville and Wilbur Wright and Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park celebrates and interprets cultural diversity, mental creativity, human ingenuity, and personal perseverance.

Plan your visit

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in Dayton, OH. Reservations are required to tour the Paul Laurence Dunbar State Memorial; please call 937-313-2010 to make a reservation. The operating hours for the rest of the park vary depending on the individual units. For more information, visit the National Park Service Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park website or call 937-225-7705.

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park is featured in the National Park Service
Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms Travel Itinerary and is the subject of an online lesson plan, Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park: Where the Wright Brothers Conquered the Air. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage. The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey has documented Paul Laurence Dunbar's house and barn.

 

Fort Davis National Historic Site, Texas

In 1866, to increase the size of the United States Army, Congress enacted legislation that changed the course of American military history. Opposed by many, the historic law created new regiments, two cavalry and four infantry units, which Congress stipulated “shall be composed of colored men.” For the first time, African Americans could serve in times of peace and received the guarantee of a permanent place in the United States Armed Forces. The new black regiments that later became known as the Buffalo Soldiers would serve at many U.S. Army posts, including Fort Davis, where they became key players in the defense of West Texas during the Indian Wars. They proved instrumental in the defeat of Apache Chief Victorio and in the settlement of America’s western frontier. Fort Davis National Historic Site commemorates the service of these brave African-American soldiers to the nation and tells the story of their impact on military history.

Established in 1854, Fort Davis was important in guarding and establishing America’s western frontier. Troops stationed at this historic military post served to protect emigrants, families, freighters, and mail coaches from the American Indians and bandits who raided travelers on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. In the first seven years, the post’s initial occupants, six companies of the Eighth Infantry under Lt. Col. Washington Seawell, often spent their days pursuing Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache to ensure the safety of those traveling west.

Troops continued to perform this duty until the outbreak of the Civil War. Texas seceded from the Union and federal forces evacuated the fort in April 1861. Confederate troops occupied Fort Davis until August 1862. Then the post remained deserted until 1867, at which time the Ninth Cavalry, one of the new African-American regiments, arrived.

At Fort Davis, in the years following the Civil War, the all-black Ninth Cavalry under the leadership of Lt. Col. Wesley Merritt stayed busy patrolling for the elusive Apache and Comanche and protecting travelers, freight wagons, and mail coaches on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. Meanwhile, a large group of mostly civilian laborers built a new fort not far from the original site. The African-American troops also helped develop new roads and improve communication with other posts by stringing 91 miles of telegraph wire. At some point during the Indian Wars, African-American soldiers acquired the nickname "Buffalo Soldiers," which is believed to have come originally from the Plains Indians. Recent scholarship reveals that the black soldiers of the Indian Wars did not refer to themselves as "Buffalo Soldiers." Some scholars today prefer the more accurate term "Black Regulars."

African-American soldiers served at Fort Davis from 1867 to 1885. During this time, all four of the black regiments of the U.S. Army served at Fort Davis: the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry, and the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Infantry. The black troops were led by white officers. The first black man to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and become a commissioned officer during the Indian Wars was Henry Ossian Flipper. He was the only black officer to serve at Fort Davis. Although he only served at the military post from 1880 to 1881, his story is significant in the history of the military justice system. While serving at Fort Davis, Second Lt. Flipper became a suspect in the disappearance of the commissary funds for which he was responsible. The trial took place at the Fort Davis chapel. Flipper pleaded not guilty to the charge, embezzlement of commissary funds, and was ultimately found innocent. Nevertheless, he was dismissed from the Army for "conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman." The discharge stood until the Civil Rights Movement influenced historians to revisit his case. In 1976, the Army posthumously gave Flipper an honorable discharge, and in 1999, President Clinton granted “a full and unconditional pardon to Lieutenant Henry Ossian Flipper.”

In west Texas, Col. Benjamin Grierson capably led black soldiers of the Tenth Cavalry and Twenty-Fourth Infantry on a campaign against Apache war leader Victorio in 1879-1880. They forced the Apaches back into Mexico, where Mexican soldiers killed Victorio and most of his band in battle of Tres Castillos. Without a doubt, African-American soldiers proved instrumental in bringing about the peaceful settlement of west Texas. In 1891, the army abandoned Fort Davis.

Visitors can begin their tour of Fort Davis National Historic Site at the visitor center and museum, where they may view a video presentation on the history of the fort. On the grounds, restored buildings and sites to tour include the Enlisted Men’s Barracks, the Commissary, the Officer’s Kitchen and Servant’s Quarters, the Post Hospital, the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, the Shared Lieutenants’ Quarters, and the First Fort Davis. Volunteers dress in period clothing and bugle calls from a sound presentation take tourists on a journey back to 1875.

Plan your visit

Fort Davis National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 101 Lt. Flipper Dr. in Fort Davis, TX 79734. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Davis National Historic Site is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Years Day, and on Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday. An admission fee is charged; federal passes are honored. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Davis National Historic Site website or call 432-426-3224 x 220.

Many components of the Fort Davis National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Fort Davis is also featured in the National Park Service South and West Texas Travel Itinerary.

 

Fort Scott National Historic Site, Kansas

Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830 and the Intercourse Act of 1834, which declared that the land west of the Mississippi belonged to the American Indians, the United States built a series of forts from Minnesota to Louisiana to enforce the promise of a “permanent Indian frontier.” Erected in 1842, Fort Scott was among the line of forts established to maintain peace between white settlers and neighboring Indian tribes. Eventually, as the nation developed, tensions over the issue of slavery would place Fort Scott at the center of Bleeding Kansas and ultimately the Civil War. Today, Fort Scott National Historic Site stands as a witness to the history of the conflicts between various cultural groups important in the American story.

At its establishment, Fort Scott’s mission was to keep peace and prevent settlers from expanding further into Indian Territory. The atmosphere changed in the 1840’s, when the notion of Manifest Destiny encouraged settlers and the United States government to move further west. American Indians grew hostile toward settlers moving into their territory and often made the journey for whites difficult and dangerous. As a result, dragoon soldiers stationed at Fort Scott began escorting settlers who were traveling across the Indian frontier on the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Despite the presence of soldiers, tensions continued to increase. As the Gold Rush of 1848 further accelerated the nation’s westward expansion, Kansas opened for settlement in 1854 and more settlers moved west; with these factors combined, the idea of a “Permanent Indian Territory” died. The Osage Indians and other tribes in the area were eventually relocated to make way for settlers.

When the United States broke its promise to reserve the land west of the Mississippi for American Indians, the United States Army recognized that its services to protect the Indian frontier were no longer required and abandoned Fort Scott by 1853. The military post remained vacant until violent events in Kansas that erupted as part of the nation’s growing debate over slavery brought soldiers back to Fort Scott in an effort to restore law and order. The violence began in 1854, when Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, which allowed people in Kansas and Nebraska to decide by vote whether to be a Free State or slave State. Proslavery advocates, abolitionists, and Free-Staters congregated in Kansas to influence the vote in their favor.

Eventually, the debate in Kansas over the peculiar institution turned into a violent affair that terrorized the State for more than five years. “Bleeding Kansas” offered a preview of what the nation would face in the Civil War. The town of Fort Scott divided over the issue of slavery. Before the Army reinstated Fort Scott, settlers on both sides of the issue gained control of the fort’s vacant buildings. The abolitionists took over the former officers’ quarters and named it the Free State Hotel, while on the opposite side of town square, the proslavery headquarters was at the Western Hotel, formerly the site of the old infantry barracks.

The Western Hotel increasingly became a haven for Border Ruffians, and radical proslavery advocates outnumbered Free-State settlers until James Montgomery’s abolitionist forces invaded the proslavery headquarters at Fort Scott. In 1858, Montgomery directed a number of attacks against the proslavery advocates in Kansas and on more than one occasion attempted to burn down the Western Hotel. As violent raids became a daily occurrence, the Federal Government ordered soldiers to return to Fort Scott in an effort to settle the political unrest. The soldiers briefly brought peace to the region, but the violence resumed, and by 1859, nearly 60 people had died in the struggle over slavery, including John Little, a proslavery advocate killed by Montgomery’s Free-State forces.

In time, antislavery forces would prevail, but by the time Kansas entered the Union as a free State on January 29, 1861, the Civil War was about to begin. South Carolina seceded from the Union and other southern States followed suit, and in April of 1861, the war between the Union and the Confederacy officially began.

As a result, the US Army returned to Kansas and established the State’s military headquarters in the town of Fort Scott. Troops reoccupied the military post’s old buildings and began constructing new fortifications that eventually stretched over 40 miles. Among other buildings, the Army constructed a general hospital for wounded soldiers, a few warehouses, some powder magazines, a blacksmith shop and a military prison.

With the new developments, Fort Scott would become the largest and strongest of the Union posts and a major supply depot for the Union armies in the West. The fort also offered shelter for displaced Indians, escaped slaves, and other refugees who eventually joined the Union Army.

During the Civil War, Kansas was the first State to recruit and train American Indians and African Americans to serve in the Union army. Among those sworn in at Fort Scott was the First Kansas (Colored) Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the first African American regiment to fight Confederate troops. Held in high regard by leading officers in the Union Army, the First Kansas (Colored) Volunteer Infantry Regiment had a successful combat record throughout the Civil War. On April 24, 1864, Colonel James M. Williams declared, “The officers and men all evinced the most heroic spirit, and those that fell died the death of a true soldier.”

At the end of the Civil War in 1865, the US Army sold the buildings and military equipment at Fort Scott, closed the hospital, and let the soldiers go home. The Army returned to Fort Scott in 1870 to resolve disputes between settlers and the railroads and to keep the peace during the building of the railroad. In 1873, military involvement at Fort Scott ended.

At Fort Scott National Historic Site, visitors can see 20 historic structures, a parade ground and five acres of restored tallgrass prairie. They can tour 33 historically furnished rooms in the fort’s historic buildings and enjoy three exhibit areas. At the Infantry Barracks Museum, visitors learn about Fort Scott’s history. The Dragoon Barracks Museum exhibits feature stories of different soldiers, and the Wilson Goodlander House focuses on the construction of Fort Scott. The visitor center and bookstore are located in the historic post hospital.

Plan your visit
Fort Scott National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System that has been designated a National Historic Landmark, is located at 101 Old Fort Blvd. in Fort Scott, KS. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Scott is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, April-October and 9:00am to 5:00pm, from November-March. The site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Guided tours are available, as are middle school and elementary education programs. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Scott National Historic Site website or call 620-223-0310.

Fort Scott has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.


Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, District of Columbia

Often called the “Father of the Civil Rights Movement,” Frederick Douglass was one of the most famous abolitionists and civil rights advocates in American history. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site preserves the final home and legacy of this profoundly influential figure at Cedar Hill, Douglass’s home from 1878 until his death in 1895. Frederick Douglass dedicated his life to freedom and justice for all Americans, especially African Americans. His life spanned nearly 80 years, from a time when slavery permeated American society and culture to the years where slavery was condemned and no longer permitted on American soil. At Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, the National Park Service interprets the historic story of this famous runaway slave, abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor, civil rights advocate, author, and diplomat.

In February of 1817, Douglass was born into slavery on the eastern shore of Maryland and given the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey, after his mother Harriet Bailey. Learning to read and write at an early age, Douglass realized that this was the key to his freedom. Douglass read newspapers, political materials, and an array of books that exposed him to an entirely new realm of thought and led to his questioning and condemnation of slavery. In 1838, at the age of 21, he escaped to the North, where he changed his name to Douglass to avoid recapture and began his active involvement in the abolitionist movement. By 1841, he was an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society, and by 1845, he published his most famous work, his autobiography, The Narrative of the Life of Frederick

Because of the book’s success, Douglass became so well known that he feared recapture by his owner. Douglass fled to England where Quakers purchased his freedom. Returning to the United States in 1847, Douglass settled in Rochester, New York, where within 10 years he became a well-known lecturer, leader of Rochester’s Underground Railroad, and the editor and publisher of the North Star, an abolitionist newspaper.

By the time of the Civil War, Douglass was one of the most famous black men in the country. Throughout the war, Douglass promoted equality and freedom and championed the use of African American soldiers in the war. Douglass and one of his sons supported the Union by serving as recruiters for the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, while his other son fought with this regiment during the Battle of Fort Wagner. By 1865, slavery was outlawed everywhere in the United States by the post-war ratification of the 13th Amendment. Following the war, Douglass continued to serve the American people by working for civil rights for all oppressed peoples.

In 1877, Douglass purchased what would be his final home, an estate on a hill in Anacostia in southeast Washington, DC surrounded by cedar trees and with a commanding view of the river and city. Douglass named his home Cedar Hill. He paid $6,700 to the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company for the home and a little over nine acres of land. By purchasing the estate, Douglass became one of the first black men to break a covenant in Washington, DC. Even though the original deed prohibited blacks from purchasing the estate, Douglass was able to purchase the home.

Between 1878 and 1895, Douglass spent much of his time and money improving Cedar Hill. He expanded the house from 14 to 21 rooms and enlarged his property to 15 acres by purchasing adjoining lots. He furnished the home with art, antiques, and a china closet and added a new library and a second story bedroom. The library contained more than 1,000 works on topics ranging from history, to religion, science, and government. The library also showcased portraits of prominent figures Douglass respected and admired, such as John Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and William Lloyd Garrison.

Today the house is furnished much as it was when Douglass lived in it from 1878 until his death in 1895. The rooms at Cedar Hill still contain Douglass’ belongings and items from his public and personal life that help to preserve and illustrate the legacy and story of this influential figure. Douglass’ roll-top desk sits in the library, while his Panama hat and clothing are on display in his bedroom. The rooms are also filled with gifts from prominent antislavery figures of Douglass’ time, including President Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Beecher Stow. The spaciousness and lavishness of Cedar Hill serve as a testament to Douglass’s lifelong journey from enslavement to freedom. His story is symbolic of the journeys of thousands of African Americans, a profoundly American story.

Plan your visit

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1411 W Street SE, in Washington, DC. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The site is open from April 16 through October 15 from 9:00am to 5:00pm and from October 16 through April 15 from 9:00am to 4:00pm. For more information, visit the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site website or call 202-426-5961.

Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is also featured in the National Park Service
Aboard the Underground Railroad: A National Register Travel Itinerary and the Washington, DC Travel Itinerary. The site has also been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Park Service’s Museum Management Program provides a virtual tour and virtual archive of the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site; the Museum Management Program also has two lesson plans on Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass' Hat and Forward March: Continuing Frederick Douglass' Footsteps.


George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri

“How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and the strong. Because someday in life you will have been all of these.”- George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver was one of the most prominent African American educators, innovators, scientists, and humanitarians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Over the course of his lifetime, Carver rose from slavery to become a renowned educator and research scientist. For over 40 years, he worked endlessly to find practical alternatives to improve the agricultural practices and thus the economic status of African Americans. George Washington Carver National Monument preserves Carver’s boyhood home and tells the stories of the place that most significantly shaped the personality and interests of this man who played an important role in the social and agricultural history of the United States. The Monument was both the nation’s first memorial to the achievement of an African American and the first such honor to an individual other than a president.

Around 1864, George Washington Carver was born a slave on the Moses and Susan Carver farm in Diamond, Missouri. At the site today, visitors can see an outline of the exact place of Carver’s birth. Moses and Susan Carver allegedly opposed slavery, but they acquired slaves because they needed help to work the land. Soon after his birth, Carver and his mother Mary got caught up in the turmoil of the last days of the Civil War and were kidnapped by outlaws and taken to Arkansas. Eventually, George was returned to the Carvers, but his mother was never seen again. When George returned to the farm, he had terrible whooping cough. Moses and Susan Carver relieved him of many of his daily chores and responsibilities on the farm, because he was an orphan with deteriorating health.

Freed from his chores, Carver had ample time to explore the farm and neighboring woods. His interest in the natural world blossomed, and he began to collect flowers and other specimens. Ailing flowers thrived under his care, which prompted many neighbors to bring their sickly plants to him. His abilities with plants eventually earned Carver the nickname “The Plant Doctor” in his community. While living on the Moses and Susan Carver farm, George Washington Carver learned to appreciate nature and self-sufficiency. About 1875, at the age of 10 or 11, Carver left the farm to further pursue his interests.

The values and interests in the natural world Carver developed during his early years on the Moses and Susan Carver farm profoundly influenced the rest of his life. Today, the “Carver Trail” preserves the historic setting of Carver’s boyhood years. Visitors to the Monument can follow the trail to enjoy some of the same sites, nature, and sounds that Carver experienced while exploring these woods as a boy.

Carver left the Moses and Susan Carver farm because he longed for an education and to understand nature’s mysteries seeking answers on his own and eventually attempting to enroll in school. Initially he could not get into school because of his race, so he tried his hand at homesteading in Kansas instead. Finally, Simpson College in Iowa accepted Carver as an art major in 1890; he was the only African American student at the school. Within a year, Carver’s desire “to be the greatest good to the greatest number of my people,” prompted him to switch schools and majors. Carver believed that he could be of great service to his people by enhancing his agricultural skills. In 1891, Carver became the first African American to enroll in Iowa State Agricultural College. He earned his Bachelor of Agriculture by 1894 and a Master of Agriculture in 1896.

In 1896, Booker T. Washington asked Carver to head the Agriculture Department at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Appointment to this position fit perfectly with Carver’s desire to help, positively influence, and teach many people. Carver’s dedication to hard work, discipline, and belief in one’s self to succeed in anything, were ideals echoed at Tuskegee Institute. Carver taught at Tuskegee for 47 years, making many discoveries during his time there.

While at Tuskegee, Carver committed himself to increasing African American farmers’ economic independences by continually researching different farming methods and Southern crops. Carver discovered more than 100 uses for the sweet potato and over 300 uses for the peanut. He found ways to transform peanuts into products such as ink, paper, soap, glue, dyes, massage oil, milk, cosmetics, and more. These and other products he invented from different crops contributed to African American farmers’ economic improvement by offering them alternative crops to cotton. Crops like soybeans and peanuts, as well as Carvers methods of soil enrichment, natural fertilizer use, and crop rotation were beneficial for the farmers and the farm land. By providing farmers with information on crops, cultivation methods, and recipes for using these crops in meals and other purposes, Carver taught valuable lessons about self-sufficiency and conservation.

At Tuskegee, Carver created a “movable school.” Named for Morris K. Jesup, the financial backer of the project, The Jesup Wagon brought agricultural information to many rural farmers who could not make it to the Tuskegee campus to gain such information. The Jesup Wagon had many forms: first as a horse-drawn vehicle and then as a motorized truck, it carried agricultural information to rural farmers, county fairs, and other community gatherings. Through this extension program, Carver’s concepts and instructions could reach, positively influence, and improve the lives of the greatest number of people.

At George Washington Carver National Monument, visitors can gain an understanding of the childhood, life, and career of this highly influential African American educator, researcher, and agriculturalist; visit the Carver Discovery Center; and explore the place that significantly influenced the course of Carver’s life. The Monument strives to capture the atmosphere in which Carver began his earliest scientific observations. Be sure to follow the “Carver Trail,” a one mile, self-guided loop trail that passes woodlands, streams, tall grass prairies, the Boy Carver statue, Williams Pond, the 1881 Moses Carver house, and the graves of Moses and Susan Carver.

Plan your visit

George Washington Carver National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at Carver Rd. in Diamond, MO. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service George Washington Carver National Monument website or call 417-325-4151.

George Washington Carver National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey. The Monument is also featured in the National Park Service’s Museum Management Program online exhibit, “Legends of Tuskegee.”

Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, North Carolina in the north to Jacksonville, Florida, in the south. The National Heritage Area includes roughly 80 barrier islands and continues inland to adjacent coastal counties, defining a region 30 miles inland throughout the United States Low Country. The Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor is home to the Gullah people in the Carolinas, and the Geechee in Georgia and Florida – cultural groups descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. The Gullah and Geechee share similar linguistic, artistic and societal traits that have remained relatively intact for several centuries due to the geographic isolation of the region. The cultures represent the many ways that Africans in the Americas maintained their homeland roots while simultaneously assimilating aspects of new cultures they encountered during and after enslavement.

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is managed by a federal commission made up of local representatives who collaborate with the National Park Service, Community Partners, grass root organizations and the State historic preservation offices of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Through research, education and interpretation, the corridor aims to preserve and raise awareness regarding the Gullah/Geechee, among America’s least-known and most unique cultures. Visitors to the southeastern coast of the country have the chance to experience Gullah/Geechee heritage through historic sites, local tours, traditional foods, cultural events, and art galleries.

Gullah/Geechee in the Southeastern United States

When the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution banned slavery in 1865, most of the African and American-born slaves along the southeastern coast remained in the region that had come to be their homes. Life on the barrier islands was quite isolated from that of the mainland and few outside visitors ever made contact with the newly freed communities. Because of this geographic isolation and a strong sense of cultural connection amongst the people, the African Americans who today self-identify as Gullah/Geechee retained their African heritage to a strong degree.

Most of the Gullah/Geechee still live in rural communities of low-level, vernacular buildings along the Low Country mainland coast and on the barrier islands. Towns once were often dotted with dirt roads and traversed by oxen, mules, and horses. The Gullah/Geechee are the speakers of the only African American Creole language that developed in the United States – one that combines elements of English and over 30 African dialects. Oral traditions, folklore, and storytelling are cultural traditions that have gone largely unchanged for generations. Religious ceremonies such as ring shouts, artisan crafts like sweet grass basket weaving, and culinary traditions such as “hoppin’ john” and sweet potato pone are all preserved as part of the lifeways of the Gullah/Geechee.

Recently life has changed for the Gullah/Geechee. The barrier islands were accessible only by boat until the building of the first bridges starting in the early 1950s. Since that time, many traditional Gullah/Geechee communities on the islands have been altered by cultural infiltration from mainlanders, or been lost entirely to real estate development. The advent of air-conditioning transformed the hot, humid islands into desirable ocean-side property, bringing outsiders into what was once solely Gullah or Geechee territory. Despite recent losses, the Gullah/Geechee people remain a testament to the power of human adaptability and cultural survival even in the face of outside pressures from the modern world.

Because of the nature of the Gullah/Geechee culture and its associated corridor, many aspects of the area’s heritage are intangible and cannot be experienced through a single site. Local institutions and organizations thus offer regional tours and assistance. Both The Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society in Georgia, and Gullah Tours out of Charleston, South Carolina provide boat tours that focus on Gullah/Geechee culture, language, music and storytelling. Carolina Food Pros also offers an extensive culinary tour of coastal South Carolina featuring traditional Lowland and Gullah cooking. Please call 843-723-3366 for scheduling.

South Carolina and Georgia

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor protects, bolsters, and showcases the traditional Gullah/Geechee culture that remains in the region, and its relation to the overall history of slavery, plantations, abolition and emancipation in the South. Several cultural and educational institutions interpret this heritage for visitors. Geechee Kunda is a museum and community education center in Riceboro, Georgia, which features exhibits, galleries, classes and events about Geechee culture, a gift shop, and a family research center. For more information, call 912-884-4440. The Avery Research Center for African American History and Culture in Charleston, South Carolina focuses on Gullah heritage in the Low Country as well as the wider theme of the African Diaspora in America. The center offers exhibits, public programming, tours, and an extensive archival collection. Call 843-953-7609 for upcoming events and information.

In addition to museums, visitors to the heritage corridor have the chance to experience the area through many federally recognized historic places. The National Park Service administers Cumberland Island National Seashore. Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest, southernmost barrier island, with four major historic districts and 87 structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The island is still home to Geechee descendants of slaves who worked the plantations there through the mid-1800s. Park interpretive services include guided ranger tours and a museum with exhibits on the history and culture of the area that is open on Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

Visitors interested in plantation history may also enjoy another unit of the National Park System: the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The site interprets one of the authors and signers of the United States Constitution. In addition to the farmhouse, which dates to around 1828, the site focuses on plantation life and agricultural history on the 28 preserved acres of the original 715 acre property. This includes regularly scheduled Gullah heritage celebrations and a Gullah film festival.

One of the most notable historic places to visit within the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is the Penn School Historic District on St. Helena Island in South Carolina. The site is a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The 47-acre area contains 18 historic buildings dating from the mid-1800s. Brick Church, the oldest building still standing, was constructed in 1855 by by slaves for early Baptist planters in St. Helena. It was later used as a church, community center and school for both black and white abolitionists during the Reconstruction Era and is one of the earliest schools for the newly freed slaves. Missionaries constructed the other buildings on the island when they came there to assist former Gullah slaves with their newfound freedom after their owners abandoned the island during the Civil War. In addition to the early school and missionary buildings, the district also includes Gantt Cottage where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Leadership Conference often met during the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Locals showcase the Penn School Historic District, or “Penn Center,” with pride and visitors are welcome to attend annual Gullah festivals and community events. The York W. Bailey Museum interprets the history and culture of the island and is open Monday through Saturday, from 11am to 4pm. More information is available on the Penn Center website.

Florida

Florida’s connection to the Gullah/Geechee culture and heritage corridor is rooted in the longest standing tradition of black freedom. Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose in Saint Augustine is not only located in the nation’s oldest city but also is recognized as the oldest sanctioned free black community in the United States. In the 17th century, Spanish control in the southern region was threatened with the establishment of English colonies in South Carolina. In 1687, Spanish officials reported the first runaways from the nearby English settlements. The Spanish crown, interested in maintaining control in the southeast, began to encourage runaways to abscond from English settlements and colonies. In 1693, an edict was issued granting freedom to all runaway slaves from English settlements. In 1738, Spanish authority issued a charter to create Fort Mose and as early as 1739, fugitive slaves inhabited Fort Mose.

Blacks agreed to help defend St. Augustine from outside European invasion in exchange for certain liberties. The protection served three primary functions: to maintain a social and strategic relationship with the Spanish, to maintain the Spanish foothold in St. Augustine, and to advance Blacks within Spanish society. The Spanish provided food until the first crops were harvested, a priest for religious instruction, and established a military unit. In time, Fort Mose was considered the first line of defense for Saint Augustine.

Today, Fort Mose is a national historic landmark. Visitors enjoy both the ecological treasures and historical past of Fort Mose. The museum and interpretive center is open on Thursday to Monday from 9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. On the last Saturday of each month, living history re-enactors provide visitors with a glimpse of the past. For more information, please contact the Fort Mose Park Office at 904-823-2232 or visit the park website.

North Carolina

Self-taught and visionary artist Minnie Evans was born and raised in Pender and New Hanover Counties, the northenmost points of the Gullah-Geechee corridor. The Cameron Art Museum of Wilmington, N.C. houses the the Minnie Evans Study Center, a central repository for archival material regarding the life of Minnie Evans. In addition, the lands around the Cameron Art Museum once witnessed the Civil War Battle of Forks Road, in which U.S. Colored Troops played a critical role.

In Winnabow, N.C., the St. Philips Church at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson occupies land once cultivated by enslaved workers in the long leaf pine-based naval stores industry and on Lower Cape Fear River rice plantations. This land also witnessed the liberation of former slaves as it served as a camp for black refugees in 1865. Another site, St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church, of Wilmington, N.C. represents the fortitude and innovation of African Americans in the northern section of the Gullah-Geechee Corridor. The church sits on Campbell Square, on land designated for "the Negro population of New Hanover County," since 1845. In May of 1865, not even one month after the close of the Civil War, "642 Negroes joined the African Church," under the leadership of Rev. W. H. Hunter, an African American chaplain with the Union Army. In 1866, the Wilmington Board of Alderman passed an ordinance re-dedicating Campbell Squere to the use of "colored people," specifying that four churches and a school should occupy the land. St. Stephen is one of those churches.

Plan your visit

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a National Heritage Area and unit of the National Park System, stretches from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL. The corridor includes coastal lands and offshore barrier islands in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida that all are connected by Interstate 95, which runs through, or near much of the heritage corridor. For additional information, visit the National Park Service Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website or call 843-881-5516. Directions and a map can be found on the National Park Service website. For additional information, visit the National Park Service Cumberland Island National Seashore and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site websites.

Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file on the Penn School Historic District: text and photos and here for its National Historic Landmark Designation. Reservations for tours of the island can be made by calling 843-838-2432.

Rice plantation farming and slavery in Lowland South Carolina are the subjects of an online lesson plan, When Rice Was King. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage.


Hampton National Historic Site, Maryland

Standing on a hill overlooking terraced gardens, exotic trees, and green lawns, Hampton National Historic Site invites visitors to explore what life was like on the Hampton estate beginning in the late 18th century. Captain Charles Ridgely directed the construction of his Georgian style mansion between 1783 and 1790. In 1790, the house was the largest in the United States. Captain Ridgely and many of Hampton’s later masters used the vast grounds of the Hampton estate to amass great earnings and wealth. At its peak, Hampton had 25,000 acres with ironworks, grain crops, beef cattle, thoroughbred horses, coal mining, marble quarries, mills, and other mercantile interests.

The running of such a vast estate required an enormous amount of labor. For a brief time, Hampton’s masters used indentured servants from Europe. Eventually though, many of Hampton’s masters relied upon enslaved African Americans to ensure that the plantation ran smoothly. While very little evidence exists about the daily lives of enslaved African Americans on the estate, the preserved slave quarters and some of the other artifacts from the estate collectively help to provide a brief glimpse into the lives of those who lived and worked at Hampton.

Six Ridgely masters presided over Hampton estate, each using the mansion and the grounds in different ways. Three of the six masters owned slaves who worked to sustain their upper class lifestyle. Captain Charles Ridgely, “The Builder,” established ironworks on the land near Hampton by 1762. At the time, iron was one of the most profitable exports of the mid-Atlantic colonies. In addition to his ironworks, Captain Ridgely owned a fleet of merchant ships, mills, quarries, orchards, and a general merchandising business in downtown Baltimore. An entrepreneur, Captain Ridgely provided iron implements, arms, and ammunition to the patriots during the Revolutionary War. Having retired from a seafaring life, Ridgely developed these many businesses and the Hampton estate and mansion. The mansion’s large, lavish, extravagant rooms, which visitors can still see today on a guided house tour, are symbolic of the power, influence, and wealth Ridgely acquired during his lifetime.

Hampton Mansion is considered one of the finest examples of late Georgian style architecture in America. The mansion’s design was likely conceived through collaboration between Captain Ridgely and Jehu Howell, a local carpenter and highly skilled builder. Howell used local stone and stucco to construct this classically symmetrical Georgian mansion; the three story building, with its wide porticos, is connected to two smaller two-story wings on either side via hallways. It is believed that Ridgely paid Howell nearly 3,500 British pounds and 68 quarts of rum for his work.

Following the childless Captain, Charles Ridgely Carnan inherited the largest part of Hampton’s land and business, under the condition that he take Ridgely as his surname. Like his uncle, Charles Ridgely Carnan was an astute businessman who worked to make Hampton estate a grand showplace. Charles Ridgely became governor of Maryland. Upon his death in 1829, Governor Ridgely owned at least 339 enslaved African Americans. In his will, he freed his slaves upon his death but imposed many specific stipulations dictating their freedom, including variables such as age and sex.

As the third master of Hampton, John Ridgely inherited the estate with only a small remaining enslaved population. He purchased about 77 slaves to work around the estate. John Ridgely and his wife Elize Ridgely were the last slave owners at Hampton. Noteworthy for the time, money, and attention they devoted to the gardens, they enhanced the landscape by bringing in exotic trees and designing terraced gardens. Visitors can take self-guided tours of John and Elize Ridgely’s planned landscape on the grounds of the estate.

Between 1790 and 1830, the Ridgelys of Hampton owned one of Maryland’s largest enslaved African American populations. Slaves labored as field hands, cobblers, woodcutters, millers, ironworkers, blacksmiths, gardeners, and jockeys, and worked in the mansion as cooks, servers, cleaners, and childcare providers. Since the Ridgelys were so involved in industrial pursuits, the slaves on the estate had many industry related responsibilities different from slaves on agricultural plantations.

While limited evidence remains to interpret the lives of enslaved African Americans at Hampton, artifacts reveal some information about their lives. At Hampton, slaves had access to medical care, but they also endured beatings. The Ridgelys provided the slaves with clothing including, aprons, trousers, dresses, hand-tailored shoes, hats, shawls, and jackets. The Ridgelys seemingly cared about save families as demonstrated by slave lists identifying individuals by familial relation and by the many slave houses that extended over a quarter of a mile eastward from the mansion. Three of the slave quarters still remain; two are two-story stone houses, the other a log cabin. These quarters appear to have been designed for double family use and not as dormitories, although no hard evidence exists to support this finding. Visitors may explore the quarters with their exhibits and furnishings.

After the end of the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the remaining masters, Charles Ridgely, John Ridgely, and John Ridgely Jr., could no longer rely on slaves to ensure that the plantation ran smoothly. Hampton began to decline, even as its masters sought to maintain the aristocratic traditions that had become synonymous with the estate. The Sixth Master, John Ridgely Jr., sold the estate to a Mellon family trust, which donated it to the Federal Government. This ensured the preservation and interpretation of the mansion, 60 acres, and the historical narratives associated with the estate. Today, visitors to Hampton National Historic Site can take a guided tour to see the mansion with its high 13-foot ceilings and different Ridgely masters’ furnishings including oil paintings by American artists, large gilded mirrors, and a variety of imported furniture. The public can experience what it was like to live in a grand Georgian style mansion on a vast estate from the late 18th until the early 20th centuries, and learn about what life was like for the Ridgely family and the slaves and indentured servants who were essential to the running of the plantation.

Plan your visit

Hampton National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located just north of Baltimore, at 535 Hampton Lane in
Towson, MD. The park is open daily from 9:00am to 4:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Hampton National Historic Site website or call 410-823-1309.

Several buildings that are part of the Hampton National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and it also appears in the National Park Service’s Baltimore Travel Itinerary.


Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, West Virginia and Maryland

Located at the confluence of the Shenandoah and Potomac Rivers, the quaint village of Harpers Ferry, West Virginia was the site of crucial events in American history. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park helps preserve and interprets the historic town where pioneers, inventors, soldiers, townspeople, teachers, and civil rights leaders made their mark in this special place nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

In 1747, Robert Harper, a millwright and builder enroute from Philadelphia to the Shenandoah Valley, crossed the Potomac River at a place called “The Hole.” Because of its location at the confluence of two major rivers, Harper immediately recognized the commercial, industrial, and transportation potential of this area and by 1751 purchased 125 acres from land baron Lord Fairfax. In the years that followed, Harper operated a ferry and erected a water-powered gristmill on the Shenandoah River. In 1763, the Virginia General Assembly established the town of “Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper’s Ferry.” In 1775, Harper started construction on a new home, which he did not live long enough to occupy, but his house still stands today and is the oldest surviving building in the Lower Town.

In 1785, President George Washington selected Harpers Ferry as the site for the United States Armory and Arsenal. The potential waterpower of the two rivers impressed Washington, who felt that Harpers Ferry’s remote location would protect the armory from foreign invasion. The Federal Government purchased about 118 acres of land from John Wager, Sr. whose wife had inherited the property from Robert Harper. By 1798, construction began on the factory, dam, and a waterpower canal on the Potomac, followed by workshops, a barracks for armory workers, and a large brick building for storing the finished arms (the arsenal). In 1802, a substantial weapons production began, and the arsenal grew in the ensuing decades to include 20 workshops, two arsenal buildings, and 86 dwellings.

At the armory from 1819 until 1840, John H. Hall, a New England gun maker, pioneered mechanized arms production and interchangeable gunparts. At the time, skilled artisans made specific parts for individual weapons, which was time consuming and made the weapons difficult to repair. Hall revolutionized production methods, enabling the armory to manufacture more than 600,000 firearms from 1801 through 1860. In 1803, even Meriwether Lewis stocked up on weapons from the armory at Harpers Ferry before his transcontinental expedition. While much of the armory and arsenal were destroyed during the Civil War and later by flooding, visitors to the park can walk the grounds at Arsenal Square and near the train station where this important complex once stood.

For one man, the armory was the ideal place to take a stand against slavery in the United States. At the age of 59, abolitionist John Brown led an armed attack on the town of Harpers Ferry and the US Armory. Brown was very religious and had been a long time participant in anti-slavery campaigns. By the late 1850s, Brown conceived a plan to liberate slaves by starting a revolution. He hoped to arm the slaves and lead them against US forces in a rebellion to end slavery. Brown chose Harpers Ferry because of the 100,000 weapons stored at the US Armory and because here he would have access to slaves in the South, the mountains of Virginia as a stronghold, and the Free State of Pennsylvania for escape routes north.

Brown prepared for his raid all summer on the nearby Kennedy Farm. Ready to fight, Brown launched the raid on Sunday evening, October 16, 1859. His 21-man "army of liberation" seized the armory and several other strategic locations. On the morning of October 18, US Marines stormed the armory fire engine house with Brown and his men inside and captured Brown. Only 36 hours after the raid began, most of Brown’s men had been killed or wounded. Visitors can view the engine house, now known as John Brown’s Fort, and contemplate his raid and the legacy of the nation’s struggle with slavery.

After his capture, Brown was tried for treason and conspiring with slaves to rebel and commit murder, found guilty, and hanged in Charles Town, West Virginia on December 2, 1859. While Brown’s raid was short lived, it drew the nation’s attention to Harpers Ferry and to the issue of the morality of slavery in the United States. In his last words right before death, Brown predicted that civil war was looming, a prediction that came true less than two years later.

By 1861, Harpers Ferry found itself on the boundary between the Union and Confederate forces, which both viewed Harpers Ferry as strategically significant. During the Civil War, Harpers Ferry faced major destruction and changed hands between the North and the South no less than eight times. While visiting the park, visitors can walk around Maryland Heights and Bolivar Heights Battlefield, sites of major activity during the Civil War. Visitors can also walk around Camp Hill, the location of several armory residences used by both the Union and Confederate forces. At times during the war, runaway slaves, or “contraband,” sought refuge in Harpers Ferry. At the end of the war, with the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution and the establishment of the Freedman’s Bureau, Harpers Ferry and the buildings on Camp Hill would again play a significant role in the lives of African Americans.

Following the Civil War, the Reverend Dr. Nathan Cook Brackett, representing the US Freedmen’s Bureau, established a primary school in the Lockwood House on Camp Hill for 19 recently freed black children. In 1867, New England Freewill Baptists missionaries acquired several vacant buildings on Camp Hill and established the “Storer Normal School.” Philanthropist John Storer of Sanford, Maine offered $10,000 to establish a freedman’s school in the Harpers Ferry area with the condition that the school match this donation within a year and admit students regardless of sex, race or religion. By 1869, the Federal Government transferred Lockwood House and three other armory residences on Camp Hill to the school’s trustees, and West Virginia granted the charter establishing Storer College. For 25 years, Storer College was the only school in West Virginia that offered African Americans an education beyond the primary level.

Famous abolitionist and civil rights advocate Frederick Douglass served as one of the Storer College trustees, because he realized the school’s importance. During the 14th anniversary of the college at the dedication of Anthony Hall, Douglass gave a memorable speech on the subject of John Brown’s raid saying, “Did John Brown draw his sword against slavery and thereby lose his life in vain? And to this I answer ten thousand times, No! No man fails, or can fail, who so grandly gives himself and all he has to a righteous cause…”

Other civil rights advocates used Storer College as a place to discuss and combat the injustices against free African Americans. By the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century, African Americans faced restrictions imposed by Jim Crow laws that made segregation legal. To combat these injustices, W.E.B. Du Bois and other leading civil rights advocates created the Niagara Movement and held their second conference (and first public meeting) at Storer College in 1906. The meeting, which welcomed women, included a pilgrimage to John Brown’s Fort, speeches, meetings, special addresses, and commemorative ceremonies. Visitors can learn more about Storer College and the Niagara Movement at the museum in Lower Town, by taking a guided tour of the campus, or by viewing the Storer College Room in the college’s main building, now the Mather Training Center.

The Niagara Movement laid the foundation for the modern Civil Rights Movement, and while it dissolved in 1911, most of its members formed the backbone for the newly organized National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). The NAACP would go on to bring the significant Brown v. Board of Education case to the Supreme Court in 1954. This landmark case ended school segregation by declaring it unconstitutional. This ruling ended Federal and State funding of Storer College, and when the financial burdens became too heavy, Storer College closed its doors in 1955.

Plan your visit

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in Harpers Ferry, WV. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park is open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm every day of the year except Thanksgiving Day, December 25th, and January 1st. For more information, visit the National Park Service Harpers Ferry National Historical Park website or call 304-535-6298.

Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Lewis and Clark Expedition and Aboard the Underground Railroad Travel Itineraries.

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, Maryland

Situated between the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean, Maryland’s Eastern Shore features a rich landscape containing a patchwork of woodlands, streams, swamps, agricultural fields, and open water. Somewhat isolated from the rest of the state, the region’s interface of flat terrain and crisscrossing waterways has influenced the development of distinctive economic practices and cultural traditions among its residents. To match its visual resplendence, the Eastern Shore houses a wealth of history. Particularly significant is the region’s Dorchester County area, birthplace of notorious abolitionist and civil rights advocate, Harriet Tubman.

Today considered a national hero, Tubman is best known for her role in assisting countless enslaved African Americans escape to freedom as a leading “conductor” of the Underground Railroad – a secret network of northward-leading routes and safe houses. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument memorializes this legacy not through physical structures, but by instead preserving approximately 25,000 acres of federal, state, and private land in Tubman’s native Dorchester County, Maryland.

Born Araminta Ross to enslaved parents in 1822, the future humanitarian grew up living in slavery on a plantation in the Dorchester County area.  At the age of 13, young “Minty” suffered a severe injury from a blow to the head with a two-pound weight following her refusal to assist an overseer in the restraint of a runaway slave. The physical repercussions of this injury affected Tubman for the rest of her life. While still a slave, Araminta adopted the name “Harriet” at the time of her marriage to John Tubman, a free black man, around the year 1844. Tubman and her husband continued to live and work in Dorchester County for several years until her escape from slavery in 1849, at the age of 27.  Ultimately settling in Auburn, New York, Tubman returned to the Dorchester area a total of 13 times over the following decade to guide her family members and dozens of other fugitive slaves north to freedom.

Throughout the Civil War, Tubman contributed to the Union cause in a multitude of roles, serving at various times as a cook, nurse, scout, and even spy. After the war’s end, Harriet focused her efforts on the women’s rights movement, working alongside such prominent activists as Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott to promote women’s suffrage. In the later years of her life, Tubman continued to care for African Americans in need through the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aged in 1908.  Five years later, she died of pneumonia on March 10, 1913. 

Although she lived out her final decades in New York, the dense marshes and green woodlands of Maryland’s Eastern Shore are where Harriet Tubman first grew spiritually and physically strong. The area’s vibrant scenery offers a compelling backdrop evoking the narrative of Tubman’s early life, escape from enslavement, and experience as conductor for the Underground Railroad. Spending her formative years working in the fields, woodlands, and waterways of Dorchester County, Tubman acquired the survival skills necessary for her success guiding freedom-seeking slaves northwards and, later, as a Union scout and spy. 

Within the bounds of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument lie two other significant Underground Railroad sites. Located near the area’s western edge, Stewart’s Canal – built by slaves as a trade route opened in the 1830s – opened up some of Dorchester’s more remote territory to the Chesapeake Bay, helping the enslaved population connect with the northern route to freedom.  Near the canal is the home site of Jacob Jackson, a free black man who assisted Tubman in her efforts to guide runaway slaves northward.  Using his home as one of the first Underground Railroad safe houses, Jackson aided Tubman in communicating secretly with her family that she would return to Dorchester and guide her three enslaved brothers to freedom.

For visitors, the monument offers a unique experience in which they must rely on the terrain – rather than physical structures – to relay the narrative of Harriet Tubman’s life in Dorchester. With a landscape relatively unchanged from Tubman’s time, visitors to the monument are invited to explore the site’s natural features and experience the interface of fields, marshlands, and waterways in much the same way as Harriet Tubman and other northward travelers of the period. 

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument is a park in progress.  Currently, the monument contains no planned park facilities and offers limited visitor services. Working in cooperation with Maryland’s planned Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park, the National Park Service aims to place additional services within the park in coming years.

Plan your visit

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located about 12 miles south of Cambridge, Maryland. For directions, visitors may use the address for partner site Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge 2145 Key Wallace Drive, Cambridge, Maryland, 21613. For more information, visit the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad website or call 267-838-2376. The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center is open Monday-Friday, 8:00am to 4:00pm, Saturday-Sunday, 9:00am to 5:00pm, and is closed on the Thanksgiving holiday and Christmas Day.  There are no fees for admission to the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument, however some of the monument's partner sites may charge fees.

The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument is associated with the planned Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park in Maryland and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge run by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service.  Prior to the monument’s designation, the National Park Service conducted a Special Resource Study on the Dorchester County land and other areas associated with Tubman’s life. Harriet Tubman is also featured in the National Park Service Aboard the Underground Railroad: A National Register Travel Itinerary.


Independence National Historical Park, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia has a rich, diverse history. Before Englishman William Penn founded the city in 1682, the Finns, the Dutch and the Swedes had previously colonized the area. All Europeans traded with the native peoples who resided in the Delaware River Valley. United by their common language and subjugation to the British Crown, the English, Scots, Irish and Welsh recognized one another’s cultural differences as well as their commonalities when they mingled here. Penn promoted his colony heavily in the Rhineland, today part of Germany. Germans became a significant component of Pennsylvania’s population. By 1776 when members of the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence in the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall), Philadelphia had a bustling port second only in size to Liverpool. Trade, opportunities for land ownership, and Penn’s founding principle of religious toleration all attracted an exceptionally diverse society. Independence National Historical Park, enabled by Congress to commemorate the creation of the United States of America and the establishment of modern, democratic government, rests on a long tradition of cultural diversity. The park and its associated sites offer many opportunities to view the past through the lenses of ethnicity and race.

In demonstration of the religious tolerance granted by William Penn in his Charter of Privilege, Independence National Historical Park’s borders were drawn to align with historic churches of several denominations. Small buffers of park land abut Old St. Joseph’s and St. Mary’s Catholic Churches, Christ Church (Protestant Episcopal), and St. George’s Methodist Church. The original cemetery of Mikveh Israel Synagogue and the Free Quaker Meeting House are within park boundaries. Independence preserves and interprets the home of Bishop William White, the first consecrated Bishop of the Protestant Episcopal Church in America and Chaplain of the Continental Congress. Close by is the restored home of the Quaker Todd family, whose lives were greatly changed by a yellow fever epidemic in 1793. White ordained Absalom Jones, the first rector of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas. James Dexter held founding meetings for Jones’ church in his home. The site is now marked on North Fifth Street in the park.

Gloria Dei or Old Swedes Church is a National Historic Site that recalls the era of Swedish colonization. Consecrated in 1700 for a Lutheran congregation, by the mid-eighteenth century, Sweden ended its mission and an Episcopal congregation occupied it. Gloria Dei is included in this travel itinerary as a separate site. Click here for more information.

At Third and Pine Streets, the Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial commemorates the temporary residence of the Polish hero who fought for American independence and for his own country’s freedom. Serfdom still flourished in Poland making Kosciuszko particularly sensitive to slavery in America. He wrote a will that provided opportunities for freed blacks. In Independence Hall, visitors can see the room where Pennsylvania’s colonial Assembly passed the Gradual Abolition Act in 1780 by which an enslaved woman’s child was born free but remained indentured for 28 years. The United States Constitution, framed in this same room in 1787, is a model for democratic governments throughout the world. However, the document excluded women from the franchise and perpetuated slavery, paving the way to America’s Civil War seventy-four years later and its long legacy of racism.

In Congress Hall, delegates ratified the Bill of Rights in 1791. Despite this achievement, Congress repeatedly denied petitions from Free African organizations to abolish slavery and end the trade in human chattel.

When the Federal Government located in Philadelphia in 1790 for ten years while the nation’s new, permanent capital was under construction, President Washington brought some of his slaves from Mount Vernon. Dwelling in the executive mansion on Market Street, those slaves moved freely throughout the city interacting with the growing free black community. They may have visited today’s Washington Square where enslaved and free blacks congregated at night. Washington hired entrepreneur Richard Allen, a founder of the Free African Society and Mother Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, to sweep his residence’s chimneys. Several slaves accompanied the president’s family to their summer retreat (now part of Independence) in Germantown. Washington signed the Fugitive Slave Act in the executive mansion in 1793 making it a federal crime to aid a slave’s escape and denying captured slaves legal defense or a jury trial. Despite this law, the anti-slavery movement flourished here. One of Washington’s slaves, Oney Judge, credited the free black community’s assistance in her escape to freedom from the house in 1796. The story of the contradiction between freedom and slavery is told in Independence’s newest exhibit, The President’s House, on the site of the executive mansion.

The Second Bank of the United States Portrait Gallery displays the largest single collection of life portraits of founders of American government, officers of the American Revolution and the War of 1812, and leaders of the new Republic. The collection includes French, German, and Polish heroes such as Lafayette, von Steuben, and Pulaski who aided America’s cause. Mohawk war chief Joseph Brandt was a British captain during the Revolution, but later traded with the Americans. Delegations of native peoples often came to Philadelphia for diplomatic purposes.

In the 1790s, refugees from the French and Haitian revolutions brought French thought and culture to Philadelphia. The product of a French education, Benjamin Franklin’s grandson, Benjamin Franklin Bache, ardently supported Jeffersonian politics. He belonged to a Democratic Republican Society, a watchdog group modeled after French Jacobin clubs, and may have hosted meetings in his Aurora newspaper office in Franklin Court. Visitors can see this refurnished office and learn how the Adams administration prosecuted Bache under the Alien and Sedition Acts.

A diverse society requires tolerance of ideas. Since the early 19th century, Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell have become symbols of liberty, freedom, and human rights. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Martin Luther King, Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Nelson Mandela have voiced their convictions in front of these icons. Every week visitors observe people exercising their First Amendment rights by publicly advocating their causes. Visitors can witness democracy in action and remember that not only ethnic and racial diversity, but also a diversity of points-of-view make a strong society.

Plan your visit

Independence National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located throughout 26 public buildings and many outdoor exhibits and gardens throughout Philadelphia, PA. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The former Pennsylvania State House, now Independence Hall, is listed on the World Heritage List. Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell are open all year, 7 days per week except December 25. Access to other buildings within the park varies seasonally.  The Independence Visitor Center at Sixth and Market Sts. offers orientation and information on daily building hours and programs.  All park buildings and activities are free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Independence National Historical Park website or call 215-965-2305. From March through December, tickets are required for admission to Independence Hall. Visitors may reserve free tickets in advance on the web at www.recreation.gov, by telephone at 1-888-444-6777 or 1-518-885-3639. There is a nominal fee for the reservation.

The Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial is located at Third and Pine Sts. in Philadelphia.  For hours of operation, special programs and directions for arriving by car or public transportation, please call 215-597-7130 or visit the National Park Service Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial website.  An orientation film and special interpretation of Kosciuszko’s refurnished bed chamber are available in English or Polish.

Independence National Historical Park is the subject of two online lesson plans, Independence Hall: International Symbol of Freedom and The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page. For teachers, the Independence Park Institute offers distance learning, on-site classes and trip planning for grades K-12.  Specific information is on the “For Teachers” section of www.nps.gov/inde.  Free, downloadable teacher’s guides are on this site including pre and post visit lessons.  The popular Hedgehog’s Herald is also available as a teaching resource on the American Revolution.  The Institute also offers accredited workshops for teachers during the summer.  For further information, please call 215-597-2760.   


Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve protects a rich array of natural and cultural resources in the historically diverse Louisiana Mississippi River Delta. The region, first settled 2,500 years ago, has become a fascinating melting pot of ethnicities, nationalities, traditions and cultures. Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve highlights the area at its Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, the Barataria Preserve in Marrero, Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery in Chalmette, and the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans. Together they tell a complex story of the diverse peoples who played a role in the region’s history and development.

Pre-Contact: Evidence of Louisiana’s American Indian Past

Nearly 2,500 years ago, Chitimacha, Houma, and other American Indian tribes populated the Mississippi Delta. These peoples had broad-based economies, permanent settlements, and seasonal camps that utilized the full range of environments and resources of the diverse and fertile region. Today visitors can find evidence of their life ways throughout the Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Preserve. In the Barataria Preserve, for example, the “Bayou Coquille Trail” starts at the site of a pre-contact American Indian village and continues for .5 miles through undisturbed wilderness. Throughout the Barataria Preserve middens, mounds, and shell beaches date to this early period of tribal habitation. The middens contain remnant piles of ancient meals that often include discarded shells and bones. Burial mounds and foundation mounds (used to elevate housing structures above flood level) are also interpreted features of sites.

European Contact: A Melting Pot of Cultures

By the late 17th century, Europeans began to explore and settle the area. The new arrivals and their enslaved African servants changed the delta landscape with the insertion of plantation fields, artificial levees, logging canals, trappers’ ditches and an array of new building styles. By 1699, France declared this region the Louisiana colony. This powerful, new European presence had a great impact on the area’s religion, art, music, food, law, architecture, and language. In 1718, the French established New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Nouvelle Orleans was laid out in a neat grid, which is still reflected in the current city. Today the main downtown core is filled with a vast array of historic buildings reflecting a variety of cultural influences.

Visitors can experience this best by walking through the Vieux Carré (or French Quarter.) The 66-block neighborhood is among the oldest protected historic districts in the nation and French, Spanish and American architectural styles are all represented along its streets. At the heart of the district is St. Louis Cathedral, the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Grand Spanish colonial public buildings flank the cathedral and have since housed French, Spanish, and American government offices. Visitors can follow the New Orleans Visitor and Convention Bureau’s self-guided walking tour and stop in the National Park Service’s French Quarter Visitor Center to learn more about the cultural heritage of the French Quarter.

Beyond the establishment of New Orleans, proper, other peoples settled along the bayous and wetlands of the Louisiana Mississippi Delta and adapted to water-based lifestyles. They pioneered new ways to live off the natural bounty by fishing, hunting, and trapping in the rich swamps, marshes, and coastal waters. Their life ways and traditions eventually expanded further westward onto the prairies of Southwest Louisiana where the land was well suited to raising cattle and farming rice and other cash crops.

Acadians, for example, began filtering into the region as early as the 1750’s. These settlers originated from French Acadie (today Canadian Nova Scotia). When the British took control of the Acadie colony in the early 1700’s, many Acadians were not cooperative British subjects, preferring to maintain their independence and freedom. By 1755, the British government began dispersing their disloyal Acadian subjects to other colonies along the East Coast, the Caribbean, Britain, and France. Many of these people eventually found themselves in southern Louisiana where they began settling the rural areas. By 1800, nearly 4,000 Acadians were in Louisiana. Their unique traditions, styles, foods and music are largely cited as the early beginnings of the “Cajun” culture Louisiana is famous for today.

Visitors to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve can explore the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette , the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux to learn about the Acadian or “Cajun” culture of Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta region.

Like “Cajun,” the term “Creole” is a popular name used to describe cultures in the southern Louisiana area. “Creole” can be roughly defined as “native to a region,” but its precise meaning varies according to the geographic area in which it is used. Generally, however, Creoles felt the need to distinguish themselves from the influx of American and European immigrants coming into the area after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. “Creole” is still used to describe the heritage and customs of the various people who settled Louisiana during early, French colonial times. In addition to the French Canadians, the amalgamated Creole culture in southern Louisiana includes influences from the Chitimacha, Houma, and other native tribes, enslaved West Africans, Spanish-speaking Islenos (Canary Islanders), and French-speaking free people of color from the Caribbean.

Despite the cultural diversity burgeoning in the region, the people of Louisiana found a common cause at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. Under General Andrew Jackson, they joined in driving back the British in the last battle of the War of 1812. This victory secured the Louisiana Territory for the United States, promoted westward expansion, and encouraged national pride. Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery commemorates this battle and is the final resting place of over 15,000 troops from the War of 1812 through the Vietnam War.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is as diverse as the land, history, and culture in the Mississippi Delta region. Visit this Park and Preserve to experience hundreds of years of American history in a unique setting unlike any other in the United States.

Plan your visit

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, is located in southern Louisiana.  Click the following links for the National Register of Historic Places files for: Barataria Unit: text and photos; Chalmette Unit: text and photos; Vieux Carre Historic District: text and photos

The Park and Preserve has six units including, Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, the Barataria Preserve, in Marrero, Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery in Chalmette, and the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans.  Please click here for the detailed hours of operation for each center.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve website or call 504-589-3882.


Lincoln Memorial National Memorial,
District of Columbia

Designed after the temples of ancient Greece, Lincoln Memorial National Memorial honors the 16th president of the United States of America. Standing at the west end of the National Mall, this neoclassical monument is a powerful and moving tribute to the legacy of Abraham Lincoln: his high ideals, his belief in the freedom and dignity of people, and his love of the Union he worked so hard to save. Lincoln Memorial National Memorial not only honors Lincoln, but its design and its use by Americans over the years have made it a symbol of America’s democratic principles and beliefs. It is fitting that the memorial has been the site of some of the nation's most stirring civil rights demonstrations and events.

Lincoln, long viewed by the American people as a symbol of honesty, integrity, and humanity, died from an assassin’s bullet in April 1865. While the nation did not build a national monument to commemorate Lincoln until the 20th century, Americans began expressing their desire for an appropriate memorial soon after his death. By 1867, two groups were making plans to commemorate his memory in the nation’s capital. One group, led by a black woman born into slavery, began to collect money to honor the author of the Emancipation Proclamation. In 1867, Congress incorporated the Lincoln Monument Association to construct a memorial; however, it was not until 1911, with the creation of a new Lincoln Memorial Commission, that work proceeded to determine a location and design for the monument. The Senate Park Commission, also known as the McMillan Commission, chose West Potomac Park as the location for the memorial. Congress approved a design by New York architect Henry Bacon. Construction of the

Henry Bacon designed the memorial after the Greek Temple known as the Parthenon with the idea that a memorial to the man who defended democracy should be modeled after a structure from the birthplace of democracy. As visitors approach the memorial--which is 190 feet long, 119 feet wide, almost 100 feet high, and constructed of granite, marble, and limestone--they face 98 granite and marble stairs that lead directly inside the memorial to the Lincoln statue. Climb the steps, they first see the 36 Doric columns around the memorial chamber that represent the States in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Rows of Ionic columns divide the interior of the memorial into three chambers.

The north and south side chambers contain carved inscriptions of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address and his Gettysburg Address. Jules Guerin painted the two large murals placed above these inscriptions. The murals portray principles that guided Lincoln throughout his life including Freedom, Liberty, Justice, the Law, Unity, Fraternity, and Charity.

Between the north and south chambers of the memorial is the grand central hall that contains the Lincoln statue, which Daniel Chester French designed and the Piccirilli Brothers carved. The statue stands 19 feet tall and 19 feet wide. Lincoln is in a seated position and appears lost in thought and contemplation with one hand clenched and the other more relaxed. The statue's design captures Lincoln's determination, compassion, and thoughtfulness.

Lincoln Memorial Commission president, William Howard Taft, presented the finished memorial to President Warren G. Harding, who accepted the memorial for the American people on May 30, 1922. Robert Todd Lincoln, Lincoln’s only surviving son, was present at the dedication. Dr. Robert Moton, president of Tuskegee Institute, gave the keynote address. While speaking to a largely segregated audience, Dr. Moton promoted equality among the races.

Since that time, millions of people have visited the Lincoln Memorial for a variety of different reasons. Some come on a school trip or a family vacation, while others are drawn to the memorial for its symbolic representation of peace, strength, and democratic principles. Highly significant Civil Rights events of the 20th Century took place at the Lincoln Memorial.

In 1939, after being denied the opportunity to sing in Constitution Hall because of her race, the great African American contralto Marian Anderson sang to a crowd of 75,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial. With this event, the free Easter Sunday Concert of 1939, the Lincoln Memorial became not only a place to remember and honor an important president, but also a place to represent the struggle to extend freedom and equality to every American citizen.

On August 28, 1963, the Lincoln Memorial would once again hold center stage in the struggle for equality in the United States. On this day, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King, along with 200,000 other people (50,000 of whom were white), assembled at the memorial for the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The 200,000 who gathered there represented a broad diverse mix of Americans. People of every occupation and religion were present along with celebrities such as Marlon Brando, Bob Dylan, and others who performed. The crowd listened to performances by Mahalia Jackson, Marian Anderson, and Odetta. The grand finale of the day, Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, left the American people with the true spirit of the Civil Rights Movement.

The Lincoln Memorial has been the site of many large public gatherings and protests. For millions of people, Americans and others, the Lincoln Memorial is an inspiring and enduring symbol of freedom.

The French Quarter Unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is the subject of an online lesson plan, Vieux Carré: A Creole Neighborhood in New Orleans. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.  Two examples of French and Creole architecture in the Vieux Carré have been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey, the Fouche House and Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation

Plan your visit

Lincoln Memorial National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, stands in the center of Lincoln Memorial Circle, where 23rd St. NW meets Constitution and Independence Aves. in West Potomac Park in Washington, DC. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Lincoln Memorial is open to the public 24 hours a day. Rangers are on duty to answer questions from 9:30am to 11:30pm daily. For more information, visit the National Park Service Lincoln Memorial National Memorial website or call 202-426-6841.

The Lincoln Memorial has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey. It is also featured in the National Park Service's Washington, DC Travel Itinerary, the American Presidents Travel Itinerary, and the We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement Travel Itinerary.

The Lincoln statue of the Lincoln Memorial is discussed in the online lesson plan,
Chesterwood: The Workshop of an American Sculptor, which is produced by the National Park Service Teaching with Historic Places program. Other TwHP lesson plans that relate to Abraham Lincoln include, Choices and Commitments: The Soldiers at Gettysburg, Lincoln Boyhood National Memorial: Forging Greatness during Lincoln's Youth, and Lincoln Home National Historic Site: A Place of Growth and Memory.


Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site, Arkansas

Little Rock Central High School is a powerful reminder of racial segregation in the United States and of the courage required to integrate the nation's public schools. Completed in 1927, the school is a typical Gothic Revival style building, though its role in history is anything but typical. Today, visitors can tour a key site in the struggle for racial equality to learn about the “Little Rock Nine” and the extraordinary story of what it took to integrate Little Rock Central High School and desegregate public education in the United States.

Although Reconstruction-era amendments to the United States Constitution explicitly extended equality under law to African Americans, equality was not a reality of everyday life because of organized segregationist policies. In 1954, a landmark Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas declared that State laws that established separate public schools for black and white students were unconstitutional. This ruling overturned earlier Supreme Court decisions going back to the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson, setting the stage for widespread social change through educational reform. In Brown, the court held that, in the words of Chief Justice Earl Warren, “in the field of public education the doctrine of ‘separate but equal’ has no place.” Undoing an ingrained system formed on a racist foundation involved a major change in attitudes, customs and traditions. Sensing that a deadline was imperative to force this change, the Supreme Court called for integrating education with “all deliberate speed.”

One Supreme Court case could not instantly change racist thinking and practices. “All deliberate speed” took on wildly different meanings as some southern States actively resisted the creation of integrated educational systems. In Little Rock, the school board called for the gradual integration of its schools beginning with the 1957-1958 school year. As the summer of 1957 ended, it appeared that the desegregation of all-white Central High School would be confrontational. Nine black students decided to attend Central rather than continuing at what had been the all-black Horace Mann High School. Thelma Mothershed Wair, Minnijean Brown Trickey, Jefferson Thomas, Terrence Roberts, Carlotta Walls LaNier, Gloria Ray Karlmark, Ernest Green, Elizabeth Eckford, and Melba Pattillo Beals placed themselves and their families on the front line in the struggle for civil rights in America by choosing to integrate Central High School.

Realizing that integration was increasingly likely, a number of groups began to fight against the integration of Central. On August 29, 1957, two white-led groups, the Capitol Citizens’ Council and the Mothers’ League of Little Rock Central High School, went to court and were able to prevent the implementation of the plan for integration. Judge Ronald N. Davis overturned this decision in Federal court the next day. Not long after, the Governor of Arkansas, Orval Faubus, claimed that tensions over the possibility of integration and the potential for violence in Little Rock were beyond the ability of the local authorities to control. On September 2, he ordered the Arkansas National Guard into the city. Two days later the school year began and the nine black students attempted to enter Central High School, but the National Guardsmen turned them away. Little Rock was in crisis and the nation watched.

Despite the willingness of the local authorities to enforce the Federal judgment requiring the immediate enrollment of the nine black students at Central High School, Governor Faubus used his authority to command the National Guard troops to prevent this from happening. Judge Davis soon ordered the governor and leading guardsmen to stand down and permit the students to attend school. On September 23, guarded by State and local police, the “Little Rock Nine” attended their first classes at Central High School, but rioting outside cut their first school day short. The following day the mayor of Little Rock urgently requested assistance from President Eisenhower to prevent a rumored gathering of white supremacists from occurring. Eisenhower responded immediately by taking the extraordinary step of assuming Federal control of the State’s militia. For the first time since the 1860s, the threat of violence was so great that the Federal Government was required to enforce the law for a State. Ordered by President Eisenhower, the 101st Airborne Division of the US Army escorted the students to their first full day of school, September 25, 1957. These troops stayed at the school for the remainder of the school year guarding the students as they moved between classes. Despite this apparent success, Governor Faubus closed all public high schools in the City of Little Rock for the 1958 to 1959 school year.

The significance of Little Rock Central High School is both local and national. Locally what happened there chronicles the movement to integrate the Little Rock school system but the integration of the school was also a milestone nationally in the Civil Rights Movement. Above all, the actions of the Federal Government in enforcing the Brown decision showed that in the long struggle for civil rights, the rule of law would be maintained by any means necessary, including having the Executive Branch step in to support a decision of the US Supreme Court by force. In 2007, Federal monitoring of the school districts in Little Rock ceased after the settlement of lawsuits related to the actions of 1957 and the satisfying of the court that race was no longer an obstacle to obtaining education.

Visitors to Little Rock High School National Historic Site can immerse themselves in the powerful story of the integration of public education in the United States. The school is still an operating high school, so visitors cannot tour it on their own. Rangers lead guided tours of the high school by advance reservation for groups of 10 or more. The visitor center offers permanent interactive exhibits, audio visual programs, and the opportunity to listen to recorded oral histories. Rangers conduct bicycle tours of Little Rock to interpret the story of the Civil Rights Movement in the city. There are also special events.

Plan your visit

Little Rock High School National Historic Site is a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark. Little Rock Central High School is located at 2120 Daisy L. Gatson Bates Dr. in Little Rock, AR. The visitor center is opposite the school building on the northeast corner of Daisy L. Gatson Bates Dr. and Park St. The visitor center is open year round from 9:00am to 4:30pm with the exception of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site website or call 501-374-1975.

Because Central is still a functioning high school, reservations are required to tour the school. A reservation may be made by calling the number listed above. Seasonal bicycle tours highlighting Little Rock’s role in the civil rights movement may also be booked by calling the same number.

The school is the subject of an online lesson plan From Canterbury to Little Rock: The Struggle for Educational Equality for African Americans. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage. More information on Little Rock Central High School may also be found in the National Park Service Civil Rights Travel Itinerary.


Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, Virginia

Maggie Lena Walker (1864-1934) was a woman dedicated to leadership. Born the daughter of a slave and former laundress, Maggie Walker spent her life actively involved in leading the African American community in Richmond and beyond. Determined that neither race nor sex need be limits on one’s participation in society, Maggie Walker headed a bank and successfully guided it through the Great Depression while serving as the secretary-treasurer for a national fraternal organization. Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site presents the life and accomplishments of this remarkable woman through her home.

Visitors to the site can take a one-hour tour of her home and see the two-story Victorian house with Gothic and Italianate elements in which she and her family lived beginning in 1904. Walker was mother and provider to her immediate and extended family as well as leader of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank (later the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company) and the Independent Order of St. Luke. An early adopter of many technologies, Walker electrified the house and added steam heat soon after purchasing the property. She also sold her horse and carriage in 1910 for another new development—the electric car. Walker’s penchant for change was not limited to these devices. She was active in a community of black leaders throughout the country who tried to drive social change and broaden opportunities for African Americans in general. A self-taught businesswoman, Walker established a library in her house that contains not just a substantial collection of business texts, but also mementos from a lifetime of friendships with people like Mary McLeod Bethune and other prominent figures through her involvement with the National Association of Colored Women (NACW) and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Her house illustrates the manner in which a prominent African American family lived in Richmond. Most of the furnishings and fixtures are just as Walker left them, even though family continued to live in the house until 1979.

Before becoming a businesswoman and banker, as a high school student, Maggie Walker joined the Independent Order of St. Luke, a fraternal and burial society. The Independent Order of St. Luke pooled resources to provide insurance and other services otherwise unavailable to blacks. After her election as secretary in 1899, she began to expand the organization through three initiatives: the publication of the St. Luke Herald, a newspaper for members; the establishment of the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank; and the promotion of black businesses. These projects were mutually reinforcing. The newspaper provided a communication tool for the order and a space for the advertisement of black-owned businesses, while the bank (headed by Walker) extended credit to those not served by white-run banks. There is some disagreement as to whether Walker was the first female head of a bank in the United States; what seems certain is that she was the first female head of a successful bank. In fact, during the Great Depression, the St. Luke Penny Savings Bank took over all other black banks in Richmond and adopted a new name, the Consolidated Bank and Trust Company. A testament to her sound leadership, the bank that Walker led and grew continues to operate in Richmond and southeastern Virginia.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site commemorates and tells the story of the life of an outstanding African American woman, who was a leader and savvy businesswoman. Maggie Walker used the tools she had to create change. When most publications would not advertise black businesses, she helped found a newspaper that allowed black business owners a place to advertise; when African Americans were poorly served by white-run banks, she started an extremely successful bank chain. Even in her own house, Walker continually improved her surroundings.

Plan your visit

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located in the historic Jackson Ward neighborhood, at 600 North 2nd Street in Richmond, VA., just south of Interstate 95. Click here for National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site website or call 804-771-2017. The park has seasonal hours and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

Maggie L. Walker National Historic Site also appears in the National Park Service
Richmond, Virginia Travel Itinerary.


Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, District of Columbia

With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

—Martin Luther King, Jr. I Have a Dream speech, Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963

Between memorials to Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson stands a new memorial to a man who was never president, but just as profoundly shaped the course of this nation’s history as any elected official. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial commemorates the life of a man who fought for justice in the face of injustice and equality in the face of inequality. His fight, and his faith, expressed through nonviolent protest, sought to overcome the shadow of slavery and institutionalized racism that pervaded the United States during the mid-1900s.

The Memorial

Today, visitors to the National Mall will find the memorial to Dr. King located at the northwest edge of the Tidal Basin, at the intersection of West Basin Drive and Independence Avenue in Washington, DC. The several facets of the memorial each illustrate part of Dr. King’s legacy and life. Entering the memorial from the main entrance at West Basin Drive and Independence Avenue, visitors pass through a plaza that separates the memorial from the hum of the city. Soon, a sculpture titled the Mountain of Despair is visible. A broken, boulder-like mass that rises out of the ground, the sculpture represents the struggle for equality. The title takes its name from a line in King’s I Have a Dream speech, delivered a few steps away at the Lincoln Memorial. Set back from the Mountain of Despair is the Stone of Hope, whose title also comes from the same speech. A 28-foot tall likeness of Martin Luther King, Jr. is carved into the Stone of Hope. Nearby, water features represent the sacrifices of many during the Civil Rights Movement. An Inscription Wall embraces the Mountain of Despair and Stone of Hope featuring quotations from Dr. King.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Born in Atlanta, Georgia in 1929, Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in a neighborhood that was the center of Atlanta’s African American community. Eventually, he ministered at the church of his father and grandfather, Ebenezer Baptist Church. The church would serve as a gathering point for civil rights organizations in the 1960s, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Many sites associated with King’s life in Atlanta are included as part of this travel itinerary.

Beyond Atlanta, Dr. King became a leader of the nationwide Civil Rights Movement. Following his graduation from Boston University in 1955, he accepted the call to serve as a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. From this position, he helped lead the bus boycott that included Rosa Parks. A towering leader on the civil rights stage, Dr. King led the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, where he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of approximately 200,000 marchers. The Lincoln Memorial is another site in this travel itinerary.

Following the march in Washington, King traveled throughout the United States and the world to rally support for the civil rights movement. His efforts were instrumental in securing the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and the Voting Rights Act of 1964. For his accomplishments, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. In 1965, King participated in the Selma to Montgomery (Alabama) marches for voting rights, commemorated today as the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, which is also featured in this travel itinerary. Between 1964 and his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee on April 4, 1968, Dr. King continued to join his voice with others to protest and speak out against inequality.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is honored by this memorial on the National Mall. Flanked by statues and monuments to great political leaders and military campaigns, the monument to King and his nonviolent citizen leadership is a powerful reminder of the ability of individuals to effect change.

Plan your visit

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at the intersection of West Basin Dr. and Independence Ave. in Washington, DC. The memorial is open 24 hours a day. The memorial bookstore is open 7 days a week from 9:00 am to 8:00 pm. For more information, including information on the dedication, visit the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial website or call 202-426-6841.

The memorial is part of the
National Mall and Memorial Parks, which includes the Lincoln Memorial National Memorial, a site featured in this travel itinerary. More information about the Civil Rights Movement may be found in the National Park Service We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement travel itinerary and on the National Park Service National African American History website.


Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, Georgia

Many of the landmarks of one of America’s greatest advocates for social change are within the span of a few short blocks along Auburn Avenue in Atlanta, Georgia. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born in this neighborhood in 1929, lived there during his childhood and part of his adult life, and is buried near his childhood home and the church where he, his father, and grandfather preached. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site traces the life of a remarkable man who helped to change the course of American history through nonviolent social protest that was the foundation for the successes of the modern Civil Rights Movement to provide African Americans their rightful place in American society.

King was born in a frame house at 501 Auburn Avenue. Ebenezer Baptist Church, where for eight years he shared the pulpit with his father, is a short walk away at the corner of Auburn and Jackson. Next door to the church, a memorial park surrounds King's crypt, nestled in a reflecting pool. Across from the church at 449 Auburn Avenue is the Martin Luther King, Jr., Center for Nonviolent Social Change, Inc., which continues King's legacy and work. The historic districts included in the Martin Luther King, Jr., National Historic Site and Preservation District were the center of life for Atlanta's African American community in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Visitors to the park should plan to begin their visit at the visitor center where they can learn more about Dr. King and the Civil Rights Movement through a number of exhibitions and short films. Visitors may also tour an outdoor Peace Plaza with a garden and reflection fountain and walk the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame. From the visitor center, walk through the Auburn Avenue neighborhood that was so central to King’s life. Landmarks that are open to the public include the home where King was born at 501 Auburn Avenue, Ebenezer Baptist Church, Fire Station Number 6, and the King Center. The King Center displays artifacts from King’s life at Freedom Hall and is adjacent to the gravesite of Dr. King and his wife, Coretta Scott King.

Martin Luther King, Jr. grew up in the Auburn Avenue community of Atlanta. Born on January 15, 1929 in the home shared by his grandparents and parents, King lived there until he was 12. King stayed in Atlanta until he graduated from Morehouse College. After his graduation, he served as a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church while enrolled at Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania. He continued on to Boston University and received a PhD in 1955. In Boston, King met and married Coretta Scott. After leaving Boston University, King became a pastor at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama. This put King in the right place at the right time to be able to help lead the famous bus boycott in Montgomery. Touched off in part by Rosa Parks, the 381-day boycott launched King to the front of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

King soon was speaking and leading protests across the country, including the 1963 March on Washington at which he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1964, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded Dr. King the Nobel Peace Prize. Dr. King’s actions helped to bring about the Civil Rights Act of 1963 and the Voting Rights Act of 1964. While continuing the fight for equality and civil rights in Memphis, Tennessee, he died at the hand of assassin, James Earl Ray, who shot him on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel on April 4, 1968. Following his death, Dr. King’s body returned to Auburn Avenue for his funeral and burial.

The Auburn neighborhood, also known as “Sweet Auburn,” is close to the city center of Atlanta and was primarily African American during King’s lifetime. Other families, a variety of businesses, several churches, and a firehouse were all part of the Auburn Avenue of King’s childhood. His parents, Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams, moved to the neighborhood soon after their marriage and lived with her parents at 501 Auburn Avenue. Though they initially intended to stay only briefly, the Kings continued to live with the Williams from 1925 until the 1930s. King’s boyhood home dates from 1895. The interior of the home reflects the way it looked when he and his siblings, Christine and Alfred Daniel, lived there.

The King family's connection to the neighborhood continued when Alberta Williams’ father, a pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, helped Reverend King, Sr. become an assistant pastor. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also helped lead the church from 1960 until his death in 1968. Dr. King’s funeral took place in the sanctuary on April 9, 1968. The church also served as a meeting space for many of the organizations with which Dr. King was involved, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

 

The historic Fire Station No. 6 just west of the King Birth Home appears as it did during the time King was growing up in Sweet Auburn. Built in 1894, Fire Station No. 6 is one of the earliest firehouses in Atlanta and served as an active station until 1991. Visitors may walk through the station and learn more about the integration of the fire department in Atlanta. Dr. King’s tomb and an eternal flame dedicated to his memory also lie along Auburn Avenue. Nearby is the King Center, containing artifacts and exhibits on Dr. King and other prominent social activists.

Plan your visit

Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 450 Auburn Ave., NE in Atlanta, GA, with parking on John Wesley Dobbs Avenue. The site has been designated a National Historic Landmark.  Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos.  The park is open from 9:00am to 6:00pm in the summer and from 9:00am to 5:00 in the winter. Visitation within the park is largely self-guided, although the King Birth Home is only open for ticketed ranger-led tours. Admission to the park and parking are free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site website or call 404-331-5190.

Several properties within the park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including
514 Auburn Avenue, 472-550 Auburn Avenue and 39 Boulevard Avenue, the Brown-Hayes Department Store, 526 Auburn Avenue, Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Smith-Charleston House, and the King Birth House. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site is also featured in the National Park Service We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement Travel Itinerary.


Mary McLeod Bethune National Council House, District of Columbia

This Second Empire row house in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC once belonged to educator and social advocate Mary McLeod Bethune and served as the national headquarters for the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). She purchased the house in 1943. Mary McLeod Bethune rose from a regional leader in the Civil Rights Movement to one with national prominence as she led the NCNW and numerous other organizations. To understand Mary McLeod Bethune as only a champion of civil rights, though, would be to ignore her longstanding commitment to the rights of women and to education. Hers was a life of civic engagement spent working for the greater good. Mary McLeod Bethune National Council House National Historic Sites tells the story of her life in the house where she lived and worked from 1943.

Born in rural Mayesville, South Carolina in 1875, Mary McLeod Bethune had the unusual opportunity to attend school and receive an education not common among African Americans following the Civil War. Most of her schooling prepared her for missionary work abroad, though she would never serve. Instead, she taught at schools in Georgia and South Carolina. In Sumter, South Carolina, she met her husband, Albertus Bethune. She moved with him to Palatka, Florida, approximately 50 miles south of Jacksonville. There, she established a missionary school. After she and her husband divorced, Bethune moved again to Daytona Beach and established another school in 1904 that she helped grow from six pupils to a high school that served primarily as a secretarial and normal school. In 1923, this school merged with the all-male Cookman Institute to become Bethune-Cookman College. Now known as Bethune-Cookman University, the school enrolls approximately 4,000 students.

While working in Daytona Beach, Bethune became involved with a number of clubs for women. Beginning first at a State level, Bethune worked to establish programs that would fight to end segregated education, to improve healthcare for black children, and to help women use the ballot to advance equality. Her successes on a local level propelled her to the national stage when the National Association of Colored Women elected her its president in 1924. Working with a large national organization helped Bethune develop a network of contacts. These included Maggie L. Walker, a bank president and social reformer, whose Richmond, Virginia house is featured in this travel itinerary.

Bethune’s previous administrative experiences served her well, and she proved a capable manager of the day-to-day affairs of the 10,000-member association. She grew the organization, undertook fundraising activities, and strengthened communication between members. On a trip to New York City, though, she grew disaffected with the National Association of Colored Women. She sought an organization that would focus not on making women better people, but on helping them to become agents of social change. This commitment drove her to help create the National Council of Negro Women and to serve as its first president from 1935 to 1949. Under her leadership, the NCNW grew to over 850,000 members. Today, the 4 million members of the NCNW continue the work begun by Bethune.

Bethune was also politically active, representing the causes she believed in as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration. She received appointments to a number of commissions that advised the president on labor and youth employment as well as education. Perhaps her most notable contribution was through the Federal Council on Negro Affairs (also called the “Black Cabinet”) where she and other council members worked to increase opportunities for African Americans during the New Deal. During World War II, she continued to fight for African Americans, particularly for the inclusion of black women in the WAACS (Women’s Auxiliary Army Corps) and WAVES (Women Appointed for Voluntary Emergency Service).

Bethune was also a chronicler of black history. She saw race as one of the defining characteristics of the American experience. A better understanding of the history of race, power, and privilege would lead to a breakdown of the social and cultural barriers that so dominated life in America at mid-century. Key to this understanding was the ability of historians, particularly black historians, to record the past experiences of African Americans in the United States. Bethune served as president of the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History and was also involved in other projects to preserve the history of black women and document their achievements. Today, the Mary McLeod Bethune House also includes the National Archives for Black Women’s History as part of Bethune’s legacy.

 

Though a fire destroyed some of Bethune’s original furnishings, visitors to the house may see her remaining belongings and learn more about the life of a major figure in many areas of the Civil Rights Movement, education, and the struggle for women’s equality. Mary McLeod Bethune “made” history as she fought for social reforms to better the lives of African Americans in the United States. She also preserved that history through her support of archives dedicated to recording the people and stories of black America. The house and archives present the lives of women who have made important contributions to black history and culture, with particular emphasis on Bethune’s life.

Plan your visit

Mary McLeod Bethune National Council House National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1318 Vermont Ave., NW in Washington, DC. There is no fee to visit the house, which is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm.  The house is closed Sundays, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Mary McLeod Bethune National Council House website or call 202-673-2402.  The National Archives for Black Women’s History (housed in the property’s carriage house) is open by appointment only.  Researchers may make appointments by calling the number above or by visiting the park’s webpage and following the instructions there.

The Council House is included in the National Park Service’s Washington, DC: A National Register of Historic Places Travel Itinerary.  The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House is the subject of an online lesson plan The Mary McLeod Bethune Council House: African American Women Unite for Change. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage.

The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey has documented the house and the carriage house.


New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, Louisiana

New Orleans is jazz. Perhaps most associated with the 1920s, jazz is the music of change. Built on the syncopated rhythms of ragtime, jazz is modern and less formal. It has an electric feel that moved a nation still recovering from World War I, but jazz has older quite culturally diverse roots. Visitors to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park will find themselves immersed in the people, places, and stories of jazz, and, of course, the music.

Jazz has many roots but is most often associated with New Orleans, because the city was the largest in the South and it produced a number of outstanding musicians. Improvisation and a certain freedom characterize jazz and help to distinguish it from other musical styles. Jazz evolved from a tradition of brass bands, incorporating Spanish, West African, and Caribbean musical traditions as well as some uniquely American traditions like the blues and African American spirituals that emanated from southern culture. Surprising in a segregated society, jazz music was popular with musicians and audiences of a variety of racial backgrounds.

As a city, New Orleans grew from a 1718 French settlement. With a strong Catholic tradition and many links to nations outside the United States, New Orleans was unlike most of the South between the 1700s and the Civil War. New Orleans was under the jurisdiction of first the French, then the Spanish, then returned to French control in 1801, before the United States bought it as part of the 1803 Louisiana Purchase. The beginnings of jazz emanated from cultural interactions in neighborhoods around the city. In informal street jams and clubs, among a vibrant immigrant community of French, Spanish, Germans, Italians, Haitians, Africans, and Asians, music was the king of social life. Building off the rhythms and melodies of African traditions and mixed with other influences, the music of New Orleans jazz came to sweep the nation as a popular American art form.

New Orleans offers an exciting mix of arts and cultures. Visitors to New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park can discover the city through this unique site dedicated to celebrating a truly American art form. Two visitor centers, one at 916 North Peters Street and the other at the former US Mint, now the Louisiana State Museum, at 400 Esplanade Avenue, provide information on the city. The visitor center at North Peters Street offers programs on jazz and musical performances.

Visitors can explore the city on their own or by following one of the self-guided walking tours listed on the park’s website to learn more about jazz. An audio tour focused on about 16 of the greatest jazz musicians is also available by cell phone for the area around the Algiers Ferry Landing. This ferry connects downtown New Orleans to Algiers, a formerly separate community that has been part of New Orleans since 1870. Musicians from Algiers have helped to keep jazz alive in New Orleans. Another phone-based tour highlights sites in and around the French Quarter. Other walking tours highlight Canal Street, the central Vieux Carré, Back O’ Town, and Storyville. These neighborhoods and areas all tell the story of jazz. Additional information on these and other parts of the city is available here.

Like each instrument in a band or each note in a tune, New Orleans has many neighborhoods, each with a distinct personality. Walking tours designed by the park provide the perfect way to explore the rich history of the city and learn more about jazz. Along the way are many buildings and other sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places that have played important roles in shaping jazz and jazz musicians.  The available walking tours include in-depth information on the following areas:

Canal Street, named for an unrealized canal, was the site of many recording studios for jazz. A commercial center during the 19th century, Canal Street long formed the boundary between the French and Creole areas of the city and American sectors. Today, all along Canal Street, visitors on a walking tour can see these cultural vestiges and historic jazz sites.

The Vieux Carré or French Quarter is filled with fashionable homes and businesses, many of them nightclubs, lounges, and restaurants associated with jazz. Today, the Vieux Carré is approximately 80 blocks of historic downtown New Orleans grown from when it was laid out in 1721.  A walk through any of the streets of this historic district is a trip back to a younger America and beyond to the period of French and Spanish control.  East of Bourbon Street, for example, is historic Jackson Square, the site of the transfer of Louisiana from France to the United States on December 20, 1803 and the Cabildo, the Spanish administrative headquarters for the Louisiana Territory in the 1700s.

Around Lafayette Square and the Central Business District, visitors can stroll through a neighborhood that was established as the American portion of the city during the 1800s.  In the Lafayette Square area are jazz related fraternal organizations, hotels, studios, music schools, and restaurants. Close by is the Orpheum Theatre – a venue for jazz concerts with its own house jazz band.

The Central Business District Back O’ Town neighborhood was once the hub of African American commercial and social life. Here Blacks, Jews, Italians, and Chinese performed and listened to music, particularly jazz. On South Rampart Street, close to Turner’s Hall, is the Eagle Saloon Building. Located in a popular shopping district for the city’s African American population, the saloon was one of many jazz venues in Back O’ Town. The Iroquois Theater, also on Rampart Street, was another popular place to hear early jazz.

Storyville was once a famous red-light district alive with the sounds of jazz. The closure of Storyville helped spread jazz throughout the country as musicians who played in the neighborhood left for other cities. The walking tour runs along Burgundy and North Rampart and highlights the clubs and dancehalls of the area.

From Preservation Hall at 726 St. Peter Street in the French Quarter – a popular location for nightly performances of New Orleans style jazz – to the neighborhoods of the city, those looking for the history, culture, and music of jazz will find it in New Orleans. Explore the roots of a musical style that shaped a nation by following the walking or audio tours offered by New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park or just by wandering through the city stopping to listen to the music.

Plan your visit

New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in New Orleans, LA. Visitors may begin exploring the history of jazz from either of two locations. The main visitor center for the park is located at 916 North Peters St. Information on what to see and do in the park is also available from an additional Park Service visitor station located within the former United States Mint. Operated as a branch of the Louisiana State Museum, the Mint is located at 400 Esplanade Ave. and is open from 10:00am to 4:30pm Tuesday through Sunday. The visitor center on North Peters St. is open 9:00am to 5:00pm Tuesday through Sunday and is closed on Christmas and Mardi Gras. For more information, visit the National Park Service New Orleans Jazz National Historical Park website or call 504-589-4841. An overview of the walking tours may be found here. Cell phone based tours are also available for Algiers and the French Quarter.

The
US Mint, the Vieux Carré Historic District, Jackson Square, the Cabildo, and Gallier Hall have been designated National Historic Landmarks. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration files for the US Mint (text and photos).

Many of the sites above have been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.The Vieux Carré is also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Vieux Carré: A Creole Neighborhood in New Orleans. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Nicodemus National Historic Site, Kansas

The small town of Nicodemus, Kansas sits quietly on the northwest Kansas plains. Founded by newly freed slaves in 1877, Nicodemus was a refuge from the Reconstruction-era South, a reflection of a mass black migration from the South to the Midwest after the Civil War. Nicodemus was the first black community west of the Mississippi River and is the only predominantly black community west of the Mississippi that remains a living community today. An all-black outpost on the frontier, this “unsettled” land offered a chance for black farmers and their families to start anew. Today, a few people and buildings remain from the original township, a testament to the resolve of the people of Nicodemus to build a new life on the prairie. Between the end of the Civil War and the 1880s, many courageous black settlers sought better lives, better land, and better opportunities in the heartland.

Black settlement of the vast plains began largely after the Civil War and was the result of a series of events. The United States bought the land of the territory (and later State) of Kansas as part of the Louisiana Purchase (1803). The later Missouri Compromise intended that Kansas would be a territory in which African Americans would be free. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act, however, allowed popular referenda to determine whether Kansas and Nebraska would be free or slave States. This sense of uncertainty did not encourage the large-scale settlement of Kansas by any groups. Political tensions of the early- and mid-1800s deeply divided Kansas and led to a series of bloody conflicts over slavery in Kansas before the Civil War. These conflicts pitted pro-slavery activists against abolitionists in the race to form a State constitution that would set Kansas as either a slave State or a free State. When Kansas adopted an anti-slavery constitution in 1861, the Civil War had begun. The conclusion of the Civil War ended the debate over slavery and opened the West to many settlers who saw it as a land of opportunity.

In the early 1870s, the first groups to move west after the Civil War were the “sodbusters,” so named because of the houses they built from sod cut from the earth. These settlers faced a drought that caused many to return back east soon after arriving. By the late 1870s, though, weather conditions improved somewhat. Charismatic ex-slaves, who championed the supposed boundless opportunities waiting in the West, encouraged black settlers to move west.

The first groups to populate the town in 1877 came mostly from the Lexington, Kentucky area. Moving west to Nicodemus was no small feat, as the town was a distance from rail and stagecoach routes. Upon seeing the remote and somewhat barren location of Nicodemus, some of the original 380 settlers who left Kentucky to establish the town turned around and went back east.

For those who stayed, the first goal was building a town from the ground up. Construction began immediately to provide housing for the new arrivals. After living in dugouts, the settlers built sod houses. In time, they replaced these with frame houses as the community grew and became more financially successful. At one point, the town had a baseball team, post office, ice cream parlor, and two newspapers. As its size increased so did the political power of Nicodemus within progressive Kansas. Its citizens' votes helped to elect mixed-race slates to county positions, as well as the first black politicians in other county and State offices. Rumors that the railroad promised to add Nicodemus as a station helped the town experience tremendous growth. When this promised station stop failed to materialize in 1887, the town’s fortunes turned. Many moved away. Subsequent droughts did little to reinforce the idea of Nicodemus as an ideal place to settle, but even so, the town continued to grow until 1910, when approximately 400 people lived there.

Despite being much smaller today than it was one hundred years ago, Nicodemus remains an enduring monument to African American westward migration. Desperately seeking opportunities that simply did not exist in the South, former slaves moved west with hope. For some, the long march ended in newly platted Nicodemus, Kansas. They built houses, businesses, clubs, churches, and schools and were able to participate in political and commercial life in ways previously denied to them. Today, visitors to Nicodemus can take a self guided or a ranger guided tour to see the exteriors of some of the historic buildings that document what black settlers accomplished, including the St. Francis Hotel, the AME Church, the First Baptist Church, the Nicodemus School District No. 1 building, and the Nicodemus Township Hall. The Nicodemus Township Hall is the only building open to the public. The Township Hall serves as the visitor center, which offers exhibits, short videos, and the opportunity to learn about the history of Nicodemus and Blacks in the West. Nicodemus is still a living town. A few people, including some descendants of the original settlers, live in the town and surrounding area, and descendant families deserve the credit for keeping the community alive.

The land on which Nicodemus and other black communities stood in Kansas was not the most advantageous for agriculture, and natural drought cycles frustrated efforts to raise crops. Even so, in the decades following the Civil War, this part of the West offered African Americans a chance at a life usually unobtainable in much of the South. The courage and spirit that motivated African Americans to leave their homes and move to the Midwest after the Civil War to places like Nicodemus also helped propel them toward equality of opportunity in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas roughly a century later.

Plan your visit

Nicodemus National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 304 Washington Ave., south of the roadside park off Highway 24, in Nicodemus, KS.  Click here for National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos.  There is no fee to visit the buildings included in the park.  The Township Hall is the only building operated by the National Park Service and open to the public; the rest of the buildings within the historic site are private property.  Visitors who wish to see the exteriors of these buildings may do so on a self guided or ranger-led tour.  Guided tours may be booked by calling 785-839-4233.  The visitor center, located in the former Township Hall is open 9am to 4:30pm daily except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Nicodemus National Historic Site website or call 785-839-4233.

Many buildings within the town of Nicodemus have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial, Ohio

A solitary column reaching 352 feet into the air, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial National Memorial is an unusual monument to both war and peace. The memorial remembers the Battle of Lake Erie, one of a series of battles during the War of 1812 that defined the continued British presence in North America and set the tone for the westward expansion of the United States. It also recalls the Rush-Bagot Pact (1817), which began to resolve boundary issues left unsettled by the Treaty of Ghent (ratified 1815) that ended the war. While the Battle of Lake Erie was not the final struggle of the War of 1812, it was important in aiding the eventual American victory and peacefully setting the precise boundary between British North America (later, Canada) and the United States of America.

The Battle of Lake Erie was a turning point in the War of 1812. The War of 1812 removed the possibility of European expansion into territory claimed by the United States and greatly lessened the threat of large-scale resistance by American Indians to westward territorial expansion by the United States. In many ways, the War of 1812 began not with new problems facing a young America but with unresolved conflicts with the British stemming from the American Revolution. While the Revolution formally separated the American colonies from England, it did not completely remove British influences from American soil. After the revolution, England continued to station soldiers in the United States, maintain ties to some American Indian tribes, and claim a loosely defined boundary between British Canada and America. The combination of these tensions led to the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie in 1813.

At Lake Erie, American forces under the leadership of Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819), defeated the British, won control of the lake, and, ultimately, the ability to maneuver troops to make a claim for land to the northwest. At this battle, Perry wrote his famous line: “We have met the enemy and they are ours.” Perry’s decisive victory was a blow to the British and a key to enabling American troops to secure territory in the northwest. Most importantly, though, his command of Lake Erie would help establish American claims to a northern border with Canada during the formation of the Rush-Bagot Pact. This pact began to resolve disputes between Canada and the United States over where the boundary between the two lay and that this boundary should be unfortified and lightly patrolled. The peace of Perry’s victory, then, not only helped end the War of 1812, but it also helped establish the peace that lasts till now in Canadian-American relations.

Named for Acting Secretary of State Richard Rush and the representative of the British government, Sir Charles Bagot, the Rush-Bagot Pact is part of this lasting peace. While the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812, it did not completely resolve the issues that drove the nations to war in the first place. The United States still looked west for “unsettled” land without a clear sense of where its territory ended and British land began. A firm line between British North America and the United States would be important as the country grew. The Rush-Bagot Pact began the process of defining this boundary. To protect their remaining interests in North America, the British could have insisted upon a fortified border, however, neither the Americans nor the British wanted to maintain a large standing force in the Great Lakes. The Rush-Bagot Pact ensured that each side would have set, mutually agreed upon numbers and types of vessels in each of the Great Lakes. This greatly reduced the pressure to build up large fleets in the region and resulted in a corresponding sense that a great military presence was not necessary. While the agreement that Rush and Bagot assembled did not resolve all issues regarding the placement of the entire boundary between British North America and the United States, it did encourage each side to see the other as a potential trading partner or, at least, no longer an enemy.

Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial National Memorial is located on Put-in-Bay, South Bass Island, Ohio, Perry’s base of action both before and during the battle. Almost 50 feet taller than the Statue of Liberty, the memorial itself is the largest Doric column ever built and was designed after an international competition from which the winning design by Joseph H. Freelander and A.D. Seymour was chosen. Constructed between 1913 and 1915, the memorial includes an observation platform at its cap and a rotunda in its base that records the names of the American dead and wounded from the Battle of Lake Erie and the text of the Rush-Bagot Pact. From the observation platform, visitors can see where Perry led his troops at the Battle of Lake Erie.

Plan your visit

Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located within the Village of Put-in-Bay on South Bass Island, OH. Click here for the National Register file: text and photos. The memorial may be reached by private plane, commercial air carriers, passenger and car ferry, airboat, or private boat. On the island, taxi service is available. For more information, including information on traveling by boat and plane to the island and operating hours, visit the National Park Service Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial National Memorial website or call 419-285-2184.

Generally the memorial and visitor center are open regularly, but have seasonal hours. Note: The memorial column will be closed for restoration in 2011. The visitor center will remain open, and programs with rangers will continue, including special tours highlighting the construction and repair work. Ranger-led talks about the monument, the Battle of Lake Erie, and the War of 1812 are offered seasonally. Weapons demonstrations are conducted periodically. The memorial has also been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.


Petersburg National Battlefield, Virginia

In Petersburg, Virginia and the fields and towns surrounding the city, Union forces lay siege to Confederate troops during the Civil War. For more than nine months between 1864 and 1865, soldiers from the North fought those from the South for control over the City of Petersburg. The consequences of the struggle at Petersburg were larger than just the fate of city. Events at Petersburg set in motion the dramatic conclusion to the Civil War. Within two weeks after the siege broke, Richmond fell to the Union, Confederate forces under General Lee surrendered to General Grant at Appomattox ending the war, and President Lincoln died at the hand of an assassin. The fighting at Petersburg was the beginning of the end of the Civil War. Petersburg was also where the largest number of U.S. Colored Troops served.

Having earlier failed to take Richmond by attacking it directly, General Grant led Union troops in an attempt to cut off rail connections and supplies to the city by attacking Petersburg where many of the rail lines and supplies were concentrated. The assaults on Petersburg began around present-day Hopewell on June 15, 1864. Over time, the battles moved progressively west until the final conflict at Five Forks in 1865. Today, Petersburg National Battlefield Park includes a large area and four visitor centers that document the more than nine-month siege of the City of Petersburg and surrounding communities.

Beginning in the north, the park starts at the Grant’s Headquarters Unit in Hopewell where visitors can learn more about Union leadership during the Civil War and the growth of the area at that time. The Eastern Front Unit in Petersburg includes a large section of the battlefields to tour. At Eastern Front, the main visitor center for the park offers exhibits and programs that tell the story of Petersburg. The Five Forks Battlefield Unit focuses on the end of the siege of Petersburg. A seasonal station at Poplar Grove National Cemetery provides information on those who participated and died while fighting in the Civil War. From Hopewell, Virginia and running to the battlefield site at Five Forks, a 33-mile auto tour route passes through the units of the park. Along the way, visitors can stop at more than a dozen wayside exhibits to learn about a particular area or battle.

The siege of Petersburg included great battles that occurred on terrain that is similar today to the way it was in the 1860s. Visitors to the Eastern Front section of the park may walk, hike, or ride through the battlefields of the siege where they can still see remnants of trenches and other fortifications, though some have worn away over time or were destroyed during battles, such as those at the site of the Battle of the Crater. Hoping to gain valuable land near Petersburg, Union forces tunneled under the Confederates and planted a massive charge. The Union troops thought they would be able to use the confusion following the explosion to overwhelm the Confederates. When the mine detonated, Union troops ran into the crater created by the explosion. This gave the Confederates a height advantage and Federal losses were heavy. In all, nearly 6,000 troops died in the Battle of the Crater. The crater area is a stop along the auto tour route and has an interpretive walking trail that runs around the site.

The Battle of Five Forks, the final battle of the siege of Petersburg that concluded the almost yearlong struggle, occurred southwest of the city at a crossroads. On April 1, 1865, Union troops under General Grant outflanked Confederates to capture the remaining supply lines for the South. With the capital of the Confederacy the next target for northern troops, the evacuation of Richmond began. Union troops took the city on April 3. On April 9, Lee surrendered at Appomattox, and on April 14, President Lincoln was shot in Washington, DC. Visitors can learn about the conditions on the battlefield at the Five Forks section of the park. During the Civil War, skirmishes and battles could occur almost anywhere. The Gilliam family had their home within the war zone at Five Forks. Visitors may walk an approximately half-mile interpretive trail to learn more about the battle and the home, which still stands.

During the battles, Grant established his headquarters at City Point (today part of Hopewell). This tiny landing on the James and Appomattox rivers grew during the war, because City Point was a major port for supplies and important hub on the military railroad that Union forces built. Federal troops around Petersburg constructed a transportation network that helped to keep them supplied during the long siege transforming City Point into a bustling port and railroad depot. Elsewhere around Petersburg, they quickly constructed new buildings and took over private houses for the war effort. Union forces built a very large hospital to treat their wounded staffed by a number of women nurses or cooks; some former slaves also worked there. Near the Appomattox River, Grant used the Eppes family home, Appomattox Manor, as a headquarters building. Today, this is the Grant’s Headquarters unit of the battlefield park. Visitors exploring this part of the park will learn more about the family, their home, and its role in the war.

African Americans supported both sides during the siege of Petersburg. About half the population of Petersburg was black, 35% of whom were free, and both free and enslaved African Americans assisted the Confederacy in such efforts as the construction in 1862 of a ten-mile long defensive line of trenches and batteries around Petersburg. Following heavy losses, General Lee hoped to increase the number of Confederate troops at Petersburg by using slaves as soldiers. In March of 1865, he called for 40,000 slaves to join the Confederate army. The war ended before he could implement this plan.

Almost 187,000 African Americans served in the Union forces during the war with the largest number of U.S. Colored Troops serving at Petersburg. Many U.S. Colored Troops took part in the initial attack in 1864 and the ill-fated Battle of the Crater. African Americans also worked at the port and depot at City Point helping to load and unload goods.

Death was part of the siege of Petersburg. Visitors to the park may tour the final resting place of some 6,700 Union dead at Poplar Grove cemetery. Open seasonally, a visitor center at the cemetery provides information about the history of those buried at the site. Almost 30,000 Confederate dead are buried nearby at Blandford Church Cemetery, which is not included in the park.

Plan your visit

Petersburg National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park System, is located south of Richmond, VA.  The park is divided into several units.  The main visitor center is Eastern Battlefields, located at 5001 Siege Rd. in Petersburg, VA.  Additional visitor centers are located at the Grant’s Headquarters Unit at 1001 Pecan Ave. in Hopewell, VA and at Five Forks Battlefield Unit at 9840 Courthouse Rd. in Dinwiddie, VA.  A seasonal visitor center is located at Poplar Grove National Cemetery at 8005 Vaughan Rd. in Petersburg.  The unit and a number of sites in the park are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for Appomattox Manor (text and photos). Five Forks Battlefield has been designated a National Historic Landmark. A fee is charged to enter the park at Eastern Battlefields; all other parts are free.  Each visitor center maintains separate hours.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Petersburg National Battlefield website or call 804-732-3531.

Appomattox Manor has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.


Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial, California

A massive explosion rocked the pier at Port Chicago, California a little after 10:15pm on July 17, 1944. Three ships were destroyed as 5,000 tons of munitions detonated unexpectedly. People as far away as Nevada heard the explosion because of its massive energy, and damages extended out almost 50 miles. The force of the blast crushed boxcars waiting to be unloaded. The explosion left more than 300 sailors dead and almost 400 wounded. Most of those who died were African American enlisted men. The disaster and its aftermath highlighted racial inequalities in the American armed forces. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial honors those who lost their lives in the explosion and tells the story of what happened there and the fateful events that followed, which played a role in the racial desegregation of the American military.

Built in 1942, Port Chicago was one of two facilities near San Francisco designed to help move ammunition from shore to ship. On the July evening when the explosion took place, sailors were using cranes to load munitions from boxcars into two ships: the SS E.A. Bryan and the SS Quinault Victory. These ships, a Liberty-class ship and Victory-class ship, were large, quickly produced vessels designed to transport cargo. Following American entry into World War II in 1941, the need for munitions in the Pacific theatre grew, so ships like the Bryan and the Victory transported ammunition from shore-based depot locations to sites closer to battle. The disastrous Port Chicago explosion essentially vaporized the 7,200-ton SS E.A. Bryan despite its size and tore the SS Quinault Victory to pieces.

Port Chicago was a major weapons distribution center where this dangerous cargo needed to be loaded into waiting transport ships without delay. Even though the explosion obliterated the pier, the remaining bombs and gunpowder held in magazines near the loading dock at the port were needed urgently for the war effort. Less than a month after the disaster, the Navy assigned the stevedores, many of whom had witnessed the explosion and all of whom certainly saw its aftermath, to resume the transfer and loading of munitions from anther nearby facility. At Port Chicago, as elsewhere in the Navy, the officers were white; those who loaded the ships were mostly black. At the time of the explosion, almost two-thirds of those killed were black stevedores. The orders to return to work took on strong racial overtones--especially as white officers received additional time off. Roughly, 250 black sailors refused to work, which led to their being locked up for insubordination. Of these, 50 received courts martial for inciting mutiny by encouraging their fellow sailors to disobey orders, a serious crime that could result in execution.

The courts martial for the 50 accused of mutiny and the disciplinary proceedings for the approximately 200 other sailors called attention to the racial inequalities in the nation’s armed forces. The stevedores were uniformly black, and the ensuing court sessions revealed that the training they received was wholly inadequate for the extremely dangerous tasks they performed. In fact, there were no regulations for the safe handling of ordinance during its loading and unloading until after the tragedy at Port Chicago. In the aftermath, the military made changes to regulations and to the design of munitions to make them inherently safer to handle. The greatest good to come out of the largest wartime disaster to occur in the United States during the Second World War, though, was a push toward the desegregation of all branches of the military.

Fighting for liberty overseas highlighted the inequality of training, opportunities for service, and treatment of black soldiers, sailors, and airmen. The stevedores at Port Chicago did not receive proper training, and they were treated as game pieces by white officers who reportedly designed competitions in loading techniques to increase the speed with which munitions could be unloaded from railcars and placed into the holds of waiting ships. The disregard for personal safety of black enlisted soldiers reached quite broadly—they were told that weapons loaded at Port Chicago were to be armed (and therefore able to explode) only upon arrival in the Pacific. Perhaps because of the clear break between the values for which America fought overseas and what happened at Port Chicago, press interest in the courts martial was intense. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) participated, sending Thurgood Marshall who frequently addressed the press. Despite the efforts of the later Supreme Court justice, all 50 of those accused of mutiny received convictions. President Clinton pardoned one of the “Port Chicago 50,” Freddie Meeks, in 1999.

Even though a series of convictions followed the disaster at Port Chicago, the incident was one of a handful that contributed to the decision of the Navy to begin desegregated service in 1945. President Truman desegregated all of the armed forces three years later when he signed Executive Order 9981 that mandated “equality of treatment and opportunity for all those who serve in our country’s defense.” The sacrifices of the hundreds who died in the explosion at Port Chicago and participated in the events that occurred after the tragedy are not forgotten. Visitors to Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial can view the memorial that commemorates the tragedy and learn about its impact. Remnants of the pier where the explosion happened, wayside exhibits, and photographs of the area before and after the explosion tell the history of the event in detail.

Plan your visit

Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located off Port Chicago Highway, near Concord, CA. Access to the memorial is through Military Ocean Terminal Concord, an active military facility, and is currently heavily restricted. Visitors must be citizens of the United States or resident aliens. Advance reservations for a guided tour are required to visit the memorial. Reservations must be made two weeks in advance by calling 925-228-8860. Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial is closed Sunday through Tuesday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day as well as when required by military operations. Guided tours are available at 10:00am and 1:30pm Wednesday through Saturday. Visitors will be driven to the memorial by a shuttle provided by the National Park Service. Information, including details on how to register to visit the memorial, is available on the National Park Service Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial website or by calling 925-228-8860.

Port Chicago is also featured in the National Park Service World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area Travel Itinerary.


Richmond National Battlefield Park, Virginia

As the political, manufacturing, and supply center for the South, Richmond was a high-value military target during the Civil War. Of the seven offensives against the city, only two came close enough to threaten the Confederate capital—the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 that ended in the Seven Days’ Battles and the Overland Campaign of 1864, which culminated in the fall of Richmond and shortly after, the end of the Civil War. Today, visitors to Richmond National Battlefield Park can learn about the struggles for the capital of the Confederacy by touring battle sites related to both of these campaigns. Visitors can also learn about the industrial role of Richmond in supporting the Confederacy at the Tredegar Iron Works and about medicine during the Civil War at the Chimborazo Medical Museum.

The Tredegar Iron Works complex contains the main visitor center for the park. During the Civil War, this foundry cast artillery and manufactured ammunition, including the mortar fired at Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, the first shot in the Civil War. Though the iron works also produced a variety of machinery, including locomotives and other parts for the railroad, the factory complex was primarily important to the southern war effort.

Well connected by rail to much of the fighting, Richmond became a prime location for hospitals to treat Southern casualties. Chimborazo Hospital in Richmond was one of the largest hospitals, treating approximately 75,000 patients during the war. Wounded soldiers staffed Chimborazo. The hospital had a fleet of surgeons but was primarily a convalescent hospital. The Chimborazo Medical Museum in a building on the site of the hospital provides information about medicine in the mid-1800s and the hospitals of Civil War Richmond.

As part of the Peninsula Campaign of 1862, under the leadership of General George McClellan, Union forces captured Richmond after multiple attacks by land and water. Troops under first Confederate General Joseph Johnston, then General Robert E. Lee who replaced the wounded Johnston, faced off against the Union troops. McClellan’s plan had been to move up the peninsula toward Richmond and capture the city to secure an early end to the Civil War. Lee, meanwhile, fortified Richmond against attack and, with Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, worked to provoke a conflict that would settle the fate of Richmond. This planned offensive led to the Seven Days’ Battles. Ultimately, Union forces retreated to the James River leaving Lee’s troops to march into the North for the first time.

Walking trails and interpretive signs at the sites of the Seven Days’ Battle offer the opportunity to retrace the steps of both Confederate and Union lines. The Beaver Dam Creek battlefield marked the beginning of the Union retreat toward the James River. At Gaines Mill, a Union force faced a much larger number of Confederate troops in a move designed to allow the balance of Union troops to retreat. The Confederates won their first victory here since July 1861. Malvern Hill, the thunderous concluding engagement of the Seven Days’ Battles, ended with a Union victory when Southern leadership failed to design and execute a battle plan that could defeat the Union. The appearance of the area today is very similar to the way it looked at the time of the battle.

Union forces also looked to attack Richmond by water. Because the James River is navigable by ships of war up to Richmond, the Confederacy established naval defenses on a bluff overlooking the river. Drewry’s Bluff saw both early and late fighting during the war and was the location of Confederate naval training facilities, where Confederate troops successfully defended against a Union advance up the James in May of 1862. The fort at Drewry’s Bluff is open to visitors who can walk a one-mile trail through the fort to see exhibits and look out over the James.

The Overland Campaign of May to June 1864 raged across the center of Virginia as General Ulysses S. Grant’s Union troops advanced steadily toward Richmond. At the end of the Overland Campaign, Richmond fell on April 3, 1865 after the evacuation of the city and the setting of portions of it on fire. The Confederate capital city that federal troops encountered was in shambles, its few remaining residents living mostly among ruins. As the Overland Campaign moved closer to Richmond, the style of fighting changed to trench warfare.

During the Overland Campaign, Union and Confederate troops collided at Totopotomoy Creek in late May of 1864. Visitors can take a walking tour to see part of the creek side battlefield and a local home, “Rural Plains,” that received damage in the fighting. From Totopotomoy Creek, Grant decided to move toward Cold Harbor. Confederate defenses at Cold Harbor made Grant move on to Petersburg. A visitor center, with electric map program, provides an orientation to the battlefield. An auto tour and walking trails lead visitors through the site where Union and Confederate trenches from the 1864 battle are still visible.

After the Battle at New Market Heights at Chaffin’s Farm, 14 United States Colored Troops (USCT) received the Medal of Honor for their actions. At New Market Heights, USCT troops under the command of Brig. General Charles Paine crossed the James and began to advance northward under constant fire. Trapped, they endured a barrage of Confederate bullets for 30 minutes. Taking advantage of a break in the fire, some of the Colored Troops charged Confederate fortifications. Eight hundred of Paine’s troops, including USCT members, died in the fighting in a little more than an hour. Though poor leadership decisions led to high casualty rates among USCT troops at the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, at New Market Heights, members of the USCT showed their willingness and ability to fight, and fight well when not hampered by the bad decisions of others.

While members of the United States Colored Troops fought at New Market Heights, a series of battles crisscrossed the countryside as Union and Confederate troops battled for months in late 1864 at a series of forts extending from the present-day Route 5 to the James River, seven miles south of Richmond. Visitors can explore remaining fortifications at Fort Harrison and Fort Brady using walking trails inside the forts. A seasonal visitor center is at Fort Harrison, a Confederate fort Union troops captured.

Though they broke through the outer defenses of Richmond, Union troops could not march straight on to the capital. Conflicts took place at the chain of forts around Fort Harrison and Parker’s Battery on the Bermuda Hundred between Richmond and Petersburg, an example of a long-standing Confederate artillery line that lasted from May 1864 to April 1865. Using trench warfare at Fort Harrison and other locations, Union troops edged ever closer to Richmond. After breaking the siege of Petersburg, Union troops entered Richmond, only to find it evacuated and partially on fire. Very shortly after the capital of the Confederacy fell, Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865, and five days later John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln in Washington, DC.

Plan your visit

Richmond National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park System, is located among several sites in and around Richmond. The main visitor center is in the Tredegar Iron Works at 470 Tredegar Street in Richmond, Va. The Tredegar Iron Works has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Richmond National Battlefield and several sites within the park are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The park sites are open daily from sunrise to sunset, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The main visitor center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Other visitor centers at Cold Harbor, Fort Harrison, and Glendale/Malvern Hill have different hours, as does the Chimborazo Medical Museum. For more information, see the National Park Service Richmond National Battlefield website or call 804-771-2145.

Some locations within the park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey including “Rural Plains,” the Cox House, Powhite, and the Hugh Watt House.

Richmond National Battlefield is also featured two other National Park Service travel itineraries: Civil War Era National Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served and the Richmond Travel Itinerary.


Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail, Alabama

The 54 miles between Selma and Montgomery, Alabama helped to change American history. The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail commemorates the events, people, and route of the 1965 Voting Rights March in Alabama. Following the February 1965 death of Jimmie Lee Jackson, a voting rights activist in Marion, Alabama, a series of marches from Selma to Montgomery brought the conflicts of the voting rights movement into homes across the country and focused the nation’s attention on the ways segregated policies continued to divide society.

From 1870, the Constitution of the United States guaranteed the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude,” but a number of States sought to prevent African Americans from being able to register to vote. Often, this was through the institution of selectively enforced arbitrary qualifications for registration or a poll tax, which was beyond the ability of most blacks to afford. In Alabama, these methods were so effective at excluding blacks from voting that, according to a ruling permitting one of the marches from Selma to Montgomery, the percentage of eligible black voters registered in some counties was zero in contract to the registration of 100% of eligible white voters. To highlight the systematic disenfranchisement of African Americans, national civil rights groups organized a series of marches from Selma to Montgomery. These marches culminated in the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a law that, while permitting registration practices, required them to be nondiscriminatory.

America at mid-century marched toward great social change, though this change was not without struggle. While President John F. Kennedy dies before he was able to see his social agenda fully implemented, President Lyndon B. Johnson was able to put anti-poverty programs, immigration reform, and designs for urban renewal in place. Despite the goals of these programs to increase jobs and job training opportunities, better urban life, and fundamentally rethink the paths to citizenship and immigration, unresolved issues from the Civil War 100 years earlier persisted, most prominently in Southern States. National civil rights groups, like the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), were among many who called for equality.

Led by Dr. Martin Luther King and John Lewis in January of 1965, marchers went to the Dallas County Courthouse in Selma to rally for voting rights. Subsequent less well-known marches heightened tensions as voter registration activists clashed with police. In February, Malcolm X visited Selma to support those fighting for the right to vote. Dr. King and another protester were arrested, and Jimmie Lee Jackson was killed. While a ruling in federal court compelled Dallas County to permit at least 100 people per day to register to vote, tensions remained high.

From this tension and unrest, one building in Selma emerged as the natural headquarters for a number of activities related to the Civil Rights movement. Founded by freed slaves in 1908, Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church was the site of Malcolm X’s address in support of voting rights, Dr. King’s eulogy for Jimmie Lee Jackson, and Jackson’s funeral. Three marches from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama began from this church, which also served as the temporary headquarters for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during 1965.

The first group of approximately 500 Civil Rights advocates left Brown Chapel on March 7 and attempted to cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge to march along US Rte. 80 to Montgomery, the State capital. Hosea Williams and John Lewis led the group. At the bridge, though, the Alabama State Police blocked the road and ordered the assembled marchers to disperse. When the marchers refused, the troopers attacked and beat them, and forced them back to Brown Chapel. Assembled television and still cameras captured the scene and broadcasted the event to a much wider audience presenting images to the nation from what became known as “Bloody Sunday.”

Though the marchers did not succeed in reaching Selma, their treatment by the police during Bloody Sunday highlighted the danger to people of all races who supported the Civil Rights Movement, and voting rights specifically. Undaunted, supporters continued to come to Selma, including many ministers. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference sought to march again on March 9 and asked Frank M. Johnson, Jr., a federal judge, to force the State of Alabama and relevant counties to permit a march from Selma to Montgomery. In a compromise while awaiting a response from the court, a second march occurred on March 9, but only as far as the Pettus Bridge. Despite a peaceful, prayerful second march, someone struck one of the ministers who participated in the march on the head afterwards and he later died. These events were impossible to ignore.

President Johnson addressed Congress and the nation on March 15, 1965. As the President said so eloquently in his address, “[t]here is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem.” Echoing the words of the marchers who themselves drew from a hymn, Johnson assured the nation later in the same speech that “we shall overcome.” The “American problem” was not voting rights alone but rather, in his words, the “crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice.”

As the President spoke to the nation, the SCLC’s case against the State of Alabama continued. Judge Johnson issued a ruling from the United States Post Office and Courthouse (now renamed in his honor) in Montgomery that recognized the right of the marchers to assemble peacefully and to ask the government to allow them to vote. This ruling underscored that discrimination in voter registration was a larger, national, and Constitutional issue. Known for his earlier rulings in favor of the desegregation of public schools and transportation, Judge Johnson affirmed the right of the marchers to petition their government peaceably. His ruling, unpopular with those who wanted to preserve the status quo, noted that neighboring Wilcox County had 100% of eligible white voters registered, while no black voters were on the rolls.

The Selma to Montgomery marchers wanted the right to vote guaranteed to them by the Fifteenth Amendment, a Reconstruction-era amendment to the Constitution that prohibited discrimination against voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Judge Johnson’s ruling concluded that for marchers barred from political participation, social demonstration was a legal way in Alabama and elsewhere to have a voice in the political process.

Judge Johnson’s ruling also allowed for a third march, under the protection of the Federal Government. Beginning on March 21, marchers walked for five days, camping during the night in the fields of farmers sympathetic to their cause. The rules for the march allowed only a select number of the marchers to enter Montgomery. On the last night before reaching Montgomery, thousands of marchers stayed and rested at the City of St. Jude hospital complex, a facility founded to address the inadequate segregated medical facilities made available to blacks in Alabama.

On the fifth day, the marchers reached the Alabama State Capitol in downtown Montgomery and attempted but were unable to present a petition to Governor George Wallace. Even so, the tide was turning. In August of 1965, President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, granting the redress sought by the thousands who marched and countless others. While the third march ended peacefully on March 25, 1965, that night a white voting rights advocate, Viola Liuzzo, was shot while driving marchers home to Selma from Montgomery. She died after being taken to St. Jude.

The fight for access to the polls is the story of the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail. Visitors can drive the historic route from Selma to Montgomery crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge. In Selma, they can take the Martin Luther King, Jr. Street Walking Tour, which includes Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, First Baptist Church, Carver Homes and wayside exhibits, and other sites. The Lowndes County Interpretive Center, a National Park Service visitors center, is along the Trail route midway between Selma and Montgomery. In Montgomery, visit the Rosa Parks Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church and Parsonage, and the Alabama State Capitol to follow in the footsteps of the marches that were some of the most important and stirring events in the modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Plan your visit

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail follows Route 80 between Selma and Montgomery, AL and is marked by distinctive signs. Visitors to the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail may visit a number of sites at the beginning of the first march in Selma, Alabama and at the end of the last march in Montgomery, Alabama and in between. Several sites along the trail are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for the Brown Chapel AME Church (Selma), National Register text and photos; and the Alabama State Capitol (Montgomery), text and photos. Brown Chapel AME Church has also been designated a National Historic Landmark. The Alabama State Capitol has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

For more information, visit the National Park Service Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail website or call the visitor information line at 334-877-1984. There is no fee to access the trail itself or for the interpretive center which is open daily 9:00am to 4:30pm. The trail is open year round. For more information on historic places to visit and a general overview of the trail, visit the National Park Service orientation and visitor center at the Lowndes County Interpretive Center, halfway between Selma and Montgomery on US Rt. 80.

The Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail and associated registered historic places are also featured in the National Park Service We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement Travel Itinerary. The trail route is also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Selma to Montgomery Voting Rights March: Shaking the Conscience of the Nation. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. The route is also designated a National Scenic Byway/All-American Road. See the Federal Highway Administration’s National Scenic Byways Program website.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida

Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have an opportunity to explore thousands of years of history in the wetlands along Florida’s Atlantic coast. In addition to places and stories of the Timucua Indians and European colonists, the park includes sites related to cotton plantations, segregation in the South, and Florida’s ecosystems. These places reveal the natural and cultural history of this diverse region that has been the home of many peoples. After Ponce de León named and claimed Florida for Spain in 1513, Spanish Franciscan missionaries established missions in the area to convert the Timucua, translating religious texts from Spanish into Timucua and leaving us much of what we know today about the Timucua language.

Long before the arrival of ships from Europe, America’s first peoples lived in present-day Florida, some of them in what is today the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Although the European colonists called them by one name, the Timucua, several groups of loosely related bands who shared a common language, inhabited the region. The Timucua generally lived in large, fortified villages where they grew crops such as maize, squash, and beans. They also hunted and fished. A chief led groups of villages related by family ties. The Timucua had a highly stratified caste society, where heredity determined a person’s role in the larger group.

Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve can learn about the Timucua at Fort Caroline and the Ribault Club. A good place to begin is at the visitor center at Fort Caroline, which features artifacts and exhibits about Timucuan culture. Near Fort Caroline, a modern reconstruction of a Timucuan hut and shell mound interpret how people lived. The reconstructed hut would have been one of many huts that made up a village. Tall wooden poles would have surrounded a group of huts. The center of the village often held a ceremonial space. The shell mounds are piles of discarded oyster shells and clamshells. A complex society, the Timucua encountered all of the early colonial powers in Florida.

Successive waves of explorers from Europe had an impact on Timucua life after Ponce de León named and claimed Florida for Spain in 1513. Over the next several hundred years, control of the area swung from Spain to France to Great Britain and, finally, to a fledgling United States in 1821. Armed conflict regularly brought soldiers through the area. Participation in fights either with or against colonists killed some Timucua. Though the first contact between the colonists and the Timucua people was peaceful, they were involved in some colonial battles that had roots far across the ocean. The park interprets the struggle of empires in Florida at Fort Caroline, which is included separately in this travel itinerary.

Missionaries also came to Florida. Established sometime during the 1570's, the San Juan del Puerto mission on Fort George Island was one of the largest. In the late 1500s, Franciscan monks attempted to convert the Timucuan to Catholicism, eroding Timucuan culture as tribal customs and practices changed to adopt European influences. Much of what we know today about the Timucua language is based on missionaries' work to translate religious texts from Spanish into Timucua. Father Francisco Pareja was an especially gifted linguist who created parallel Spanish and Timucua catechisms, a dictionary, and a description of Timucua grammar between 1612 and 1627. Within a century, missionary zeal died out as other concerns, like fighting with the British, took over.

The British began attacking Florida in the 1760s with the goal of gaining some territory as a colony. They frequently targeted the Spanish missions, some of which moved closer to St. Augustine for protection. The mission at San Juan del Puerto was attacked and destroyed in 1736. Its inhabitants reformed the mission outside San Augustine but it closed within a few years. As their culture changed through contact with Europeans, including war and diseases, the number of Timucua decreased. By the late 1600s, only about 550 Timucua lived in Florida, and none are known to remain today.

Kingsley Plantation, a cotton plantation, was the home of Zephaniah Kingsley. The home site and remains of many slave cabins and other outbuildings tell the story of 18th and 19th century Florida. Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna Madgigne Jai, a former slave from Senegal, moved to the island in 1814. Though they were not the first to live here, the plantation gets its name from the Kingsleys. The Kingsleys were successful planters whose holdings gradually expanded to include tens of thousands of acres, several other plantations in Florida, and hundreds of slaves. Visitors can take self-guided walking tours of the plantation, including the slave quarters and barn. Rangers also lead guided tours.

A group of slave cabins is arranged in a semi-circle a short distance from the plantation house. Made of tabby--a mixture of lime, sand, water, and shells (usually oyster shells discarded long ago by the Timucua), these cabins housed the slaves who worked in the Kingsley fields. A demonstration garden features crops grown on the plantation such as long-staple Sea Island cotton prized for its softness, indigo, okra, squash, and beans. Slaves on the island worked under the so-called task system where each slave was assigned a fixed amount of work each day. After finishing their work, the slaves tended to the needs of their families and community by growing their own food. Slaves expressed themselves in music, dance, and religious practices that were their own rather than the customs of their owners. Until the end of the Civil War, agriculture dominated life on Fort George Island. The Rollins family purchased the island in 1869 and, following several failed attempts to turn a profit from growing grapes and oranges, began to use the island for recreation and as a tourist destination, which led to the construction of hotels and country clubs.

Visitors can drive or take a ferry to Fort George Island where the visitor center at the Ribault Club highlights the island’s long history. Built in 1928, the clubhouse for the Ribault Club is a remnant of “Roaring Twenties” society life. Created as a social club for the wealthy, the club had as members men and women from major East Coast cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Wilmington, and Pittsburgh. The visitor center interprets Timucua life on and around Fort George Island, particularly along the St. Johns River. A video recounts the history of the club. Segway tours and a CD tour to play on a car stereo are also available. The Theodore Roosevelt Area preserves a landscape very similar to that of “Old Florida” during the time of the Timucua. This area highlights the ecological diversity of Florida and provides opportunities for hiking and bird watching, as does the Cedar Point part of the park.

Outdoor exhibits at American Beach tell the story of African American life in segregated Florida during the early 1900s. With most beaches closed to black people, wealthy African American insurance company president A. L. Lewis bought and divided land on Amelia Island for his employees and the black general public in 1935. Following World War II, the beach community he created exploded in popularity, until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in public spaces and opened formerly closed areas to African Americans. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the importance of American Beach declined. The National Park Service preserves one of the defining sand dunes of the area—an important natural feature among the beach houses of this historically black vacation community. Visitors can see the dune and learn about the social and cultural history of American Beach through outdoor interpretive signs.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve protects cultural and natural resources that reflect the stories of the people who settled this part of Florida. From the Timucua to the Jim Crow South, the Preserve records the culturally diverse history of the coastal wetlands of Florida’s Atlantic coast from before the Spanish and other Europeans arrived until well into the 20th century.

Plan your visit

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, includes several sites around Jacksonville, FL such as Fort Caroline, the Kingsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point, and American Beach. The main visitor center is located at 12713 Fort Caroline Rd. in Jacksonville, FL. Visitors interested in learning more about the Timucua should also visit the Ribault Club, located at 11676 Palmetto Ave. in Jacksonville. Click here for National Register of Historic Places files for Fort Caroline (text and photos). There is no fee to visit any part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The visitor center at Fort Caroline is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information visit the National Park Service Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve website or call 904-641-7155.

Sites within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Record.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.


Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, Alabama

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site commemorates and interprets the heroic actions of the Tuskegee Airmen from World War II, a story of patriotism in the face of fascism abroad and racism at home. The United States War Department’s “Tuskegee Experiment” (today known as the “Tuskegee Airmen Experience”) involved the recruitment of African American men and women to train and fight in the Army Air Corps in World War II in the face of discriminatory policies and conditions. Including over 16,000 air traffic controllers, bombardiers, flight instructors, mechanics, navigators, officers, pilots, radio technicians, weather forecasters, and more, the participants of the “Tuskegee Airmen Experience” are unique not just because of their large number, but because their numerous confrontations with racism motivated rather than hindered their mission. The fighter groups most closely associated with the Tuskegee Airmen, notably the 99th and 332nd, are considered among the most proficient Army Air Corps squadrons in World War II. This hard won reputation exemplifies their efforts to rise above prejudice and serve their country.

In 1939, schools and universities received government-sponsored support for developing flight-training programs through the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program. Established to train civilians to be back-up pilots in the event of a national emergency, the CPT was open to African Americans and women. Tuskegee Institute was just one of eight African American schools CPT supported. Known as one of the nation’s best vocational schools for African Americans, Tuskegee Institute had a tradition of teaching skilled crafts and instilling a firm work ethic in its students. Before the enactment of the law authorizing the Civilian Pilot Training program, just six African Americans were commercially licensed pilots, but in just five years, Tuskegee Institute alone graduated 996 pilots. The program was originally limited to elementary training courses, but the Civilian Aeronautics Association, in July 1940, began providing government funds for advanced CPT courses propelling Tuskegee to the forefront of African American aviation training.

With arguably one of the country’s best aviation training programs and the Army Air Corps’ first ever effort to recruit African Americans, Tuskegee Institute quickly became the center of African American military pilots during World War II. The popularity of the program and additional government support for advanced training led the military to establish a segregated base, Tuskegee Army Air Field, to recruit and train African American pilots, primarily at Moton Field, today the location of Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. On July 19, 1941, the first class of pilots began rigorous training in such advanced subjects as meteorology, navigation, and instruments.

In 1936, future general Benjamin O. Davis, Jr. one of the 13 original Tuskegee cadets, became the first African American to graduate from West Point Military Academy since 1889. His later achievements as squadron commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group are celebrated as some of the most courageous Army Air Corps missions during World War II. Davis once led the 332nd on a 1,600-mile round-trip escort mission to Berlin. Awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for the mission, the Tuskegee Airmen did not lose a single bomber on that mission despite the superior German planes. Along with fellow Tuskegee Airmen such as Daniel “Chappie” James, the first African American 4-star general, Davis received recognition for extraordinary leadership and individual service.

Given the chance to fight for their country and to prove themselves intellectually and physically capable, the men and women at Tuskegee Army Air Field were able to bear the oppressive nature of Tuskegee Army Air Field's segregation policies where African Americans faced exclusion on every level. They were deprived of officer positions, excluded from specific areas of the base, and subject to abuse by white Tuskegee police and conflicts with white flight instructors. This racism defined these men and women’s existence and served to motivate them further. In December 1943, a new base commander instituted less discriminatory policies giving new confidence to the Tuskegee Airmen. The actions of the two most proficient Tuskegee squadrons, the 99th and 332nd, are evidence of this confidence and their competence.

The 99th squadron was initially controversial, because the squadron had many tours never firing upon an enemy and many more missions in which pilots never even saw an enemy plane. Because of the lack of action, the Tuskegee units received negative comments from the media about the pilots’ lack of aggression and success, reinforcing racial stereotypes of inferiority. An interrogation by the War Department Committee on Special Troop Policies with Lt. Col. Davis revealed that the combination of the lack of combat experience, small support staff, and fewer pilots to share the same amount of missions helped create the false image of an impotent unit. Launching a study of the African American units, top military officials came to recognize the Tuskegee squadron's above average ability. A subsequent series of successful combat missions for the 99th and the formation of the 332nd squadron forced many to reverse earlier racist sentiments.

Despite the achievements of the Tuskegee Airmen, discrimination continued. In preparation for the 332nd squadron’s deployment, the squadron faced reassignment to various bases in the United States for training that adhered strictly to segregationist policies. At Selfridge Army Airfield in Michigan, nine officers from the 332nd became the first African Americans assigned to nonsegregated training, an almost unheard of breakdown of the race barrier. Simultaneously, however, the base commander banned all African American officers from the officer’s club violating Army Regulation 210-10 and nearly inciting a race riot. Similar violations occurred throughout the war that led to the eruption of violence. African American squadron leaders like Lt. Col. Davis had to become experts in compromise to protect their troops, retain morale, and focus on the task-at-hand.

Foreshadowing the integration of the Armed Forces, the Tuskegee Airmen were able to initiate a series of remarkable changes at Camp Patrick Henry, their base of direct deployment in Virginia. Arriving at the base, the 332nd discovered that its members were barred because of their race from places such as the movie theater, certain bathrooms, and various clubs. Lt. Col. Davis and the post commander settled the matter by integrating these facilities, which demonstrates the Tuskegee Airmen's success in overturning the mantra of “separate but equal” years before the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

The graduates and over 15,000 support crew completed more than 15,000 sorties, 1,500 missions, destroyed 262 German aircraft, sank one enemy destroyer, and received 916 marks of honor. For nearly all of these men and women, Moton Field was the start of it all. Providing basic and primary flight training for nearly one thousand African American pilots and ground training for many more, Moton Field leaves a legacy that continues to redefine American history. At the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site Visitor Center, visitors come face-to-face with the men and women of Moton Field through a series of captivating films examining different aspects of the Tuskegee Airmen’s story. Visitors can explore the Hanger #1 Museum and take ranger-led tours to various buildings at the site.

To preserve the memory of those involved in the Tuskegee Airmen Experience, the National Park Service launched a massive oral history project. Interviews with participants from all aspects of the experience create a fuller picture of the support behind the pilots and open a window into the discrimination they faced. The project is particularly important because of the age of many of the Tuskegee Airmen, who, because they were not given the opportunity to study aviation until later in life, are significantly older than are their white counterparts in World War II. This makes the oral histories that much more important.

Fighting the “Double V” campaign for victory against fascism abroad and racism at home, the Tuskegee Airmen are great American patriots not just because of their prowess in the skies. Their daring actions led President Truman to integrate the Armed Forces in 1948, and provided a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. At a time when some considered African Americans unfit even to operate heavy machinery, the Tuskegee Airmen destroyed racial stereotypes as they flew their way into American history.

Plan your visit

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1616 Chappie James Ave. in Tuskegee, AL. The site is open daily from 9:00am to 4:30pm. The Hanger #1 Museum is available for scheduled tours Wednesday-Sunday at 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. The historic site is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There are no admission fees. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site website or call 334-724-0922. Visit the National Park Service Museum Management Program's virtual museum exhibit: Legends of Tuskegee.


Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Alabama

In 1881, Tuskegee Institute in Alabama officially opened its doors to America’s former slaves. In time, the university would gain recognition for its superior training of African Americans in industrial trades that helped improve their economic conditions and way of life. Today, Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is a symbol of African American achievement and a reminder of Booker T. Washington’s legacy in African American education and culture.

In 1880, as the Alabama State Senate election drew near, Senator W. F. Foster proposed a deal to Lewis Adams that would help make the former slave’s dream of establishing a school for his people a reality. According to their agreement, Adams would encourage African American voters in Mason County to support Foster’s re-election. In return, the State senator would influence the Alabama legislature to push a bill to institute in Tuskegee, a “Normal School for Colored Teachers.” When the former slave secured the senator’s seat the following year, Foster delivered on his promise, and with the help of member of the House of Representatives, Arthur L. Brooks, the legislature authorized the establishment of a teaching school for African Americans in Alabama.

During its first year, the school's outlook was unfavorable. Although the Alabama legislature provided $2,000 to cover teacher salaries, Tuskegee did not receive the necessary equipment for training its students, nor did it have buildings where students could attend classes. Instead they met with their teachers in a shanty located at the African American Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Despite the school’s initial shortcomings, the students of Tuskegee were in good hands with their educators and in particular, their school principal.

With the assistance of George Campbell, the school commissioner and a former slave owner, Adams hired Booker Taliaferro Washington to lead the university. At Tuskegee, Washington used his training from the Hampton Normal and Agricultrual Institute to implement a program of industrial and vocational education to teach former slaves how “to live on the farm, off the farm.” He believed that by teaching students practical jobs and training those who worked on farms to master agricultural skills, the economic conditions for African Americans would improve. Washington also strove to teach his students to become self-sufficient by teaching them how to grow their own food, and how to make bricks, and with them, raise buildings that Tuskegee’s faculty designed. Eventually, Tuskegee’s campus grew from the small church shanty to 2,300 acres of farmland filled with buildings the students constructed. By teaching his students carpentry, bricklaying, printing, agriculture, and other trades, Booker T. Washington believed that Tuskegee’s students would build their campus and learn the dignity of hard work.

Washington recruited and trained George Washington Carver and and other distinguished educators. Carver, like Washington, was a former slave and an avid supporter of teaching practical education. Carver accepted Washington’s offer to head the school’s agriculture department and joined Tuskegee’s faculty in 1896.  As a botanist and former professor of agriculture at Iowa State College, he began teaching students progressive agricultural methods that would help former plantation slaves become more efficient and productive. Carver taught farmers and their wives to master skills in agriculture and also about nutrition, home construction, food preservation, and hygiene.

In 1906, Carver and Washington, seeking to ameliorate the economic conditions of former slaves unable to attend Tuskegee, together initiated the Movable School. Carver was the architect behind the Jesup Wagon, which carried machinery and other supplies for training African American farmers at their homes. With the assistance of Carver, Washington was able to reach out to former slaves to them help find a place in society. Washington’s work at Tuskegee and his influence on African American culture eventually gained him wide recognition as a leader of his people.  Distinguished white businessmen also believed in Washington and invested in the school. Renowned businessmen Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller were two of the school’s many benefactors who helped Tuskegee grow.

By the time Booker T. Washington died in 1915, Tuskegee had become an icon in African American history, growing from Washington’s first class of 30 students to a student body composed of 1,537 African Americans. After his death, Tuskegee--which offered students at the time the opportunity to learn 30 trades--would continue to expand its departments. In 1941, when the United States government barred African Americans from flying in the United States military, Tuskegee Institute began to train students in combat aviation. The aeronautical program, or “Tuskegee Experiment,” taught the distinguished Tuskegee Airmen to become pilots, navigators, and bombardiers. By the end of World War II, the Tuskegee Airmen were among the most respected fighters in America’s military. Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site at Moton Field on Tuskegee Institute in Alabama honors their heroic service during World War II.

Today, Tuskegee Institute continues its educational mission. At the national historic site, visitors can walk the university grounds and enjoy the surviving buildings, including Washington’s home, the Oaks, which the first Tuskegee students constructed. This and other buildings Tuskegee’s students built that Robert R. Taylor, the first African American graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, designed are reminders of Washington's practical approach to education. Tuskegee University students usually conduct the campus tours.

Plan your visit

Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1212 W. Montgomery Rd. at Tuskegee Institute in AL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site is open daily from 9:00am to 4:30pm. The historic site is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There are no admission fees. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site website or call 334-727-3200. Visit the National Park Service virtual museum exhibit:  Legends of Tuskegee.

Many components of Tuskegee Institute have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including: the Carver Museum,The Oaks,Grey Columns, and the Tuskegee Institute.


Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands National Park covers roughly 60% of St. John Island in the United States Virgin Islands. Often thought of primarily as a place of natural beauty, the park also preserves the history and tells the stories of the rich cultural mix of peoples in the Caribbean--Native Americans from South America, enslaved Africans, European colonists, and, after 1917 when the Virgin Islands became part of the United States, Americans. Today, visitors to St. John can marvel at the beauty of the island, enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational activities, and learn more about the Native Americans and European colonization in the Caribbean.

The first people in the Virgin Islands arrived from South America by canoe beginning about 710 BCE. They settled in a number of places, including along the south shore of St. John. One group, the Taino, formed villages along the many bays of the island. Over the next several hundred years, the population of the Taino and other groups grew and spread out until the arrival of Christopher Columbus in 1492. Following Columbus, Spain tried to establish a colony. The Spanish colonists and native peoples fought, and fighting and disease killed many of the local people. Visitors to the park today will find the remains of the native Taino culture in archeological sites and petroglyphs such as the ones along the Reef Bay hiking trail on St. John.

Spain, Holland, England, and Denmark have all made claims in the Virgin Islands--Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas, Water Island, and numerous outlying minor islands. The Danish presence is most evident on St. John in Virgin Islands National Park. The first Danish colony dates from 1672. Over time, the Danes established plantations worked by slave labor. On St. John, a large workforce of slaves harvested the major plantation crops. At first, the main crops were tobacco, plants for the creation of dye, and native crops. Production later shifted to two labor-intensive, yet profitable, crops: sugar and cotton.

As long as sugar and cotton prices held, the plantations on St. John prospered. In 1792, however, Denmark abolished the slave trade and eliminated the source of free labor that had helped ensure the success of the plantation economy. Further, sugar and cotton prices declined in the early 1800s. The total abolition of slavery by Denmark in 1848 ended an already struggling cotton and sugar based economy, and large land owners who had owned slaves often divided their lots into smaller farms or abandoned them to nature.

Legacies of a plantation system remain, however. Annaberg was once one of the larger sugar plantations on St. John. The remains of the windmill and horsemill, used to crush the sugar cane to extract its juice, still stand. Much of the sugar factory, where the juice was boiled and condensed to make raw sugar, is still there, as is part of the rum still. Slaves gathered in the sugarcane stalks, closely supervised their successive reduction into syrup, and packed the sugar for export. The slaves lived in quarters on the plantation and were required to follow strict rules of conduct that required obedience to their master. Overseers helped to maintain order and enforce discipline.

Visitors to Annaberg will note one tool of the overseer and a symbol of the conditions against which enslaved Africans fought—a dungeon. Cultural demonstrations, including baking “dumb bread” and basket weaving take place Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Parts of the Annaberg School, used to educate the children, are located not far from the sugar mill.

Visitors can hike to the Reef Bay Sugar Mill. On Mondays and Thursdays, rangers lead hikes down a 3-mile path through tropical forests to the sugar mill. Reservations are required and there are fees for taxi transportation to the trailhead and boat return to the visitor center. See the Visitor Activities brochure for more details.

Virgin Islands National Park is the site of other sugar and cotton plantations in addition to the plantations at Annaberg, Cinnamon Bay, and Reef Bay. Some are described in the Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Travel Itinerary.

Lush tropical Virgin Islands National Park draws tourists from all over the world to enjoy the scenery and beautiful beaches; snorkel, swim and sail in the waters; picnic; and camp. But visitors should not miss the opportunity to learn about the native peoples, European colonists, and enslaved Africans who peopled this paradise by visiting the fascinating historic sites that tell their stories.

Plan your visit

Virgin Islands National Park, part of the National Park System, is located on St. John Island in the United States Virgin Islands. There are no official entry points into the park, though visitors may wish to begin at the visitor center at Cruz Bay near the ferry dock. The visitor center offers orientation materials on the park. For information on the sites mentioned above that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places click the text below:

Annaberg Historic District (
text and photos)
Brown Bay Plantation Historic District (
text and photos)
Catherineberg-Jockumsdahl-Herman Farm (
text and photos)
Cinnamon Bay Plantation (
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Dennis Bay Plantation (
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Jossie Gut Historic District (
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Lameshur Plantation (
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Mary Point Great House and Factory (
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Reef Bay Sugar Factory Historic District (
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Trunk Bay Sugar Plantation (
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Virgin Islands National Park (
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The park may be visited either by automobile once on St. John, or by ferry or private boat. There is a fee to enter the park through Trunk Bay. Boats moored at Park Service mooring balls must also pay. The park is generally open all the time. The visitor center at Cruz Bay is open from 8:00am to 4:30pm daily. For more information, visit the National Park Service Virgin Islands National Park website or call 340-776-6201.

Many of the locations above have been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey. Virgin Islands National Park and some of the sites mentioned above are also featured in the National Park Service Historic Places in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands Travel Itinerary.


Bering Land Bridge National Preserve,  Alaska

While Christopher Columbus may have been the first European to discover the Americas, he was not the first to step foot on the continent. When he arrived, he found that American Indians already inhabited the continent, but how did these indigenous peoples get here? Although the date of the first peopling of the Americas remains in question, most archeologists agree that the first humans arrived to the continent by crossing the Bering Land Bridge. Evidence confirms this migration, and despite being underwater now, the Bering Strait or Beringia continues to hold valuable resources possibly dating from more than 40,000 years ago. Today, Bering Land Bridge National Preserve protects and interprets the cultural and natural resources that chronicle the history of America’s first immigrants.

Spanning approximately 55 miles between Siberia and Alaska’s Seward Peninsula, the site of the Bering Strait was not always beneath the sea. During the Pleistocene Ice Ages, humans could make the trip between present day Russia and Alaska entirely on foot. Estimated to have formed when the sea level fell 300 feet during the Wisconsinan Glaciation, the landmass that linked the Americas to Asia was approximately 1,000 miles wide. The Wisconsinan glacial period ended roughly 10,000 years ago. Some archeologists believe that since the Pleistocene Ice Age began 1.6 million years ago, it is possible that humans crossed the Bering Land Bridge at different intervals between 40,000 and 13,000 years ago. Since the sea level has risen one foot per century for the past 10,000 years, archeological remains that would prove this hypothesis true are currently under water.

Archeologists have discovered artifacts that provide evidence of human activity in North and South America dating roughly 12,000 years ago. Although dates still are a question for debate, artifacts found throughout Bering Land Bridge National Preserve offer important insights about the different cultures that peopled America at this time. Believed to have originated in Africa, early humans began to migrate northward after the discovery of fire. With the ability to stay warm in the colder regions, people began to move toward the Mediterranean Sea, and eventually, as these cultures began developing insulated shelters and wearing warmer clothing, they crossed over to the arctic coast in the Americas.

These first Americans survived by practicing subsistence living, a way of life that continues among Native Alaskans today. Although known for its glaciers and below zero temperatures, Alaska has grasslands and a large population of terrestrial and marine life. Like the humans who crossed the Beringia, animals and plants also moved between the continents during and after the continental Glaciation period. Prehistoric Alaskans and their modern day descendants have sustained their families by whaling, hunting walruses, muskoxen, lemmings, and other marine mammals, and by ice fishing, which was often reserved for women, elders, and children. The Inupiat Eskimos of the Seward Peninsula continue to hunt bowhead whales, and the walrus still sustains the Native Alaskans of the Diomedes and St. Lawrence islands.

Although the subsistence lifestyle remains, the present-day Inupiat who follow ancient traditions use modern tools. Like their ancestors, the modern Inupiat hunt whales with harpoons, but they also carry rifles with them when they hunt. Alaskans still navigate the arctic waters in sealskin-covered kayaks, otherwise known as umiaks, and use dog sleds to move across the tundra. Despite the influence of some modern technologies, the Eskimos of the Beringia coast practice ancient beliefs, which include spiritual respect for the animals of the land and sea and the old tradition of sharing and distributing food with neighboring communities.

At Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, visitors can participate in a number of outdoor activities independently or with park rangers. Bird watching, fishing, camping at the bunkhouse, bathing in the Serpentine Hot Springs, and hiking the granite tors that surround the springs are popular. Visitors are welcome to photograph the wildlife and plant life while they participate in the park’s nature observation activities. During the winter, people can tour the preserve on snowmobiles, dog sleds, and by cross-country skiing. Exploring the remains of the Gold Rush Era and the preserve's archeological sites provide opportunities to learn about the history of the area and the earliest Americans.

Bering Land Bridge National Preserve is in one of the most remote areas of Alaska. Information about the history of the preserve, the story of the peopling of the Americas, and the culture of the Native Alaskans is available at the National Park Service visitor center in Nome, Alaska. The visitor center offers a wide range of inter-active displays, films, and exhibits on the history and culture of the Bering Strait and Nome, Alaska. The Nome Alaska Visitor’s Center website provides information on what to see and do and why there is "No Place Like Nome."

Plan your visit

Bering Land Bridge National Monument, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located in Alaska. The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve Visitor Center is on the first floor of the Sitnasauk Building on Front St. in Nome, AK. The visitor center is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm and closed on all federal holidays. Access to the actual preserve is limited; it can only be accessed by plane, small boat, on foot and in the winter, by dog sled. The preserve is open year-round. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Bering Land Bridge National Preserve website or call 907-443-2522.


Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Alaska

In the 1950s and 1960s, archeologists J. Louis Giddings and Douglas D. Anderson, and local Inupiaq resident Almond Downey discovered archeological sites on a sequence of beach ridges along the Chukchi Sea shoreline of Northwest Alaska. Since then, archeologists have continued researching and interpreting the evidence preserved within the ancient beach ridges of Cape Krusenstern, the most extensive in Northwest Alaska. The beach ridges began forming at Krusenstern approximately 5,000 years ago when the sea level stabilized. For the last 60 years, archeologists have collected and studied tens of thousands of artifacts, historic items, and biological specimens that have provided great insight into understanding the cultures of Northwest Alaska. Today, Cape Krusenstern National Monument protects the series of more than 100 beach ridges that have preserved over 5,000 years of the history and culture of the Inupiat Eskimos and those who went before them. Humans of many cultural traditions with different patterns of subsistence, settlement, and socio-economic organization have occupied the region.

While the beach ridges of the National Monument are the focus of a multi-year research project, the modern Inupiat continue to live in Cape Krusenstern, where they practice a subsistence lifestyle carried out for thousands of years. Like their ancestors, they depend greatly on Cape Krusenstern’s rich natural resources to survive the region’s harsh arctic environment. As an untamed wilderness, Cape Krusenstern is home to a wide range of terrestrial and marine animals, which for centuries have helped sustain the native communities of the arctic north. In the dryer regions of the 70-mile coastal plain, residents make use of the abundance of blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries, and Labrador tea. In the summer, wildflowers color the landscape where caribou, moose, hares, foxes, wolves, and muskoxen roam free. Cape Krusenstern is also dotted with a number of large lagoons, where migratory birds feed in the fall.

Along the outer beaches, using traditional tools and ancient practices, the Inupiat continue to hunt seals and bowhead whales. Although Native Alaskans benefit from Cape Krusenstern’s wide range of mammals and extensive vegetation, whaling is the most important element in the Inupiat culture and history. Whaling not only provides the Inupiat people with food, but also creates a strong sense of community. For thousands of years, whaling has bonded Inupiat families closely together, since hunting for whales is an activity that requires the involvement of every member of the community. While the elders and the young Inupiat boys hunt, the women dry the whale skin and store the meat in ice cellars. The Inupiat women also keep track of the food inventory and are responsible for sewing sealskins together to cover the umiaq or whaling boat.

By whaling, the Inupiat have developed strong relationships among neighboring communities, as they continue to share and distribute food among Inupiat families who help carve the whales. Historically, the wife of the umialik--the male head of the family--was responsible for managing the redistribution of the whale meat. The captains’ wives follow this tradition today, preparing feasts the modern Inupiat share with neighboring communities, participating with them in the nalukataq or blanket toss to celebrate and give thanks to the sea for a successful whaling season.

Whaling also plays a significant role in the spiritual life of the Inupiat, who strive to live in harmony with the land and sea and show great respect for the food and other natural resources available in the arctic north. Toward the end of the whaling season, the present-day Inupiat continue to follow their ancestral tradition of returning the whale’s carcass back into the ocean. The act, they hope, will please the spirits of the sea, since the Inupiat believe that the spirit of the whale they hunted will inform living whales and other marine mammals of the great treatment it received and of the overall respect and gratitude of Inupiat families for Alaska’s natural resources.

At Cape Krusenstern National Monument, visitors can participate in a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, kayaking, camping, and backpacking. During the winter, they can traverse the park on snow machines, skis, and dog sleds. Visitors are welcome to photograph the wildlife and magnificent scenery, as well as the cultural artifacts. Click to learn more about the laws protecting Cape Krusenstern’s archeological sites on public land.

Researchers are performing fieldwork throughout the park. Since 2009, surveys of over 9,000 acres of the beach ridges have recovered pottery and fragments of tools from a native settlement dating to 1,000 years ago. Archeologists from the National Park Service and the University of Washington also discovered two wood lined storage features and other debris. Researchers continue to survey and investigate the land hoping to gain a greater understanding of the interactions between past cultures and the environment of Cape Krusenstern. To learn more about the archeological findings, visit the Cape Krusenstern National Monument Museum Collections website.

A word of caution--because Cape Krusenstern is an untamed wilderness with no roads or trails, only visitors skilled in outdoor exploration and how to survive rough winds, rain, and snow are encouraged to visit. There are no visitor centers or facilities at Cape Krusenstern. The park headquarters and visitor center are located an airplane ride away. The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska offers a variety of educational programs, ranging from Junior Ranger programs, to research presentations, to native crafts and dancing, and a wide range of interpretive experiences that provide insights into the cultural history of Northwest Alaska.

Plan your visit

Cape Krusenstern National Monument, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located in a remote area of Northwest Alaska and can be accessed via the regional hub in Kotzebue by plane and snowmobile during the winter. Cape Krusenstern's hours vary seasonally. For more information, visit the National Park Service Cape Krusenstern National Monument website or call 907-442-3890.


Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve,  Alaska

In the Brooks Range in northern Alaska, the northernmost mountain range in the United States, Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve (GAAR) covers nearly 8.5 million acres--a vast expanse of land that lies north of the Arctic Circle. The park and preserve contains tundra plains, mountain ridges and ranges, wild scenic rivers, forests, glacially formed lakes, arctic and subarctic climates, and well over 10,000 years of human history. This breathtaking landscape has served as the home to Native Alaskan peoples for many millennia.

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve helps to protect the natural resources and also the cultural resources of Native Alaskan peoples. Today, 10 small communities with about 1,500 residents depend on these resources to maintain their subsistence lifestyle and their cultural traditions. Exploring the park and preserve’s richly diverse landscape, vegetation, fauna, and human history provides visitors a memorable experience of what it is like to live in this dramatic land.

The earliest people in the area of the Brooks Range were among the first to cross the Bering Land Bridge from Asia in the migrations that over time populated the Americas. Although humans have occupied this area for thousands of years, little evidence remains to provide clues about their lifestyles, habits, and identities. While the archeological evidence is limited, the 800 archeological sites identified throughout the park and preserve provide some clues about those who lived here.

As early as 11,500 years ago, peoples of the Paleoarctic tradition subsisted by hunting in small, mobile groups. Remnants of glacial ice would have dotted the valleys while these peoples moved throughout the land in harmonious rhythms with the seasons. Another group, the Paleo-Eskimos, appeared around 4,500 years ago. Paleo-Eskimos are the ancient ancestors of modern Eskimos, as determined by archeological studies throughout Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. More broadly, these people are part of the Arctic Small Tool Tradition, which includes the Denbigh, Choris, Norton, and Ipiutak traditions. These people, who made finely crafted and fully developed miniature tools, successfully exploited arctic coastal resources--including sea mammals and caribou, which enabled them to diffuse throughout North America and this region.

Recently, many Denbigh Paleo-Eskimos’ archeological remains were discovered at Matcharak Lake. Permafrost and the ongoing formation of peat at this site preserved the remains of numerous Denbigh Paleo-Eskimo meals. With this discovery, archeologists can better determine what the Denbigh Paleo-Eskimos ate and how they hunted and moved around the area seasonally. At the site, archeologists identified thousands of bones from animals such as caribou, fish, and migratory birds. They also found tools and incised-bone artwork. Future research at this site will help archeologists and researchers more thoroughly understand Native Alaskan behaviors and lifestyles.

During the last 1000 years, ancestral cultures of the Inupiat (Inupiaq) Eskimos and groups of Athabaskan Indian people appeared throughout this region. Artifacts found throughout the park and preserve such as the Eskimo hunting bow, obsidian tools, and the bones of animals including moose, sheep, and fish, reveal how the Inupiat Eskimos and the Athabaskan Indians used natural resources to survive in this harsh environment. The discovery of obsidian tools throughout the area reveals evidence of stone tool manufacturing and the trading and movement patterns of these prehistoric and historic peoples. Obsidian is a naturally occurring volcanic glass that can be extremely sharp. Obsidian can be traced to specific geographic locations through geological sourcing and is therefore an extremely valuable artifact that archeologists can use to understand Native Alaskan prehistoric and historic behaviors.

Thousands of artifacts were retrieved in 2004 at the Hungry Fox archeological site. These artifacts revealed that at one time, in what is today a seemingly remote and isolated landscape near a steep riverbank, a substantial Inupiaq settlement thrived throughout the 15th century. Artifacts retrieved from the site include fragile bird and fish bones, small game bones, caribou and sheep bones, split root cordage, wood shavings left from making tool handles, charcoal, fire cracked rock, stone tool debris, large stone slabs, flaked-stone arrow point, jade tools, bone and amber beads, and carved and incised pieces of bone and antler. The extensive quantity of archeological findings at this site reveals that through a system of hunting and gathering, a substantial Inupiaq settlement thrived in this remote area and acquired survival methods that would undoubtedly help future generations of Inupiat Eskimos.

By the 1880s, people of European descent, such as military explorers, gold prospectors, and government scientists found their way to the Brooks Range, almost two decades after the United States purchased Alaska. By the late 19th century, gold rushes in Alaska significantly altered the traditional lifestyles of the Native Alaskans. The Klondike and Nome gold rushes, which brought prospectors and others to the region that is now Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, changed the lifestyles of the Eskimos and Athabascan peoples living in the area. Euro-Americans introduced new tools, materials, and labor systems. The Eskimos and Athabascans, who had survived through a semi-nomadic cycle of substance hunting and fishing for centuries, began to settle in villages and to become largely dependent upon the white man’s technologies, culture, and work opportunities.

While much has changed since the first settlers lived on this land thousands of years ago, many communities still utilize the subsistence hunting and fishing methods of their ancestors. Eleven designated “resident zone communities” in the vicinity of the park have special privileges regarding subsistence within park boundaries. The communities are Nuiqsut, Wiseman, Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles, Evansville, Allakaket, Alatna, Hughes, Kobuk, Shungnak, and Ambler. By using methods of subsistence in this harsh environment, these modern Alaskan peoples carry on in the spirit of their ancestors.

Exploring Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve brings visitors into close contact with pristine nature and thousands of years of history giving them an appreciation of Native Alaskan cultural heritage and this dramatic landscape that necessitates such self and group reliance for survival.

Plan your visit

Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service, is located in the Brooks Range of northern Alaska. The park and preserve is primarily accessible via air taxi from Fairbanks to Anaktuvuk Pass, Bettles, and Coldfoot. No roads are in the park, however, the Dalton Highway, open year round, comes within five miles of the park. Click here for a list of authorized outfitters and air charter operators to assist visitors in gaining access.

The Arctic Interagency Visitor Center (907-678-5209), is located in Coldfoot along the Dalton Highway and provides visitors with interpretive exhibits and information on the region’s history, natural environment, and educational opportunities. Other ranger stations are located throughout the park, including the seasonal Anaktuvuk Pass Ranger Station (907-661-3520) and the Bettles Ranger Station (907-692-5495). For hours and operations, it is best to call each office prior to arrival to confirm current hours of operation.


For more information, visit the National Park Service Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve website or call 907-457-5752.


Katmai National Park and Preserve,  Alaska

A raw energy penetrates Katmai National Park and Preserve, which covers roughly four million acres of the Alaskan peninsula. This energy occasionally explodes as it did in a massive volcanic eruption in 1912, but it is also part of a calmer natural rhythm. The vastness of Katmai includes a wide diversity of natural habitats and culturally significant areas. Brooks Camp at Brooks River on the western side of Katmai, for example, offers visitors the opportunity to learn about Eskimo culture by taking one of the daily ranger walks and touring a reconstructed pithouse.

While Katmai might appear today as a primarily wild, uninhabited space, the earliest occupations of the area around the park date from approximately 8,000 to 9,000 years ago, though they occupied areas outside the boundaries of Katmai National Park and Preserve. These Paleoarctic peoples are likely to have come to the continent either by walking across the land bridge that is today the Bering Strait, or by sailing a similar route.

Within the park, the Brooks River area appears to have been settled approximately 5,000 years ago in 3,000 BCE. The earliest populations around Brooks River are known to reflect a number of ancestral groups—some with Asian roots. Eruptions of the active volcanoes at Katmai must have played important roles in isolating or forcing movement of populations, although how they influenced Eskimo culture is poorly understood. What is known is that the Brooks Camp area has many layers of cultural settlement.

The earliest residents were probably very mobile, setting up temporary living quarters that permitted them to follow the game they hunted. Documented by the arrowheads they left behind, these mobile hunters crossed the region 5,000 to 3,850 years ago. Later peoples began to be more sedentary and constructed the first pithouses within Katmai between 3,850 and 3,000 years ago. The next cultural group occupied the lands within this part of Katmai beginning around 2,250 years ago. This group and the last historic grouping (from 900 years ago) were markedly different from their ancestors in that they began producing ceramics and constructing more advanced pithouses.

Today, most visitors gather at Brooks River to observe bears who come to the river for salmon. A short, 1.5-mile long stream, Brooks River supported early native populations who seasonally consumed the great abundance of the salmon that school there in the spring, summer, and fall. Caribou first drew the earliest settlers to the area. Caribou used the Brooks Camp area to cross Brooks Lake and Naknek Lake. At the time, the Brooks Camp area was a narrow point joining the two lakes, funneling the caribou into an easy-to-hunt mass. Salmon came only as glaciers retreated, causing a river and waterfalls to develop.

To overcome a challenging natural environment, the First Alaskans in this region constructed pithouses. Temporary dwellings, like the one reconstructed at Brooks Camp, these houses required considerable effort to build and were probably occupied seasonally year after year beginning around 900 years ago. Seal hunting expeditions to the coast temporarily relocated populations who would then return to camps like Brooks River once the hunting season was over. To help survive the cold winter months, the Eskimos placed entrances to the pithouses within a cold trap. They positioned the entryway to the pithouse off a trough below the semi-submerged house structure so that outside cold air fell to the bottom of the trough. Visitors or residents entered the house without bringing in as much cold air as they would have had the entryway been built into the top or side of the structure. On the inside of the home, mats or animal skins might have been hung to provide an additional layer of protection against the intrusion of cold air. Lamps burning oil, perhaps seal oil from coastal hunting trips, provided light and warmth. The reconstructed pithouse at Brooks Camp illustrates the type built roughly millennia ago. Archeological evidence at the site suggests occupation of the site where the house sits as early as 4,500 years ago, as numerous other native populations crisscrossed the Alaska Peninsula.

Contact with Russian fur traders, particularly those looking for sea otter, changed Eskimo culture. Beginning in the mid-1700s, Russian traders began using established trails to reach into the park area to trade with native populations. Centered on Kodiak and the Sheikh of Strait at the eastern border of the park today, Russian trading upended native traditions by the 1780s. Trade that the Russian American Company directed particularly subsumed native life ways. In the park, the today abandoned Katmai Village was the hub of commercial activity from 1799 until the purchase of Alaska by the United States in 1867. Following this purchase, trade shifted from sea otter to salmon. Though prospectors tried to settle the area, the creation of the park in 1918 and its considerable later expansions prevented large-scale well-established settlement and use of the area as a hunting ground. Native populations hold the rights to some lands within the park, however, and traditional uses of the land continue.

Other First Alaskan settlement camp sites throughout the park are not well documented. They are difficult for visitors to reach and do not offer the interpretive exhibits that Brooks Camp provides. These sites include the Savonoski River Archeological District, the Kaguyak Village Site, the Kukak Village Site, and the Takli Island Archeological District. Some, like the Kaguyak Village Site, reflect more contemporary settlement, including Russian contact in the 1950s. Others, like Takli Island, contain very old artifacts from between 4,000 and 1,000 BC.

Katmai offers hiking, camping, fishing, boating, and touring the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, which is a remnant of the 1912 volcano eruption. Several lodges provide opportunities to stay in the park. A bus runs daily from Brooks Camp to the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes. Organized bear watching is available at Brooks Camp where rangers lead walks and other programs in the summer. Private entities operate other guide and tour services within the park, including sightseeing by air. Camping facilities and food service are available at Brooks Camp.

Plan your visit

Katmai National Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, is located along the Alaska Peninsula, approximately 300 miles southwest of Anchorage, AK.  The park headquarters is in King Salmon, AK next to the airport.  Within Katmai, the Brooks River Archeological District has been designated a National Historic Landmark. A number of sites within Katmai have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 

Katmai may only be visited by air or boat.  Commercial air service or air taxi service connects to the visitor center at King Salmon.  From there, visitors wishing to travel into the park must take an air taxi or boat.  The visitor center at King Salmon maintains seasonal hours, and the food and lodging facilities at Brooks Camp are offered between June and September.  The park and preserve are open year-round.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Katmai National Park and Preserve website or call 907-246-3305.

Within Katmai, two buildings have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.  Roy Fure’s Trapping Cabin and the Russian Orthodox Church at Savonoski are both related to life in the park following the 1912 volcano eruption. Click here for the National Park Service Archeology Program's article on the Brooks River.

Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska

Kobuk Valley National Park in northwestern Alaska is the site of the historic Onion Portage. Here, for thousands of years, Native Alaskans have come to hunt the caribou whose footprints continue to paint the landscape of the Kobuk Sand Dunes. The Onion Portage has preserved over 10,000 years of human activity, providing valuable archeological resources to help us understand the history and culture of Alaska’s aboriginal peoples. Kobuk Valley National Park preserves and interprets the archeological sites of the Onion Portage, while protecting the natural features of the Kobuk River Valley, the Kobuk Sand Dunes, the migration of nearly half a million caribou, and the plant and wildlife that have supported the Native Alaskans' subsistence lifestyle for thousands of years. 

The park encompasses the Baird Mountains, the Waring Mountains, and the Kobuk Valley that lies between both mountain ranges. The most important feature is the Kobuk Valley, where most of the park’s archeological sites are located. The Kobuk River, one of the major rivers in Alaska, flows through the heart of the valley. The Hunt and Little Kobuk rivers are also in the park. South of the rivers, the park’s sand dune field, where the caribou often leave their tracks includes three groupings: the Great Kobuk Sand Dunes, Hunt River Sand Dunes, and the Little Kobuk River Sand Dunes. Despite their location 40 miles above the Arctic Circle, the sand dunes can experience 100 degree temperatures in the summer.

North of the sand dunes on the Kobuk River is the historic Onion Portage. Renowned archeologist J. Louis Giddings discovered the site in 1961. A hunting ground for Alaskans for thousands of years, the portage is one of America’s most important archeological sites in the Arctic Circle preserving over 70 stratified layers of history. Studies of these layers have provided valuable information on the progression of the arctic communities living in the Kobuk Valley. To date, archeologists have excavated nine cultural complexes, which have confirmed that humans have lived and hunted in the Kobuk Valley for at least 12,500 years from the Akmak Period (ca. 8,000-6,500 BC) to the Arctic Woodland Eskimo Period (ca. 1000-1700 AD).

Artifacts from these cultural excavations tell the story of the lifestyles of the different peoples who took advantage of the Kobuk Valley’s abundant resources. The earliest inhabitants, the Akmak peoples of the Paleoarctic tradition, lived in a treeless environment and were mostly hunters who subsisted off the valley’s large caribou population. After the Akmak came the Palisade and Portage cultures from the Northern Archaic tradition, who took advantage of the spruce forest and Kobuk River, sustaining their diets by fishing, hunting, and gathering. Following the Palisade and Portage cultures were the peoples of the Arctic Small-Tool tradition, a coastal people, who journeyed on the river to Alaska’s coastal waters to hunt marine mammals.

When the arctic-oriented people moved back into the Kobuk Valley 500 years after their previous occupation of the valley, they settled 25 miles south of the Onion Portage. The Ahteut, an archeological site in the area, provides evidence of people living in pithouses, which marks the transition into the Arctic Woodland Eskimo culture that traditionally hunted caribou in the winter and fished salmon in the summer. Woodland Eskimos were the last prehistoric culture to inhabit the Onion Portage, perhaps leaving the region after the caribou population began to decline. The Akunirmiut and Kuuvaum Kangianirmiut cultures from the post-Columbian period eventually settled the valley. Their descendants, the Inupiat, still live in the Kobuk Valley where they hunt the caribou and otherwise continue to practice a subsistence life style.

Subsistence living defines the culture and history of the Inupiat and other native Alaskan societies. According to the Subsistence Advisory Council, “Subsistence is the very blueprint within our souls that describes who we are as a people, and how we depend on our brothers and sisters of earth, air and water.” From a very young age, the Inupiat learn the ways of a subsistence lifestyle. Traditionally, this includes fishing, hunting, and gathering the resources that the land has to offer their people. The Inupiat rely on the wild creatures and plant life of the valley and on the marine mammals off of Alaska’s coast. Whaling is an ancient tradition that is not only significant for the food it provides, but also for its spiritual meaning.

The Inupiat show great respect for the land and sea, since the “creatures of the earth give themselves to the people, who in turn share with family and friends, shaping relationships that celebrate life.” (Helga Eakon). To show their respect, after harvesting the meat, the Inupiat return the whale’s carcass into the sea so that its spirit can tell other whales how well the Inupiat treat their kind. These spiritual beliefs and the practice of subsistence living create a sense of community among the Inupiat who continue their ancient tradition of sharing their food with neighboring families. Today’s visitors can learn about these ancient traditions as they visit Kobuk Valley and the National Park Service’s Northwest Arctic Heritage Center.

Kobuk Valley National Park is only accessible by plane or boat in the summer and by snowmobile during the winter months. Visitors can participate in outdoor activities such as boating, camping, fishing, hiking, and backpacking. Hiking in the Baird Mountains in the summer and boating along the Kobuk River are especially fine ways to experience the park. Visitors are welcome to photograph Kobuk Valley’s wildlife and natural landscape.

The park has no developed facilities. Tourists are encouraged to visit the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska. A plane ride away from Kobuk, the facility offers community and junior ranger programs throughout the year that cover topics ranging from the park’s cultural and environmental history to the research performed at Kobuk’s archeological sites. Other services include a gift shop, a multipurpose conference room, and an exhibit hall that highlights the natural and cultural history of Alaska’s northwestern peoples. At the center’s main entrance, the exhibit hall consists of a large room lined with environmental scenes and displays that showcase the animal life of northwest Alaska and the traditional tools that the natives have used for thousands of years.

Plan your visit

Kobuk Valley National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in a remote area in Kotzebue, AK. There are no roads into the park, which is only accessible by plane, boat, or snowmobile. The Kobuk Valley park grounds are open year-round. The visitor center located at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center is open daily from 8:00am to 12:00pm and from 1:00pm to 5:00pm. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Kobuk Valley National Park website or call 907-442-3760.


Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve covers nearly 2.6 million acres and is a composite of ecosystems representative of many regions of Alaska. This richly diverse and magnificent land has also been the homeland for Native Alaskan peoples for centuries. The vast undeveloped areas of the park and preserve include the rugged Chigmit Mountains bordered by the Aleutian Range to the south and the Alaska Range to the north, rolling foothills, active volcanoes, alpine lakes, dramatic glaciers, scenic lakes, boreal forests, open expanses of tundra, jagged coastlines, and three national wild rivers.

Spectacular diversity in the vegetation and wild life abounds in this vast wilderness. Land mammals include Dall sheep, caribou, moose, wolves, and black and brown bears. The Lake Clark watershed is the perfect habitat for sockeye salmon, and the shallow bays of Cook Inlet are the home of harbor seals, Steller sea lions, sea otters, harbor porpoises, and beluga whales. Lake Clark National Park and Preserve helps protect the scenic beauty of this region and the cultural resources of the Native Alaskan peoples.

 

Nearly 14,000 years ago sometime after the close of the Last Great Ice Age, the first human settlers came to the Lake Clark region. These people were nomadic hunters who encountered and hunted many animals that no longer exist today. While little evidence remains that would give us clues about their lifestyles, habits, and identities, archeologists have found lichen-covered and wind-polished tools in places of high elevation where these nomadic hunters likely camped to watch for animals to hunt. While the limited evidence at these early sites makes it difficult to determine exactly what was happening 14,000 years ago, more recent archeological sites throughout the Park and Preserve offer evidence about Native Alaskan culture.

Located on the shore of Lake Clark, the Kijik Archeological District, a National Historic Landmark, is comprised of more than a dozen archeological sites. The district includes the surface remains of Dena’ina Athabaskan Indian settlements dating from pre-European contact to the abandonment of Kijik village in the early 20th century.

The Dena’ina Athabaskan people settled in this region sometime before the start of the Little Ice Age (1350 to 1900 AD). Before the arrival of Russians and Euro-Americans, the Dena’ina built at least four different types of houses, some including semi-subterranean structures. Evidence from these archeological sites within the National Historic Landmark suggests that the Dena’ina lived in the immediate vicinity of Lake Clark for quite some time before moving to the Kijik village. There is debate, however, as to the origins of the Dena’ina and their arrival in Lake Clark. Some scholars argue that the Dena’ina were a coastal people who moved inland in response to Russian contact, while other scholars argue that the Dena’ina came from the Upper Stony and Mulchatna River region.

By sometime in the 1700s or early 1800s, the Dena’ina constructed the village of Kijik on the shore of Lake Clark. Kijik, meaning “a place where people gathered,” was a large, multi-village community to which many of the Dena’ina people who live near Lake Clark today can trace their ancestors. At its height, the community contained many houses and a Russian Orthodox Church. Estimates suggest that between 1875 and 1890, the population of Kijik ranged from 150 to 174 people.

Throughout the 19th century, contact between Kijik residents and Russians, Europeans, and Americans steadily increased, as evidenced by the western trade goods found at the site of the village. These goods likely had a significant impact on the Dena’ina’s material culture and way of life. Constructed in Kijik in 1889, the Russian Orthodox Church is another example of the cultural exchanges that were taking place. The remains of the Russian Orthodox Church reflect an adaptation of Alaskan Indian workmanship and materials to the traditional style of Russian church architecture.

Contact with Russians, Europeans, and Americans not only influenced the economic, religious, and cultural patterns of the Kijik residents, it also significantly affected their health as they faced exposure to diseases with which they had no experience. Flu and measles outbreaks from 1901-1909 prompted many families to leave for Old Nondalton, Tanalian Point, or elsewhere, and by 1909, the people completely abandon the village.

Small aircraft provide access to Lake Clark National Park and Preserve because of the lack of roads. In the park, courageous backpackers can hike the historic Telaquana Trail, which the Dena’ina used as both a transportation corridor and an important subsistence area. The hike is a journey similar to what Kijik residents would have experienced when traveling between Kijik Village and Telaquana Lake to the north. Fishing, hiking, day-trips for fly-in fishing and viewing bears and other wildlife, backpacking trips, float trips, and sport fishing are all popular things to do in the park. For most activities, visitors must be well equipped and self sufficient when they arrive. It is important that visitors make arrangements in advance with a guide, outfitter, or lodge operator.

Plan your visit

Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, is located on 2.6 million acres in Alaska. The Park and Preserve is not on the road system and access is primarily by small aircraft. Air taxi services provide transportation to the park. The field headquarters and visitor center are located in Port Alsworth, AK.

The park is open year-round, while most people visit between June and September. The Port Alsworth visitor center is open Monday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm June through August and Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm September through May. The Port Alsworth Field Headquarters are open year-round, Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Lake Clark National Park and Preserve website or call the visitor center at 907-781-2218 or the field headquarters at 907-781-2218.

Noatak National Preserve, Alaska

Noatak National Preserve is in the land north of the Arctic Circle. Here, on more than 6 million acres, is America’s largest protected mountain-ringed river basin. From its headwaters in Gates of the Arctic National Preserve through Noatak National Preserve, the Noatak River winds through spaces largely untouched by human presence. This river and valley reward travelers who make the journey northward to visit the park with opportunities to explore an Arctic landscape. The parkland and river are wild, remote but not forgotten spaces.  In Noatak National Preserve and other units of the National Park System in Alaska, a number of native peoples continue traditional activities.

The sustainable use of natural resources is a key part of native culture. In the northern climate of Alaska, resources are not always plentiful. Subsistence, as a way of life, developed out of the need to survive scarcity. The first European exploration of Alaska in the 1740s introduced new technology and lifestyles to native Alaskans. The number of people in Alaska also began to grow. Competition for resources brought challenges to native traditions. Today, spaces like Noatak provide native populations with the opportunity to continue both the culture and traditions of subsistence hunting and gathering. This lifestyle takes no more than is necessary and has as little impact as possible on the environment.

Noatak National Preserve is an important space for visitors wishing to learn more about Alaska native culture. Within the park, visitors in the fall months may see the traditional seasonal hunt for caribou, a vital source of food later in the winter. In addition to caribou, sheep, moose, bears, and wolves are some of the larger animals in the park. Visitors may also encounter people fishing or picking berries. The relative isolation of the park permits visitors to experience an almost unchanged landscape that continues to support people, plants, and animals just as it has for more than 10,000 years since humans crossed into present-day North America via the Bering Land Bridge.

Visitors may explore the wilderness and wildlife of Noatak by hiking or camping in the park. Floating down the Noatak River is also a good way to see the spectacular, diverse Arctic landscape. To preserve this landscape for the future, there are no developed areas within the park. There are no marked trails, developed campsites, roads or exhibits within the park. Transportation to and from locations within the park is usually by plane. Within the park, hiking, fishing,hunting, photography, camping, and rafting are popular activities. The park maintains a list of licensed river guides.

Visitors may learn more about the people and land of Alaska through exhibits at the Northwest Arctic Heritage Center in Kotzebue, Alaska, which is about 15 miles southwest of the southern boundary of the park. The center, which opened in 2010, presents programs on the cultures of Northwest Alaska, as well as the natural history of the region. The headquarters for Noatak National Preserve is also located in Kotzebue.

Plan your visit

Noatak National Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, is located in AK. Access to the park is generally by air taxi, but also seasonally by snow machine, boat, or on foot. Planes may be chartered in Kotzebue or Bettles. Noatak National Preserve is always open. The headquarters in Kotzebue, AK is open 8:00am to 5:00pm during the week. The Northwest Arctic Heritage Center, also located in Kotzebue, provides information and exhibits highlighting three other parks in addition to Noatak. Kotzebue is served by regular air connections with Anchorage. The park is also accessible from Bettles, which is serviced by air from Fairbanks. For more information, visit the National Park Service Noatak National Preserve website or call 907-442-3890.

The park has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the Noatak River a Wild and Scenic River.


Sitka National Historical Park, Alaska

Known for its great natural beauty and moderate climate, Sitka or Shee Atika—as the aboriginal people called the territory—is one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Southeast Alaska and the home of the State’s oldest federally designated park. Established as a National Monument in 1910, Sitka National Historical Park commemorates the Russian settlement in Alaska and interprets the last battle between Native Alaskans and Europeans where the Russians defeated the Tlingit Indians. The park also protects Native totems and offers visitors the opportunity to watch Native artists as they work.

The Russians came to Alaska primarily to exploit the fur-bearing animals along the coast. Missionaries from the Russian Orthodox Church also built nearly 90 churches throughout Alaska to convert the Native Alaskans to Christianity. By the early 1800s, they had converted nearly 20,000 natives to the Christian faith. The Russians allowed the people to maintain their native cultures and helped them develop alphabets for written literature, including an Aleut dictionary for hundreds of languages and dialects, based on the Russian alphabet. Today, the park stands as a reminder of the conflict between Europeans and Native Alaskans and tells the greater story of a blending of cultures that shaped and continues to influence Alaska’s history and heritage.

Among the earliest inhabitants to thrive from Sitka’s wealth of resources were the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska. The Tlingit survived on what they harvested from Sitka’s waters and forests and prospered in the snow and ice free weather the warm waters of the Japanese current helped maintain throughout the year. Because of Sitka’s prime location near the Pacific Ocean, the Tlingit were primarily a maritime people whose diet consisted mostly of salmon, shellfish, halibut, sea mammals, and other fish from the rivers and the open sea. Sitka also provided raw materials they used to create 60 foot long canoes, multi-family dwellings, bowls, and boxes to store food for the winter.

A sociable group with a rich cultural life, the Tlingit clan of Sitka gathered with their kinfolk from neighboring communities to observe weddings, births, and other special occasions, which they celebrated by dancing, eating, and exchanging gifts. Before setting out on fishing and trading expeditions, they performed ritual dances to bring good fortune in their search for food and other valuable resources. Outside of dancing, the most important ceremony was the potlatch, which the Tlingit observed in the winter and that lasted for several days. Customarily, a member of the tribe would host the ritual in his home and would give away his possessions to his guests to elevate his social rank within the Tlingit community. At the potlatch, invited guests brought food for the host, a custom that evolved into the present day potluck, a well-known tradition in American culture.

The gregarious Tlingit traded goods and gathered with surrounding native communities, but when Russian traders reached Sitka in 1799, they were reluctant to extend their hospitality to them. From the beginning, the Russians and the Tlingit uneasily coexisted in Alaska, and over time, the Tlingit in Sitka grew more aggravated with the immigrants, which they named Anooshi. Although they would have benefited from trading goods with the Anooshi, the Tlingit of Shee Atika, otherwise known as the Kiks.ádi clan, were suspicious of the newcomers’ true intentions and feared their people would have to provide free labor to the Russian Trading Company and pledge their allegiance to the tsar. These fears and the hostility intensified as the Russians expanded their territorial claims in Alaska. When Czar Paul I gave the title of colonial governor to Alexander Baranov—the Russian Trading Company’s manager—the Tlingits’ suspicions of the Anooshi immediately turned into violence.

In 1802, the Tlingit attacked the Russian outpost, Redoubt Saint Michael, and killed most of its inhabitants, including the Aleut Indians who had become Anooshi allies. By 1804, the hostility between the Russians and the Tlingit climaxed when Baranov and a party of Russians and Aleut Indians traveled to Shee Atika with the warship Neva to force the Tlingit to surrender. Refusing to give up their land, the Tlingit of Sitka moved to the fortification they built on the mouth of the Indian River and prepared for battle. The Neva warship began firing at the fortress, and as the Tlingit continued to resist, Baranov and his men marched ashore and stormed the fort. The Kiks.ádi chief, K’alyaan, led the Tlingit warriors in the defense against the Russian attack and managed to wound Baranov. After a week of recovery, and seeing no activity at the mouth of the Indian River, Baranov headed ashore again to find that the Tlingit had run out of gunpowder and abandoned Sitka. The Battle of Sitka was over.

When the battle ended, Baranov established the headquarters of the Russian-American Trading Company in Sitka and renamed the territory New Archangel. By 1808, New Archangel developed into one of the busiest ports. Sitka grew as the Russian-American Company continued to lead in the fur trade. By the 1830s, Sitka’s population was at 1,300 and the community had numerous buildings, including schools, Orthodox chapels the Russian clergy built, and living quarters such as Baranov’s home--Baranov Castle. Although most of the inhabitants of New Archangel were of Russian descent, a small population of Tlingits—who had a relationship with the Russian missionaries—continued to live in Sitka, providing the Russians who were not self-sufficient with fresh food and other resources.

The Russians lived in Sitka until 1867, when the United States bought Alaska. Sitka became the capital for the newly acquired U.S. territory, and soon the Americans began building their own Presbyterian missions and schools for Native children. Sitka became a valuable territory for the United States, and in 1890, the government acknowledged its importance by designating the area as a federal reserve. In 1910, the area at the mouth of the Indian River became a National Monument, and in 1972, the National Park Service renamed the site Sitka National Historical Park. In 2010, Sitka National Historical Park marked its 100th anniversary.

In the park today, visitors can see the Russian Bishop’s House, Saint Michaels Cathedral, Baranov Castle, the Kiks.ádi Fort Site, the battle site, the Russian memorial, and a collection of Native totems. Constructed in 1843, the Russian Bishop's House is one of the few buildings left from the Russian colonial period in North America. At the visitor center and Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, onlookers can watch modern Native artists work.

Plan your visit

Sitka National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 103 Monastery Street in Sitka, AK. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file:
text and photos. The park visitor center is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm from May to September, and open Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm from October to May. The Russian Bishop’s House is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm from May to September, and by appointment only from October to May. Park trails are open daily from 6:00am to 10:00pm from May to September, and 7:00am to 8:00pm from October to May. The visitor center, the Bishop’s House, and park trails are closed on federal holidays during the winter months. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Sitka National Historical Park website or call 907-747-0110.

Sitka National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, Texas

Throughout the Canadian River Valley of the Texas Panhandle are signs and archeological traces of thousands of years of human history. The canyon rims and mesas of this region reveal more than 700 stone quarries where for over 13,000 years prehistoric peoples harvested and used the colorful stone known as Alibates flint. The flint, which is actually agatized dolomite, was quarried to make projectile points, knives, scrapers, and other tools. Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument preserves nearly 1,000 acres of the remains of this precontact American Indian quarrying site.

Alibates flint is an extremely colorful stone with rainbow hues ranging in colors from pale gray and white to pink, maroon, bright red, orange-gold, and purple-blue. The stone has variable patterns including bands of alternating color that give it a striped and marbled pattern. Distinctive for its many colors, the flint comes from a 10-square-mile area around Lake Meredith, Texas but mostly is concentrated on about 60 acres atop a mesa in the heart of the Monument. Prehistoric peoples would come to the red bluffs above the Canadian River to harvest this multi-colored, highly prized stone that could hold a hard edge and that was in high demand along trading routes throughout North America. Projectile points and other tools made of Alibates stone have been found in sites across the Great Plains, the Southwest, as far north as Montana, and as far east as the Mississippi River.

About a foot or more below the surface, prehistoric peoples quarried un-weathered flint by digging it out by hand, with sticks, or with bonetools. More than 700 quarries exist where they quarried this flint. During their peak usage, the quarries were from five to twenty-five feet across and about four to eight feet deep. Centuries of wind and rain have filled them in, and today they appear as round ovals about six or more feet in diameter with depressions in the center. Beyond the shallow quarry pits are the chunks, pieces, and waste piles of this quarrying activity. To view this impressive piece of North American history, visitors can take a ranger guided tour of the site.

For much of the quarry’s history, nomadic peoples gathered in the area and used the flint. Archeologists theorize that the people of the Ice Age Clovis Culture hunted with spears tipped with the colorful Alibates flint points. They used these points to hunt now-extinct large game animals, including the Imperial Mammoth, even before the Great Lakes of North America formed. Eventually, between 1150 and 1450 AD, a group of people identified as the Plains Village Indians, who were ancestors of the Caddo, Pawnee, and Wichita, established permanent communities near the quarry site and along the Canadian River valley.

Plains Village Indians lived here in large permanent villages and smaller, outlying farming and gathering communities. The ruins of these villages reveal complex rock-slab houses, and range from single-unit dwellings to 100 room structures. While they were primarily a farming community, the Plains Village Indians also quarried the flint and traded it for items such as Puebloan pottery, Pacific coast seashells, Minnesota pipestone, and turquoise jewelry. By the end of the 15th century, severe drought and raids from aggressive tribes from the west drove the Plains Village Indians from the Alibates Flint Quarries region.

 

Visitors to the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument can take a ranger-guided tour of the quarries, go on a hike, or simply sit and view the surrounding wildlife. The walking tour is a one mile walk up a moderately steep trail. Along the tour, visitors will see the plains of the Texas Panhandle along with the ‘Canadian Breaks,’ a broken landscape formed mostly by water erosion where low laying plateaus mix with mesas, buttes, and large scattered boulders. The striking reds, oranges, yellows, blues, and greens of the Alibates flints will leave a lasting impression about the 13,000-year history of Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.

Plan your visit

Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located north of Amarillo and south of Fritch, TX off Hwy 136. The Monument offers tours year round by reservation only. Tours leave daily at 10:00 am and 2:00 pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument website or call 806-857-3151.


Aztec Ruins National Monument, New Mexico

Near Aztec, New Mexico over 1,000 years ago, Ancestral Pueblo people constructed a large planned community that served their society for over two centuries. Aztec Ruins National Monument, which is part of the Chaco Culture National Historical Park World Heritage Site, preserves the remains of this well planned community, which is the largest Ancestral Puebloan community in the Animas River Valley. While the Ancestral Pueblo people are responsible for the construction of this site, the ruins received their name when early European settlers mistakenly attributed the ruins to the Aztecs of Mexico. A visit to the park provides not only a glimpse into the lives of Ancestral Pueblo people but also a place to connect with the cultural heritage of American Indians today.

Around the late 1000s, Ancestral Puebloans began planning and constructing what is now the Aztec Ruins National Monument. The Ancestral Puebloans probably chose this area for its location in the Animas River Valley. With its close proximity to the Animas River, early farmers could take advantage of the constant water supply. These factors likely provided the people with a reliable source of food, which possibly allowed them the ability to settle in a single location. Built on and below a terrace overlooking the river, the planned community would ultimately have many large and small public structures, earthworks, ceremonial buildings, residential pueblos, and roads.

Excavation of the site of the community revealed artifacts such as food remains, stone and wood tools, cotton and feather clothing, fiber sandals, and jewelry made of turquoise and shells. Visitors can see the remnants of many of the structures and view the artifacts in the visitor center’s museum.

This extensive planned community likely served as a trade, ceremonial, and administrative center for many of the scattered communities associated with Chaco Canyon. Chaco Canyon is the site of a major Ancestral Pueblo community to the south of the Aztec Ruins, which exhibited great influence over much of this part of New Mexico between 850 A.D. and 1130 A.D. The Chaco culture, including its architectural, ceramic, and ceremonial styles, strongly influenced the early inhabitants and initial builders of Aztec. The Aztec Ruins community may have become a center in its own right by 1100, when Chaco’s regional influence began to fade.

Aztec was a bustling community for over two centuries, and its planned layout reveals that the initial Ancestral Puebloan builders conceived of a grand design for their community. When the building ceased in the late 1200s, the community consisted of several great houses, great kivas (a kiva is a Hopi word meaning “ceremonial chamber”), small residential pueblos, earthworks, roads, and tri-walled kivas. The structures and landscapes were all constructed and modified to give continuity and formality to the overall essence of the community. The builders used local adobe mud for the structures’ walls. For roofing, they used cottonwood, pinyon pine, juniper, pine, spruce, Douglas fir, and aspen (which they obtained from mountains many miles away).

The great houses within the West and East Ruins are large public buildings with many connected rooms that surround a central plaza. The West Ruin, which visitors can explore, has at least 400 interconnected rooms of three stories; some of its walls even reach 30 feet. Visitors can still see the original pine, spruce, and aspen beams that the Ancestral Pueblos used in the construction of this great house and the excavated and reconstructed Great Kiva of the West Ruin Plaza. Ancestral Puebloans used the Great Kiva for community wide ceremonial events.

Only a short walk from the West Ruin and Great Kiva is the unique Hubbard Site. The Hubbard Site has one of only a handful of tri-walled structures in the Southwest, which most likely dates from the early 1100s. The Hubbard Site structure has three concentric walls and is divided into 22 rooms surrounding a kiva. Its functions, other than for ceremonial purposes, remain unclear. A self-guided walking tour leads to the West Ruin, the Great Kiva, smaller kivas, the West Ruin Plaza, and the Hubbard Site. The other ruins, including Mound F, Mound A, East Ruin, and the Earl Morris Ruin, are closed to the public.

By about 1300 A.D., the Ancestral Pueblo people left this region and dispersed southeast, south, and west. A combination of factors such as drought, climate changes, depletion of natural resources, and social changes likely influenced the Ancestral Puebloans' decision to leave their well planned community in order to establish their lives elsewhere.

While the Ancestral Puebloans left this area by about 1300 A.D., many Southwestern American Indians maintain a deep connection with this place through their traditions and ceremonies. Aztec Ruins National Monument connects modern people with a distinct civilization that inhabited the Aztec, New Mexico area over 1,000 years ago.

Plan your visit

Aztec Ruins National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located one mile north of Aztec, NM, near the junction of U.S. 550 and NM 516. The Monument is open from 8:00am to 6:00pm daily; longer in the summer; and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Aztec Ruins National Monument website or call 505-334-6174.

Aztec Ruins National Monument is featured in the National Park Service
American Southwest Travel Itinerary and has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

In 1880, anthropologist Adolph F.A. Bandelier traveled to New Mexico to study and trace the traditions and history of the region’s indigenous peoples. During his visit, he lived and worked among numerous American Indian communities, including the Cochiti Pueblo. Here, Bandelier met Jose Montoya who, along with other Cochiti Pueblo Indians, took him to New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau to show him the Cochiti Pueblo people’s ancestral lands. Amazed by the distinctive cave-room architecture on the base of Frijoles Canyon, Bandelier centered his studies on the archeological sites of Pajarito Plateau--a region he believed offered great insight into what Ancestral Pueblo life was like in pre-colonial times. His work became the foundation for southwestern archeology, and highlighted the importance of preserving the Pueblo peoples’ ancestral homes. Named in his honor, Bandelier National Monument continues to protect the dwellings and homeland of the Ancestral Pueblo, whose traditions and history are a fundamental part of Pueblo culture today. 

Initially, the ancestors of the present day Pueblo Indians were nomadic hunters and gatherers who traveled across canyons according to the migration patterns of the region’s wildlife. By the end of the 12th century, the Ancestral Pueblo began to settle in and around the Frijoles Canyon of New Mexico’s Pajarito Plateau, where they lived for approximately 400 years. During this time, their nomadic lifestyle changed, transforming their hunting and gathering society into one of the most advanced farming communities of the American Southwest.

Although farming in the desert proved challenging, the Ancestral Pueblo Indians developed different agricultural techniques that allowed them to grow the crops that helped sustain their community. Known as dry farming, this practice consisted of using pumice, a volcanic rock that could absorb liquids and release them over time. The pumice acted as a sponge, which allowed the Ancestral Pueblo to conserve water and keep the soil moist in the arid climate of New Mexico. With the help of pumice, other tools, and additional water conserving techniques such as terracing and check dams, they successfully grew corn, beans, and squash in their community in what is today Bandelier National Monument.

Known to the Pueblo Indians as the “three sisters,” these staple crops were ideal for dry farming since corn can tolerate the sun and protect other low growing crops that need shade from the sun in order to thrive. Maize, beans, and squash were easy to farm in the desert and fulfilled many of the natives’ nutritional needs by providing a good source of protein. Although the Ancestral Pueblo depended on agriculture to sustain their community, they continued to hunt deer, rabbits, and birds to complement their diet. Instead of moving their community according to the migration patterns of their food as they had done earlier, they brought the animals and plants they hunted and gathered during their outings back to their villages.

The Ancestral Pueblo also had other animals in the Bandelier community such as domesticated dogs, which served as companions; and turkeys, which they valued for their feathers. A skilled people, they ingeniously wove turkey feathers with twisted yucca fibers to make warm blankets for the winter and cultivated cotton to make their clothes. They were also skilled in pottery making, which continues to be one of the most important elements of the Pueblo culture today. The Ancestral Pueblo made pottery that served for cooking, storing, serving, and carrying water or food; the pottery also served as a means for artistic expression. Members of the Pueblo culture are still known for painting pottery with elaborate designs.

Recognized for the unique design of their homes, the Ancestral Pueblo used volcanic tuff, a soft rock they could easily break into blocks to build their homes and Kivas (subterranean structures used for religious ceremonies) on the ground floor of the Frijoles Canyon. They also lived in cavates, which were rooms the people carved along the base of the canyon wall. Still visible today, these dwellings highlight the architectural skills of the Ancestral Pueblo and demonstrate how they evolved from being a nomadic people into the settled community at Bandelier.

The community residing on the present site of Bandelier was not the only Pueblo community living on the Pajarito Plateau. By 1325, as the numbers in their population increased, the Ancestral Pueblo began expanding beyond Frijoles Canyon. Across the Pajarito Plateau, a network of foot trails linked numerous Pueblo villages, allowing the Ancestral Pueblo to trade goods, participate in religious rituals, and meet for social gatherings with their neighboring kin. They also used the trails of the Pajarito Plateau to reach hunting grounds and other regions where they could gather resources to sustain their communities.

As the population increased, the Ancestral Pueblo began exhausting their resources, and by the beginning of the 1500s, they left the Pajarito Plateau to join the six thriving communities of the nearby Rio Grande. Still present today, the Rio Grande Pueblos of Cochiti, San Idelfonso, Santo Domingo, Santa Clara, San Felipe, and Zuni are home to the descendants of the Ancestral Pueblo Indians. Together, these six communities continue to have strong ties to Bandelier, practicing old traditions, and working closely with National Park Service staff to ensure that their ancestral lands and culture are preserved.

At Bandelier National Monument today, tourists may begin their visit by walking on the Main Loop Trail, which goes from the visitor center to the excavated dwellings of the Ancestral Pueblo at the base of Frijoles Canyon. Ladders allow visitors to climb into the cavates. The Main Loop Trail passes through the different sites, including the Big Kiva, Tyuonyi, Talus House, and Long House. Hiking, camping, backpacking, and picnicking are all activities visitors can enjoy in Bandelier.

Plan your visit

Bandelier National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 15 Entrance Road in Los Alamos, NM. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The visitor center is open from 9:00am to 5:30pm during the spring and fall, 9:00am to 4:30pm during the winter, and 8:00am to 6:00pm in the summer. The park and visitor center are open daily, except on Christmas and New Year’s Day. All park trails are open for recreation from dawn to dusk. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Bandelier National Monument website or call 505-672-3861.

Two structures at Bandelier National Monument have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey: the Kiva and Ceremonial Cave. Bandelier National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary. Visit the National Park Service Virtual Museum Exhibit on Bandelier National Monument Museum Collections and the National Park Service Teaching with Museum Collections lesson plan on Bandelier National Monument.

In addition to the Ancestral Pueblo ruins, Bandelier National Monument also includes the historic district built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression.  Bandelier CCC Historic District is a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click for the National Historic Landmark documentation: text and photos.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, Colorado

Following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, Americans began moving into the Rockies to take advantage of the trading opportunities across the western frontier. At the same time, the first wagons rolled along the Santa Fe Trail, which not only connected settlers to the new southwestern territories, but also served as an international highway for commerce between the United States and Mexico. As the Santa Fe Trail facilitated travel across the Southwest, the region saw an increase of traders seeking to make a profit from the commercial benefits of the trail. Among them were brothers Charles and William Bent and their business partner Ceran St. Vrain, who established the base for their trading company near the boundary between the United States and Mexico. Today, although the original structure is no longer standing, the reconstructed trading post at Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site commemorates the historic role of the trading post during the exploration and settlement of the American Southwest.

Erected in 1833, Bent’s Fort, then called Fort William, was at a strategic location on the northern bank of the Arkansas River. Here the Bent, St. Vrain & Company could take advantage of the multiple trading opportunities that the Arkansas Valley offered. The post’s proximity to the Rockies drew in trappers to benefit from the beaver market; it also placed the Bent, St. Vrain & Company near the hunting grounds of the different Plains tribes, who demonstrated their willingness to trade with company. Among those seen trading at Bent’s Fort were the Arapaho, Kiowa, Navajo, and Southern Cheyenne, whose buffalo robes were highly sought. In addition to trading furs, the Plains Indians exchanged horses and mules for the Americans’ tobacco, axes, firearms, and other technological goods.

The company benefitted from trade with the Indians and also made a profit from the nation’s western migration. At the time, Bent’s Fort was the only place between Independence and Santa Fe where travelers could repair their wagons, refresh themselves, and replenish supplies. The fort was a colorful and vibrant place that welcomed all kinds of people regardless of their culture, race, or nationality. Included in the mix--whether they spoke English, Spanish, French or one of the dialects of the Indian languages--were white settlers, soldiers, slaves, traders, and American Indian tribes. Forty to sixty employees helped operate the successful trading post.

Although both the Bent brothers and Ceran St. Vrain managed the company, William Bent was the main administrator of Bent’s Fort. While his brother traveled between the post and St. Louis and St. Vrain ran the company’s stores in Taos and Santa Fe, William directed the Indian and trapping trade at Bent’s Fort. As an effective peacemaker who understood the American Indian way of life (He married Owl Woman, a southern Cheyenne.), William was largely responsible for the company’s excellent reputation among the different Plains tribes. As a result, traders from Bent’s Fort were always welcome in Indian Territory, and by 1846 the fort itself had become the headquarters for the Upper Platte and Arkansas Indian Agency. In addition to serving as an agency for Indian-American relations, Bent’s Fort was also the staging area for military operations during the Mexican-American War (1846 to 1848).

Despite attaining a significant commercial, political, and military status during this period, Bent’s Fort was abandoned by the end of the Mexican-American war. The war led to the United States acquiring New Mexico, but it destroyed the company’s trading partnership with Mexico. At the same time, tensions were brewing between the American Indians and settlers as increasing numbers of emigrants and gold seekers moved further into Indian Territory. These problems and the death of Charles Bent in 1847 led William Bent and St. Vrain to attempt to sell the fort to the US Army. When this effort failed, William tried to burn the fort in 1849, but this also proved unsuccessful. Finally, William abandoned the site and in 1853, established Bent’s New Fort 40 miles south of the Arkansas River.

Although the original fort no longer sits on the prairies of the Arkansas Valley, old drawings, archeological findings, and eye witness descriptions provided information to reconstruct Bent’s Old Fort. Built of adobe like the original, the reconstructed trading post paints a picture of what it was like to live, work, trade, and visit Bent’s Fort when it was in operation. The two story reconstructed fort includes trade rooms, a council room used for peace talks between tribes, and blacksmith and carpenter shops. There are also reconstructed warehouses, where the company stored food during the winter, the cook’s room, dining room, kitchen, and the sleeping quarters.

Visitors can begin their tour by walking the ¼-mile trail to the fort’s main gate. A documentary entitled “Traders, Tribes and Travelers” brings the fort to life. Visitors can take either guided tours by interpreters or self-guided tours. Check the park website for a schedule of events, which include The Fur Trade Encampment—a living history event celebrating the history of traders, trappers, and tribes at Bent’s Old Fort. Other events include heritage and cultural celebrations with storytelling, cooking, and dancing.

Plan your visit

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historical Landmark, is located at 35110 Highway 194 East in La Junta, CO. Click for the National Register of Historic Places File:  text and photos. Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site is open daily from 8:00am to 5:30pm in the summer (June-August), and 9:00am to 4:00pm during the winter (September-May). The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site website or call 719-383-5010.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site has been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.


Big Cypress National Preserve, Florida

Big Cypress National Preserve in southern Florida preserves more than 720,000 acres of the vast and ecologically essential Big Cypress swamp. Established in 1974 as one of the first national preserves, the Big Cypress National Preserve protects the water quality, natural resources, and ecological integrity of the Big Cypress Swamp. This diverse place, which is home to American alligators, anhinga, egrets, herons, river otters, bobcats, black bears, Florida panthers, Cypress trees, air plants, bromeliads, orchids, and hammock trees, has also been a home and refuge to both the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.

For a long time, beginning well before the arrival of the Miccosukee and Seminole, the Big Cypress Swamp was a homeland for a variety of American Indian tribes. Evidence that pre-contact American Indians inhabited this area exists in pottery shards, ceramics, bone and shell tools, and charcoal remains. At the time of European contact around A.D. 1500, a thriving population lived in southern Florida, including at least four separate tribes: the Calusa, the Tequesta, the Jega, and the Ais. These tribes occupied the Big Cypress Swamp area primarily from about A.D. 500 until about A.D. 1400.

Eventually, the Miccosukee Tribe and the Seminole Tribe came to inhabit this region. Both the Miccosukee and Seminole are descendents of the Creek Nation. The Creek Nation was an association of clan villages that lived in what is now Georgia and Alabama. Both tribes have histories that pre-date Columbus and Spain’s “discovery” of Florida in the early 16th century. Due to conflicts between the Creek people and European settlers, many Creek families fled to Florida to seek refuge. Here, the Miccosukee and Seminole tribes developed distinct cultures.

The Miccosukee and Seminole people harvested corn, beans, and squash, and also fished and hunted deer, wild turkeys, rabbits, and alligators. Both tribes lived in houses called Chickees. Their homes were made of a cypress log frame fitted with a palmetto thatch roof. To navigate the swamps, the Miccosukee and Seminoles made flat dugout canoes from hollowed-out cypress logs, and steered these canoes with poles rather than paddles. The canoes were large enough to transport an entire family with their household and trade goods.

A visit to Big Cypress National Preserve allows visitors to explore the sights and sounds that a variety of pre-contact and later American Indian tribes experienced and that the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida and the Seminole Tribe of Florida still experience today.

Plan your visit

Big Cypress National Preserve is located between the cities of Miami and Naples in Southwest FL. Interstate 75 (Alligator Alley) and U. S. Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) are the main roads that traverse the site. A number of sites within Big Cypress National Preserve are listed in the National Register of Historic Places; however, their addresses are restricted to help protect their historic integrity and cultural significance. Most visitor facilities within the preserve are open and accessible every day of the year. Some seasonal and emergency closures may occur. The Oasis Visitor Center is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm daily, except for December 25. For more information, visit the National Park Service Big Cypress National Preserve website or call 239-695-1201.

Big Hole National Battlefield, Montana

As American settlers moved west and justified westward expansion as the nation's Manifest Destiny, the Nez Perce had no alternative except to share their ancestral lands. Eventually, Americans’ interest in the land's riches and cultural conflicts between the settlers and the Nez Perce led to a series of bloody battles. One of the many battles, the Battle of the Big Hole in Wisdom, Montana changed the outcome of the Nez Perce War of 1877. Today, Big Hole National Battlefield continues to tell the story of that battle and honor the memory of the Nez Perce men, women, and children and the American soldiers who lost their lives at the Battle of the Big Hole.

In 1855, to remain in their homeland and maintain peaceful relations with white settlers, the Nez Perce agreed to a treaty that allowed their people to continue living in their ancestral lands. Initially, the American Indian reservation was sizeable, and according to the terms of the treaty, the Nez Perce had the authority to decide whether non-Indians could live on their reservation. These conditions would change after the discovery of gold influenced settlers to expand further into the Nez Perce homeland, and by 1863, a new treaty reduced the Nez Perce reservation and forced a third of the tribe’s people out of their homes. While some of the chiefs reluctantly signed the treaty, others refused when they learned that their lands lay outside the new reservation.

The five Nez Perce bands that disagreed with the terms of the new treaty would remain in their homeland until the Indian Bureau instructed General Oliver O. Howard to move the Nez Perce who disagreed with the treaty to a smaller reservation.  By May of 1877, after Howard issued an ultimatum that ordered the Nez Perce to leave their lands in 30 days, Chief Joseph requested that the general grant more time for the nontreaty bands to gather their stock. Wanting to make the trek to the new reservation easier for his people, the chief suggested that Howard allow the Nez Perce tribes to travel in the fall when the river waters were low. When the general denied his request, Chief Joseph and the other nontreaty chiefs reluctantly persuaded their people to gather their possessions and immediately began their journey through the swollen Snake and Salmon Rivers.

On June 15, having almost met their deadline, a group of young warriors broke away from the tribe and attacked several white settlers they encountered on their journey. What was an act of revenge against white settlers, who in the past had killed American Indian families, soon became a death sentence for the non-treaty Nez Perce. Fearing retaliation, the five bands fled to White Bird Canyon to defend themselves against General Howard’s forces, and on June 17, the Nez Perce defeated the American troops. Following the skirmish, the Nez Perce continued on their journey, but were unsuccessful at avoiding the army, and on July 11, Howard’s forces came across the Nez Perce near Clearwater River. Eventually, after a two-day battle--which neither side won--the Nez Perce withdrew their forces.

Having recognized that their people could no longer escape the army of the Idaho Territory, the Nez Perce bands agreed to join Chief Looking Glass, who had advised them to travel to Montana and meet with their allies in the buffalo country. By early August--having crossed their ancestral hunting trail, the Lolo Trail--the Nez Perce reached the Bitterroot Valley in Montana, where their proximity to their allies and distance from General Howard gave the Nez Perce hope for the future. Unaware that the army of Montana Territory had orders to pursue the Nez Perce, Chief Looking Glass slowed the pace of travel, which allowed Colonel John Gibson and his troops to draw near the Nez Perce campsite.

Before dawn on August 9, as Gibson’s forces waited for the first light of day to commence their attack on the Indian campsite, Natalekin--a Nez Perce tribe member--came across the soldiers hiding as he was on his way to check on his horses. The Battle of the Big Hole began prematurely after Gibson’s men killed Natalekin when he discovered the army. Immediately after, Gibson’s troops started to cross the river and fire shots at the Nez Perce village, killing mostly women, children, and elders. Nevertheless, the Nez Perce warriors managed to take defensive positions and launch a successful counterattack. By the end of the day, Gibson’s men retreated and returned to the other side of the river, where some of the Nez Perce warriors proceeded to seize Gibson’s post at Battle Mountain. At the same time, a separate group of warriors withdrew from the battle and helped Chief Joseph bury the dead, care for the injured, and guide

The Battle of Big Hole ended on August 10, 1877, after the remaining warriors fired their last shots and joined the Nez Perce people who had left the previous night. The Nez Perce may have won the battle, but they suffered greater losses. The Nez Perce knew that to prepare for the next battle, they would need to head to Shoshone country to obtain further recruits. With the additional warriors, the Nez Perce, from August through September, managed to defeat Howard and Col. Samuel D. Sturgis’ armies at Camas Meadow, Yellowstone National Park, and Canyon Creek. Their luck changed on September 30, when Colonel Nelson A. Miles and his troops surprised the Nez Perce bands 40 miles south of the Canadian border. After a five-day battle on Bears Paw Mountains in Montana, Chief Joseph—the only surviving chief—surrendered to Miles.  Soon after, the Nez Perce War was over.

Of the 800 Nez Perce who began their journey in Oregon, only 400 surrendered in Montana. Among the victims of the war, the Nez Perce lost four of their chiefs, including Chief Looking Glass, and only 200 survivors managed to reach their destination in Canada. In the end, had the Nez Perce not suffered heavy losses at Big Hole, and had their people not lost their moral, the war might have ended differently. Today, Big Hole National Battlefield not only represents the events that occurred at the Battle of Big Hole, but is also a memorial to the soldiers of the United States 7th Infantry and the Nez Perce warriors, women, children, and elders who died or were present at the historic battle that changed the course of the Nez Perce War.

Visitors can look at photographs, artifacts, and films about the Battle of Big Hole at the visitor center and learn about the historic battle while walking along nature trails toward the Nez Perce camp and the siege area.

Plan your visit

Big Hole National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park System, is located 10 miles west of Wisdom, MT on State Highway 43. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The visitor center is open daily from 10:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The battlefield is open from sunrise to sunset. Admission to the park is free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Big Hole National Battlefield website or call 406-689-3155.


Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, Wyoming

The history of Bighorn Canyon and the Crow Indians begins with the legend of Big Metal, which tells the story of a young boy who was saved by seven bighorn sheep after his stepfather pushed him over the edge of the canyon. Commanded by Chief Big Metal, the sheep rescued the young Indian, named him Big Iron, and gave him powers that each of the seven sheep possessed. Among the powers granted to Big Iron were wisdom, sharp eyes, keen hearing, great strength, a strong heart, and surefootedness. According to the legend, Big Metal also issued a warning to the young boy after he received his powers, telling him that if he ever changed the name of the Bighorn River, the Crow people would no longer exist. Today, Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area preserves this land and tells the stories of how it shaped the lives and history of the Crow Nation and others who were in this place.

When Big Iron returned to the village, he shared the warning with his people and taught them what he learned from the sheep and other animals at the Bighorn Canyon. Through his knowledge, the Crow Indians learned how to build a sweat lodge, which was a place for spiritual refuge where the Crow could seek wisdom and power. Acting like a sauna, the sweat lodge allowed the Crow to cleanse their spirits, since they believed that by sweating they were releasing evil from their bodies. For the Crow, the sweat lodge or sweat bath was not only a place for spiritual cleansing, but also the first medicine available to man because the sweating released toxins that helped heal their bodies. The tradition of sweat lodges continues today as a ritual practiced not only by the Crow but also by other American Indian tribes.

Eventually, Big Iron grew into a strong and wise man who managed to outlive four generations of Crow Indians. At the time of his death, he asked for burial next to the Bighorn River, so he could join his father Big Metal and the other sheep in the afterlife. For Big Iron, Bighorn Canyon was not only a sacred place but also his home. For generations, the people of the Crow Nation fought to preserve the Bighorn to protect their home, people, and culture. In the 19th century, motivated by the idea of Manifest Destiny, the United States expanded across American Indian lands and forced American Indian tribes to move and accept life on reservations. While some tribes accepted the changes to their way of life, the Crow fought to maintain their ancestral lands.

Among those fighting for the Crows was Robert Summers Yellowtail, who throughout his youth had seen his land partitioned under treaty after treaty. In 1910, after receiving his degree at the Los Angeles Extension Law School, Yellowtail began a legal battle against the United States government to help restore his people’s lands. After a seven-year long lawsuit, Yellowtail and the Crow defeated the opposition, and the settlement allowed the Crow to maintain tribal control over their reservation. In the years that followed the victorious lawsuit, Yellowtail helped write the 1920 “Crow Act,” which guaranteed that no land belonging to the Crow could be taken without tribal consent. Over time, Yellowtail’s efforts would lead to the granting of the right to vote for American Indians in 1924.

Until the end of World War II, Yellowtail and the Crow Nation maintained peaceful and respectful relations with the U.S. government. After the war, relations soured when the government decided to build a dam in Bighorn Canyon. Yellowtail and the Crow opposed the project, since for their people Bighorn Canyon was a sacred place central to the tribe’s existence. Although the United States government according to the terms of the Crow Act needed approval from the tribal council to purchase the land and build the dam, the Federal Government was relentless and began to take drastic measures after the council voted down the project.

When government agents began spreading rumors that Yellowtail had agreed to sell out the tribe, tensions rose among the members of the tribal council. Recognizing that the government would continue to pressure the tribe and increase tensions within the tribal council, Yellowtail proposed that the government pay $1 million a year for 50 years to lease the land where they would build the dam. Government agents rejected the proposal and continued to pressure the tribe, which in the end lost the battle over the proposed dam.

Tourists at Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area can visit the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center. The dam helps regulate the flow of water into the Bighorn, making it possible for tourists and local citizens to engage in recreational activities at the site. Visitors may fish and boat on Bighorn Lake, and enjoy bicycling, camping, hiking, and horseback riding nearby.

Bighorn Canyon was also important in other ways to the epic story of the development of America’s western frontier. The Bozeman Trail runs through Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area. To protect emigrants traveling on the Bozeman Trail from Sioux and Cheyenne warriors, who resented white encroachment into their lands, the government began establishing military posts along the Bozeman Trail.

Among the posts built on the trail was Fort C. F. Smith, which overlooked the Bighorn River.  The establishment of Fort C. F. Smith on the Bighorn angered the Sioux, who found that its construction violated the terms of the Fort Laramie Treaty. As a result, Fort C. F. Smith was constantly under siege by Sioux and Cheyenne warriors. All that remains of the fort are low mounds of adobe. Although the ruins of Fort C. F. Smith are on private property outside the boundaries of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area, visitors may see the fort by making prior arrangements at the Yellowtail Dam Visitor Center.

After Fort C. F. Smith’s abandonment, the town of Fort Smith, Montana developed on the site where the fort once stood. The town is within the Crow Nation reservation, which is outside of the Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area park boundary. Within the reservation are other historic sites, including the Hayfield Fight site, where a monument commemorating the battle presently stands, and the Fort Smith Medicine Wheel, which is a sacred and spiritual place where the Crow people and other American Indian groups go to meditate. Both the Medicine Wheel and Hayfield Fight Monument are on private property and are not open to the public.

Bad Pass Trail also runs through Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area. Over 10,000 years ago, American Indians camped along this trail, and for a long time, tribes such as the Shoshone used it to get to the buffalo plains. Trappers and traders also used the trail to avoid traveling across the Bighorn River, whose untamed waters made drowning possible. The historic trail runs parallel to the park road, allowing visitors to see this once highly trafficked transportation route.

Bighorn Canyon National Recreational Area protects four historic ranches that offer a glimpse into the history of ranching in the American West. Visitors can see the Mason and Lovell Ranch built in 1883, the 1896 Ewing-Snell Ranch site, the Hillsboro Ranch and Post Office built in the early 1900s, and the Lockhart Ranch established by Caroline Lockhart in the 1920s.

Visitors can also tour what little remains of the old town of Kane. Although the lake flooded what was once a growing community in the early 1900s, the town of Kane and its cemetery are full of stories about American ranchers and traders.

Plan your visit

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System, is located on Highway 20 exit 14A East in Lovell, WY. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. There are two Visitor Centers and two Contact Stations; the hours vary seasonally. For more information, visit the National Park Service Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area website or call 406-666-2412.

Many components of Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including: Pentagon 1, Hillsboro Ranch, and Pentagon 2.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have used the towering sandstone walls of Canyon de Chelly as a place for campsites, shelters, and permanent homes. Managed through a partnership between the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation and located on Navaho Trust Land, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d’SHAY) National Monument represents one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes of North America. The National Monument preserves the remains and cultural resources of various American Indian groups that have lived within the canyon’s walls throughout history. The sites, cliff dwellings, and images on cliff walls, as well as the living community of Navajo people within Canyon de Chelly today, contribute to our understanding of American Indian cultural heritage in the United States.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument preserves the distinct architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery of the Archaic people (2500-200 B.C.), the Basketmakers (200 B.C.-A.D. 750), the Pueblo (750-1300), the Hopi (1300-1600s), and the Navajo (1700-present). Archeological evidence suggests that people have lived in Canyon de Chelly for nearly 5,000 years. The original inhabitants were the Archaic people, who lived in seasonal campsites, conducted hunting and gathering expeditions, and did not build permanent homes. Their stories are understood through the remains of their campsites and the images they etched and painted on the canyon walls. By about 200 B.C., a fundamental shift occurred in the way people lived within the canyon. The Basketmakers started to sustain their community through farming, instead of by hunting and gathering. As their agricultural skills improved, their lives became more sedentary and they built communities of dispersed households with large granaries and rudimentary public structures.

As time passed, the Basketmakers’ style of home gradually changed. From c. 750 to 1300, they abandoned their pithouses in dispersed hamlets and built connected rectangular stone houses above ground. From these connected dwellings, the inhabitants eventually formed multi-storied villages that contained small household compounds and kivas with decorated walls. The people of this time are called the Pueblos; pueblo is the Spanish word for village, and refers to the compact village life of these people. These ancient Puebloan people are the predecessors of today’s Pueblo and Hopi Indians, and they are often referred to as Anasazi, a Navajo word meaning “ancient ones.”

Canyon de Chelly National Monument contains the remains of these ancient Puebloan villages. Built into a sheer 500 foot sandstone cliff, the White House was constructed and occupied between 1060 A.D. and 1275 A.D. The White House takes its name from the white plaster used to coat the long back wall in the upper dwelling. Visitors can view the White House Ruins either from the “White House Overlook” on the South Rim Drive, or by taking a 2.5 mile round-trip trail to the ruins (this is the only trail by which visitors may enter the canyon without a permit or an authorized Navajo guide). The largest ancient Puebloan village preserved in Canyon de Chelly is Mummy Cave. Situated 300 feet above the canyon floor, this village has close to 70 rooms. The east and west alcoves contain living and ceremonial rooms, and the walls are decorated with white and pale green plaster. Mummy Cave was occupied until about 1300. Visitors can view the ruins from the “Mummy Cave Overlook” on the North Rim Drive of the park.

By 1300, the Puebloan life in Canyon de Chelly abruptly ended. A prolonged drought in the 1200’s that dried out what is now the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; disease; conflict; and the allure of new religious ideas to the south prompted the Puebloan people to disperse. They left the canyon in search of a constant water supply and eventually established villages along the Little Colorado River and at the southern tip of Black Mesa. The people of these villages, known as the Hopi, continued to occupy the canyon sporadically. The Hopi used the canyon for seasonal farming, ritual pilgrimages, and occasional lengthy stays. The Hopi’s pattern of life continued from 1300 until the late 1600s or the early 1700s when they encountered the Navajo in Canyon de Chelly.

Around 1700, adversaries pushed the Navajo people south and west into the Canyon de Chelly region. They brought with them domesticated animals acquired from the Spanish and a culture modified by years of migration and adaptation. By the late 1700s, lengthy warfare erupted between the Navajo, other American Indians, and the Spanish colonists of the Rio Grande Valley. Canyon de Chelly National Monument preserves and interprets the site of a battle that occurred during this time. On a winter day in 1805, a Spanish military expedition, which Lt. Antonio Narbona led, fought an all-day battle with a group of Navajo people fortified in a rock shelter in Canyon del Muerto (another canyon located within the Canyon de Chelly National Monument). By the end of the day, Narbona reported that 115 Navajos were killed. The rock shelter where this occurred is called Massacre Cave. Visitors may view Massacre Cave at the “Massacre Cave Overlook” on the North Rim Drive of the park.

By 1846, the Spanish and subsequent Mexican control of what is now Arizona and New Mexico came to an end with a short military campaign that concluded with the United States claiming the territory. By 1863, the United States military was conducting a brutal campaign against the Navajo. Under the orders of the territorial commander, Colonel Kit Carson led a campaign against the Navajo which ultimately resulted in the removal of 8,000 Navajos to new lands in eastern New Mexico. The Navajo people were forced to walk the 300 miles from Canyon de Chelly to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. They called this The Long Walk. Many died along the Long Walk, and the conditions at the fort were not much better. After four years, this first reservation experiment failed, and the Navajo were permitted to return to their land. Today, Canyon de Chelly sustains a living community of Navajo people, and a visit to the park provides great insight into the present-day life of the Navajo community.

Visitors to Canyon de Chelly National Monument can observe 1,000 foot sheer sandstone walls and well-preserved Anasazi ruins, and simultaneously gain an understanding of the diverse cultural heritage of American Indians in the United States.

Plan your visit

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a unit of the National Park System that is managed in partnership with the Navajo Nation, is located in Chinle, AZ. The Visitor Center is 3 miles (4.8 km) from Route 191 in Chinle, AZ. The visitor center is open daily all year from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except for Christmas Day. The North and South Rim Drives and the White House Trail remain open all year. For more information, visit the National Park Service Canyon de Chelly National Monument website or call 928-674-5500.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service's
Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Park Service Museum Management Program exhibit, A New Lease on Life, includes information on the conservation of artifacts from Canyon de Chelly. Canyon de Chelly is featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, Arizona

In the arid southern Arizona desert, on a flat plain between the Gila and Santa Cruz rivers, a large building comes into view that makes an immediate impression on any observer. This “Great House,” the Casa Grande Ruins, dates from the 14th century and is the largest known structure that the Hohokam Indians of the Gila Valley built. Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, which became the first archeological preserve in the United States in 1892 and then a National Monument in 1918, protects, preserves, and interprets the Casa Grande (Great House) complex, as well as 60 other pre-contact sites all dating from sometime between 1150 and 1350 AD. These sites contribute to our understanding of American Indian cultural heritage in the United States.

When the first European visited Casa Grande in 1694, the Hohokam Indians and their ancestors who had lived in the Gila Valley since 5,550 B.C.E. were long gone. The Hohokam ancestors include the ancient Sonoran Desert people and people from the Mesoamerican civilization. The ancient Sonoran Desert people formed a hunter and gatherer community that survived for hundreds of years by hunting the desert’s wild animals and gathering the wild plants. Eventually though, the desert’s climate became warmer and warmer, which decreased the amount of wild plants and animals available to sustain this community. The ancient Sonoran Desert people adapted, and with the introduction of Mesoamerican domesticated corn, made the gradual transition from being a hunter and gatherer community to a more sedentary farming community.

By about 300 CE, the ancient Sonoran Desert people evolved into a distinct Hohokam culture. To adapt to the dry conditions of the desert, they began to use river run-offs and dig irrigation canals to provide water for their fields. Archeologists have identified hundreds of miles of irrigation canals in the American Southwest that link directly back to this culture and time period. With the use of irrigation canals, the Hohokam culture flourished and grew to include many communities along the Gila, Salt, Santa Cruz, and Verde rivers, and their tributaries.

Throughout the area, the Hohokam grew corn, beans, squash, tobacco and cotton. They collected wild foods like mesquite pods, prickly pear fruit, and saguaro fruits, and hunted wild game including mule deer, bighorn sheep, snakes, lizards, squirrels, and rabbits. In their scattered communities, they built pithouses and eventually more permanent above ground structures, and also made a distinct “red-on-bluff” pottery. The people traded the pottery and jewelry they made for turquoise, macaws, mirrors, and copper bells. Throughout their communities, they also constructed ball courts, one of which can be viewed from a public observation platform in the park. Eventually, by the Classic Period (1100-1450 BCE), the Hohokam established more formalized villages.

Around 1150, many Hohokam left their outlying settlements to live in more concentrated and formalized river villages like Casa Grande. The villages were walled compounds where aboveground caliche structures dominated the space. Caliche is a natural concrete-like material made of sand, clay, and calcium carbonate found under the topsoil of the region. In these walled compounds, clusters of caliche houses surrounded public plazas and public structures. Around 1350 AD, the construction of the Casa Grande was complete within one of these Hohokam village compounds.

It took nearly 3,000 tons of caliche to build the Casa Grande. The walls are four feet thick at the base, and taper toward the top. Juniper pine and fir tree timbers formed the internal support for the walls, ceilings, and floors, and created a surface for a layer of caliche. The Hohokam obtained the juniper pine and fir trees from forests as far away as 60 miles up the Gila River. They harvested the trees then carried or floated them down the river to their final destination. To ensure the strength of the structure further, they laid saguaro ribs perpendicular across the internal supporting beams, covering them with reeds and then a layer of caliche. Despite centuries of harsh desert weathering and neglect, this massive structure serves as a lasting testament to the Hohokam culture, technology, and society.

Situated at the end of a major canal, the Casa Grande, like other Great Houses, likely played a major role in the organization of the irrigation communities. The structure stands 4 stories high and 60 feet wide and likely was designed for height and celestial observation. Archeologists hypothesize that the structure’s height was necessary to help regional farmers observe areas that needed canal maintenance and water regulation. Also, due to Casa Grande’s positioning to the four cardinal points of the compass and its specific holes and openings that allow for celestial observation, archeologists believe that the structure was used to observe the changing positions of celestial objects in order to organize planting, harvests, and celebrations.

For reasons still unknown, sometime in the 15th century, the Sonoran Desert people abandoned the walled village compounds. Today, the Casa Grande serves as the main area for the public to visit at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument providing visitors with a direct connection to the people who once lived there. A stop at the visitor center, followed by a self-guided walk around the Casa Grande, will provide visitors with a memorable view of Hohokam technology and society.

Plan your visit

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located in Coolidge, AZ, just off AZ 87/287. The National Monument is open from 9:00 am until 5:00 pm everyday of the year except Thanksgiving Day and December 25th. For more information, visit the National Park Service Casa Grande Ruins National Monument website or call 520-723-3172.

Casa Grande Ruins National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historical Park lies in a long, shallow canyon atop the Colorado Plateau, centrally located within the San Juan Basin of northwestern New Mexico. People have occupied this area of high desert landscape with long winters, short growing seasons, and limited rainfall for over 10,000 years. About 1,000 years ago, a remarkable American Indian urban center of politics, economy, ceremony, and culture evolved in this desert landscape.

This vast pre-Columbian cultural complex dominated and influenced much of the southwestern United States from the mid 9th to the mid 13th centuries. Because of the outstanding importance of this thriving cultural system, Chaco Culture National Historical Park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its remarkable architecture, carefully engineered and constructed roads, significance in the lives of the ancestral Puebloan peoples, and its elaborate cultural system that influenced the Four Corners region for centuries. The park contains over 4,000 cultural sites associated with Paleo-Indian, ancestral Puebloans, Navajo, and Euro-American occupation of the canyon.

From 850 A.D. to approximately 1250 A.D, ancestral Puebloans constructed buildings and managed an extensive cultural system throughout this area. At its peak, a few thousand people may have lived in Chaco Canyon, while thousands more were drawn to the ceremonial gatherings and trading events staged throughout the Chacoan system. To house and host these great numbers, the people developed a well-organized community.

To construct their communities, the ancestral Puebloans created specific styles of masonry, unique for their time, which allowed them to build multi-storied stone structures on mesa tops and on the canyon floors. The “great houses” and other village clusters found throughout the region feature this style of masonry. Some of the buildings had hundreds of rooms and included kivas, terraces, and plazas. To build these impressive structures, the ancestral Puebloans quarried sandstone blocks and hauled timber from great distances. They drew upon dense forests of oak, pinon, ponderosa pine, and juniper to obtain timber to construct walls that were broad at the base and narrow toward the top. They built in this way to distribute the weight of the walls and the structure. The structures served public and ceremonial purposes. The high concentration of these buildings suggests that this area served as a regional religious, administrative, commercial, and trading center.

During the mid to late 800s, construction began on the great houses of Pueblo Bonito, Una Vida, and Penasco Blanco. Construction later followed on Hungo Pavi, Chetro Ketl, Pueblo Alto, Casa Chiquita, Kin Kletso, Pueblo del Arroyo, Tsin Kletsin, Casa Rinconada, and Wijiji. Visitors can view these sites from hiking trails in the park today. The great house closest to the visitor center is Una Vida, which is accessible by taking a short walk from the parking lot. For 250 years, ancestral Pueblans continuously planned and built at Una Vida and eventually constructed about 150 rooms and five kivas. Visitors can also follow a short trail from Una Vida to view petroglyphs and pictographs on the sandstone walls of Chaco Canyon.

While Una Vida was under construction, work was also taking place on Pueblo Bonito and Penasco Blanco. Pueblo Bonito was the center of the Chacoan world. The enormous, well-planned Pueblo Bonito took decades to build. At its peak, this D-shaped building stood four to five stories tall, covered 3 acres and contained over 600 rooms, 40 kivas, and two plazas. Pueblo Bonito was the focus of ceremonial functions, administration, trading, storage, hospitality, communications, astronomy, and burial of the honored dead. After touring the ½-mile long trail through Pueblo Bonito, visitors can follow the cliff face trail that connects Pueblo Bonito and Chetro Ketl to view more petroglyphs.

Many of the buildings throughout the Chaco system were oriented to solar, lunar and cardinal directions. The likely reason for the alignments was to capture the solar and lunar cycles. Astronomical markers, communication features, catch basins, canals, check dams, and ditches surrounded clusters of buildings connected by over 400 miles of prehistoric roadways. These roads, some of which were as much as 30 feet wide, linked dozens of Chaco Canyon’s great houses to over 150 great houses in the region.

The extensive road system ensured Chaco’s role as the center of a far-reaching trade network. Chacoans traded pottery, turquoise, seashells, copper bells, macaws, and parrots among themselves and with groups as far south as Mexico. Chaco pottery, a distinctive Cibola black-on-white pottery, was an important item of trade throughout the system. Likely, the pottery actually originated in an outlying community because only an estimated 20 percent of the pottery found at Chaco was made there. Chacoans used pottery for food preparation, serving, and storage; they also fashioned turquoise into beads, ornaments, and jewelry and traded it throughout the Southwest.

The ancient roadways carried goods and linked Chaco to outlying communities and resource areas beyond Chaco Canyon. While not a part of the main unit of Chaco Culture National Historical Park, the sites of Kin Klizhin, Pueblo Pintado, Kin Bineola, and Kin Ya’a are also part of the park. Visitors can view these sites and find impressive tower kivas, examples of Chacoan masonry, and evidence of the extensive reach and influence of the Chacoan culture and system.

After prevailing for 300 years, new construction slowed at Chaco and its influence as a regional center began to decline c. 1100 or 1200. While Chaco’s role as a regional center shifted, it still influenced places such as Aztec, Mesa Verde, the Chuska Mountains, and other centers to the north, south and west. Eventually, the people shifted away from their Chacoan ways and migrated to new areas in the Southwest.

By interacting with other American Indian groups and then with foreign influences, the Chaco culture ultimately evolved into new cultures. Their descendents are the modern Indians of the Southwest including the Hopi, the Pueblo peoples of New Mexico, and the Navajo. Chaco Canyon and its many great houses are a sacred and special place for many southwestern Indian peoples. Please remember to respect and honor these sacred ancestral homelands.

Plan your visit

Chaco Culture National Historical Park, unit of the National Park System, is located in Nageezi, NM. The visitor center is open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm everyday of the year except Thanksgiving Day, December 25th, and New Year’s Day. Sites and trails are open from sunrise to sunset. For more information, visit the National Park Service Chaco Culture National Historical Park website or call 505-786-7014.

Chaco Culture National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary as well as a Museum Management Program online exhibit. Chaco Canyon is also a designated World Heritage Site.

Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia

The Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network is a system of over 170 sites located within the Chesapeake Bay region. The Network tells the story of the connections between people and nature in the Chesapeake region through its historic sites and communities, trails, parks, wildlife refuges, maritime museums, and more. The Network’s goal is to help connect people to the natural and cultural heritage of the Chesapeake region. Each partner site in the Network contributes its own perspective on a Chesapeake component or theme so that, together, Network partners offer visitors a fuller range of Chesapeake experiences on water and on land.

The Chesapeake Bay was home to many generations of American Indians before Europeans charted the area in the 1500s. Today, eight recognized tribes of Virginia keep their cultures alive and thriving. Visit the Pamunkey Indian Reservation and find out more about that tribe’s history and museum. Riverbend Park is the site of the Virginia Indian Festival where people celebrate American Indian culture; it is also a popular place to go kayaking, canoeing, fishing, or hiking. Along the Patuxent River in Maryland, archeologists have found evidence of over 9,000 years of human habitation at what is now Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. Its interactive visitor center, historical and garden tours, Indian Village, and educational archeological programs give visitors a chance to learn more about the Chesapeake Bay area and the people who once lived there. On the Potomac, visit Piscataway Park for more information about Maryland Indians and early colonial settlement. Use the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail to learn more about Chesapeake region American Indian communities, both historic and contemporary.

In early human history on the Chesapeake, the waterways served as transportation corridors. American Indians as well as Captain John Smith and his fellow colonists preferred bald cypress trees as boat building material. At Trap Pond State Park in Delaware, visitors can take pontoon boat rides, or paddle a canoe or kayak, to see up close the northern-most stands of baldcypress trees. Many of the Gateways Network partners offer opportunities to learn about maritime trades. At Annapolis Maritime Museum, learn how valuable the oyster industry was to the Chesapeake or take a ride on an historic oyster dredging vessel, the skipjack Nathan of Dorchester, or the Martha Lewis out of Havre de Grace, Maryland. Visit the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Baltimore to try your hand at the skill of boat caulking, a trade practiced by Frederick Douglass before he escaped slavery, and learn about African Americans in the maritime industry.

In the Chesapeake region, the Bay's many tributaries were often used as routes for escaping slaves. Harriet Tubman, born a slave on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, escaped to freedom and returned nearly 20 times to lead as many as 300 slaves northward. Visitors today can drive the 64-mile Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Scenic Byway to learn about her life and the many historic places connected with her in Chesapeake Bay country.

South of the Byway, on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, is Onancock Historic District and Town Wharf , called the “Gem of the Eastern Shore”. Explored by Captain John Smith in 1607 and chartered in 1680, Onancock is one of King James’ original 12 royal ports in Colonies. Onancock today remains a working port for watermen and waterborne commerce while offering recreational boaters a unique port of call.

Early colonists, and many of the fledgling country’s most famous patriots, often sited their working plantations along rivers to facilitate commerce and trade for tobacco and other products. Today, the visitor can arrive by boat or auto to tour Stratford Hall Plantation, built by Thomas Lee in the 1730’s. Lee descendants included signers of the Declaration of Independence, and Stratford Hall was the birthplace of Robert E. Lee. Also on the Potomac is the George Washington Birthplace National Monument and, on the Rappahannock River, George Washington’s Ferry Farm, his boyhood home.

Chesapeake river communities were later harassed by the British during the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812. Learn about young America’s struggles against the world’s most powerful navy through the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail. Trail sites include many Gateways Network partners, including Sotterley Plantation, the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, North Point State Park and Baltimore’s Fort McHenry National Monument as well as Fort Boykin and Tangier Island in Virginia.

Whether learning about the diverse human history of the Chesapeake, or the natural beauty and bounty of the Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network opens a door for enjoyable and refreshing experiences.

European Contact and Exploration: Captain John Smith National Historic Trail

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail encourages visitors to learn about the people and land that Englishman Captain John Smith encountered when he and fellow colonists chartered by the Virginia Company of London reached the Chesapeake Bay in 1607. The trail stretches 3,000 miles through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. For information on access points, land and water trails, and information centers, as well as a map that charts John Smith’s voyages around the Chesapeake Bay, marks Indian settlements, and describes several historic points of interest, visit this website.

Captain John Smith (1580-1631) was an English explorer who played a pivotal role in the exploration and settlement of America. His leadership at Jamestown, his contacts with Chesapeake Indians and his Chesapeake Bay voyages — documented in maps and journals — helped ensure the success of early English colonization efforts.

The water trail is currently being developed and interpreted, and will soon be enriched with interpretive kiosks, maps, and guides. Today, visitors can retrace Captain John Smith’s journey by water and land, while enjoying the natural splendor that he and his men encountered. Coming from England where forests had been cut for domestic and industrial use, Smith and his colleagues marveled at the thousands of acres of sea grasses and deep forests. As Captain Smith wrote, "Heaven and earth never agreed better to frame a place for man’s habitation." Today, visitors can tour, hike, and camp near the area where John Smith landed in 1607 at First Landing State Park in Virginia. For a full list of outdoor activities along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, click here.

Captain John Smith and the London Company founded Jamestown in 1607, the first permanent English settlement of the United States. Visitors to Jamestown can see many exhibits, including a replica of the Powhatan Indian Village and recreations of the ships that brought the English colonists to America. To learn more about colonial settlement in the Jamestown area, visit Jamestown National Historic Site and Colonial National Historical Park, which both are featured in this itinerary.

An important contact for Smith was with Powhatan, the chief of several tribes in the Tsenacomoco area (part of present-day Virginia), and his daughter Pocahontas. Smith described the Indians in glowing terms and referred to their chiefs as kings and emperors. Although Smith negotiated an alliance with the tribes that allowed the colonists to survive their first difficult year in North America, it later collapsed. Read more about the American Indian—English relationship here.

A free, online resource, A Boater’s Guide to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, introduces paddlers and boaters to the Bay and tributary rivers. Author John Page Williams expertly weaves practical information for today’s boaters with the historical context of the Chesapeake’s waters explored by Captain John Smith four centuries ago.

Users of the Boater’s Guide can learn where the trailheads are (including GPS coordinates), see suggested trip itineraries, and compare on-the-water experiences for paddlecraft, skiffs and runabouts, and cruising powerboats and sailboats. The Guide’s interactive features include links to additional maps, NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System, navigation charts, and information on facilities and points of interest.

The new Captain John Smith Geotrail offers a new way for adventurers to explore more than 40 sites highlighting places associated with Smith’s explorations, the natural resources of the Chesapeake, and American Indian communities then and now. Located along the James, Rappahannock, Potomac, Susquehanna, and the Nanticoke Rivers, the geotrail’s sites complement and promote the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

For more information about the many places to visit on the Chesapeake, see the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail website.

Chesapeake Bay Region and the War of 1812: The Star Spangled Banner National Historic Trail

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail highlights the Chesapeake Campaign of the War of 1812. The trail follows more than 300 miles of land and water routes in Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland used by British forces and American defenders. The Chesapeake Campaign influenced the course of the war and the development of the young nation, inspired the lyrics that would eventually become the national anthem, and solidified the United States flag as a beloved national symbol. Through sites and landscapes, the Trail tells the stories of the events, people, and places that led to the birth of our National Anthem. 

During the War of 1812, the Chesapeake Bay region was a prime target for Great Britain. The Bay was a center of international trade, maritime-related commerce, shipbuilding, and government. The nation’s capital was relocated in 1800 to Washington, D.C., on the Potomac River, a Bay tributary. In addition, excellent soil, favorable climate, and an extensive network of navigable waters provided a strong foundation for a thriving agricultural and slave economy. The Chesapeake region was viewed by the British as a hub of decision-making, political power, and hostility, making it a strategic target.

The growing city of Baltimore, with its versatile deep-water port, also developed a reputation as a “nest of pirates.” Ship captains based in Fell’s Point operated privateers or private vessels licensed by the government under a “Letter of Marque” to attack foreign ships including those of the British. Many privateers were built in Baltimore shipyards such as Fell’s Point and the British viewed them – and the city – as a military and commercial threat. African-Americans, free and enslaved, worked in these shipyards as carpenters and caulkers. Today, visitors to Fell’s Point can learn about ship building skills, the experiences of African Americans, and try their hand at caulking at the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park.

During this war, the U.S. Congress authorized the enlistment of African Americans, for the first time, in the U.S. Navy. But the British competed for these recruits. Almost seven hundred former slaves, entire families, took refuge with the British who removed them to Tangier Island which the British used as a naval base during the Chesapeake Campaign. About two hundred African American men were drilled in military skills and maneuvers and formed the Colonial Marines of the British navy.

Maryland’s largest naval battle took place during the War of 1812 at the point where the Patuxent River meets the mouth of St. Leonard Creek. The British navy, known as the world’s most powerful, defeated the small Chesapeake Flotilla under the command of Commodore Joshua Barney. Trail users today can visit the nearby Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum to read about the flotilla, Commodore Barney, and free African American Charles Ball, a seaman and cook on the flotilla whose autobiography is on display at the museum. Ordering his own vessels to be burned and sunk, Barney and his men marched to Bladensburg where they joined American land forces trying to stop the British march on Washington. Visitors to the region can see the site of this battle from Bladensburg Waterfront Park. After this battle, the British went on to Washington and burned the city on August 24, 1814. Leaving the White House, the Capitol, and other government buildings engulfed in flames, British troops continued north to Baltimore.

In what is known today as the Battle of Baltimore, American soldiers, including free and enslaved African Americans, defeated the British invasion of Baltimore Harbor after a standoff that lasted 25 hours into the morning of September 14, 1814. Upon viewing the American flag still standing at Fort McHenry after the battle, Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the words to what is now the National Anthem of the United States, “The Star Spangled Banner.”

At Fort McHenry Memorial and National Historic Shrine, visitors can tour the fort and participate in outdoor activities and scheduled events year round including presentations, music performances, and nature walks. The museum and visitor center offer exhibits of historical and military memorabilia. Visitors can also see the daily flag change at 9:30am and 4:20pm, weather permitting.

The Star Spangled Banner Flag House, a National Historic Landmark, at 344 East Pratt Street in Baltimore, is where Mary Pickersgill, along with her daughter Caroline, nieces Eliza and Margaret, and indentured, African-American servant Grace Wisher, created the flag Francis Scott Key saw waving over Fort McHenry at the end of the Battle of Baltimore. The house is open for tours. Visitors can participate in interactive activities and view historic artifacts such as the $405.90 invoice for Mary’s work on the flag. The flag itself is on display at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

The Battle Monument in downtown Baltimore commemorates the lives lost during the Battle of Baltimore. Architect Maximilian Godefroy designed the monument, which resembles a tomb. Finished in 1825, the monument has a base with 18 layers, each one representing a State during the War of 1812. The column contains the names of soldiers and officers who died during the war.

The new Star Spangled Banner Geotrail offers visitors the chance to geocache, or hunt for treasures hidden outdoors, along a trail of over 30 sites connected to the Chesapeake Campaign. Each site along the trail describes the people, places, and events that led to the establishment of our National Anthem during the War of 1812.

Visitors can also take a ride along the scenic Star Spangled Banner Byway, and retrace the path that the British troops and American defenders took during the Chesapeake Campaign. The Byway will take you along the Bay and lead to the scene of the crucial battle that inspired Francis Scott Key.

Plan your visit

The Chesapeake Gateways and Watertrails Network is located in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. For more information, visit the National Park Service Chesapeake Bay Office, the Network’s official website, or call 410-260-2470. Also, visit the Friends of Chesapeake Gateways website.

The Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park System, winds 3,000 miles through Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail website or call 410-260-2470. See also the Smithtrail and Bay Gateways websites.

The Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park System, stretches across Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail website or call 410-260-2470. Multiple historic sites are located along the trail and can be accessed via the Star-Spangled Banner Byway. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for Fort McHenry: text and photos and Flag House: text and photos. For information on Fort McHenry visit the National Park Service Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine website or call 410-962-4290. The Historic American Buildings Survey has documented Flag House, Battle Monument, and several buildings at Fort McHenry.

Many of the above sites are also featured in the National Park Service’s Baltimore Travel Itinerary. The creation of the National Anthem is the subject of the online lesson plan “The Rockets’ Red Glare”: Francis Scott Key and the Bombardment of Fort McHenry. The lesson plan was produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, Area New Jersey and Pennsylvania

Established for its natural beauty and recreational value, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area also contains within its boundaries a diverse variety of historic places. The park encompasses American Indian archeological sites, European colonial structures, and the remains of rural villages from the 18th and 19th centuries. Visitors to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area can enjoy exploring these culturally diverse destinations, many of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Minisink Archeological Site, also known as the Minisink Historic District, is a National Historic Landmark. This historic district covers more than 1,320 acres of land extending to both banks of the Delaware River in Pennsylvania and New Jersey and to Minisink Island, one of the largest islands in the river. Minisink was the most important settlement of the Munsee, who lived in the Middle and Upper Delaware Valley for much of the 17th and 18th centuries. The district is one of the most extensive, best preserved, and most intensively studied archeological locales in the Northeast. Excavations have uncovered information about Munsee burials and diet, and artifacts such as a copper kettle, a silver spoon, and thimbles that illustrate contact between American Indians and Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries. Throughout this period, colonists traded many goods with the Indians including brass kettles, iron axe-heads, and cloth, in return for animal pelts. Visitors to Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area can hike the Minisink Historic District while on the Joseph M. McDade Recreational Trail, or take a canoe or kayak to Minisink Island to walk around.

By the mid 1600s, Europeans began to explore and settle the Delaware River Valley. One of the ways in which Europeans traversed the area was by following the Old Mine Road. The Old Mine Road, which visitors can still travel on today, was originally an Indian trail. The trail connected the Hudson River, Port Jervis, and Philadelphia areas, and eventually provided European and American settlers with an important route for trading goods and crops. As one of the first commercial highways in the United States, the Old Mine Road played a significant role in the development of the region, as did another Indian trail on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, named the River Road. The River Road linked the Philadelphia area to where Bethlehem, Nazareth, Stroudsburg, and Shawnee-on-Delaware are today. These roads played a pivotal role in the development of the region. The Old Mine Road, for example, very likely played an important role in the early mining activities of the area.

While the evidence is in dispute, some local historians credit the Dutch with first mining in the area. The claim is that the first Europeans to the area were the Dutch, who came as early as 1626 in search of copper and other valuable minerals, and traded manufactured goods for fur pelts with the American Indians. The area known as the Pahaquarry Copper Mines contains the historic remains of mining activities, and the surrounding area is open for visitor hiking. While the history of the Pahaquarry Copper Mines area and the Old Mine Road is not absolutely clear, these areas are unquestionably historically significant. Visitors to the Delaware Water Gap can take the self-guided auto tour, “A Ride Down Old Mine Road,” to explore this scenic New Jersey side of the park.

As the European population in the area grew and communities became more settled, families such as the Rosenkrans and Van Campens constructed permanent stone houses, while others like the Dingmans established ferries to assist settlers in transporting much needed supplies, cattle, and crops across the Delaware River. Visitors can view the Isaac Van Campen Inn, a colonial stone farmhouse constructed around 1746, from an unpaved portion of the Old Mine Road or take tours of the inn on Sundays during the summer. The building, which never served as an inn in the commercial sense, often housed travelers according to the colonial law, which dictated that houses along major roadways in isolated areas had to provide a rest stop for travelers. The inn also provided settlers with protection against American Indian attacks during the French and Indian War and often served as officers’ quarters during the American Revolution.

Holdings of the Van Campen Inn’s size – large homes with 700 to 1,000 acres- required considerable labor, which enslaved African Americans often provided. Isaac Van Campen owned eight slaves, which he freed upon his death. Near Van Campen Inn is a small flat plot of land known as the “Slave” Cemetery. While no one knows for sure whose graves these are, archeologists and researchers speculate that the cemetery contains the remains of the slaves of Van Campen and the next property owner, John Dewitt; and of three free African Americans. While this is a likely assumption, additional research is necessary to substantiate the claim. The cemetery is in the woods near the inn and close to the Military Trail.

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area also contains the remains of several once thriving rural villages from the 18th and 19th centuries such as Millbrook Village and Walpack Center. Around 1832, Abraham Garis built a gristmill along Van Campen Brook, which sparked the establishment of Millbrook Village. Farmers in the area brought their grain to Garis’ mill, which eventually attracted others to set up businesses nearby and form a community. By the 1870s, Millbrook had 75 inhabitants and 19 buildings including a general store, a church, a school, a blacksmith, a cooper, a post office, and a boarding house that served “spirits.” Prompted by the industrial revolution and competition from western farms that sparked an economic depression and population decrease in the village, the mill in Millbrook closed by 1900; soon after other businesses in the town closed as well.

Today, Millbrook Village contains a few of its original buildings and other historic buildings that were moved to the village from different locations throughout the valley. Together, these buildings depict village life in America during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Original buildings, including the Lester Spangenburg Cabin, the George Trauger House and Barn, the hotel, the Sylvester Hill House, the Elias Garis House and Barn, and the school, are open to visitors in the summer and on other special days of the year. Volunteer craftspeople in period costumes demonstrate skills from this time period.

Walpack Center flourished during the mid-19th century and supplied neighboring farmers with the goods and services they were unable to provide for themselves. Situated in a landscape that is almost unaltered since the 19th century, the single short street of the village is flanked by a church, an old schoolhouse, a country store, and six small plain white frame houses. The Walpack Historical Society maintains an office and a small museum in the post office. The village's Main Street intersects NPS Rt. 615, which is about four miles south of Peters Valley New Jersey.

Villages that are nestled in the fertile Flat Brook Valley, such as Walpack Center, Peters Valley (or Bevans), and Flatbrookville, provided farmers with blacksmith shops, churches, schools, general stores, and post offices. During the industrial revolution, the population of the Delaware Valley dwindled as the residents moved to the cities to find jobs. By the late 1800s, the advent of the railroad and eventually the car further transformed the region into a tourist and recreation destination. Hotels and boarding houses opened to provide New York City and Philadelphia residents with a place to stay while they hunted, fished, and admired nature. Visitors can stop by the Delaware View House, which is now a general store, on the Old Mine Road about .6 miles from Flatbrookville, New Jersey. This building served as a boarding house during the early 1900s and later as the Flatbrookville Hotel.

In the 1960’s, the proposed dam and reservoir at Tock’s Island threatened the preservation of the historic Delaware Valley. Before the abandonment of the project in 1978, the valley lost several thousand dwellings to demolition and thousands of people relocated. The proposed dam did stimulate interest and research into the history and archeology of the Delaware Valley, and prompted archeologists and historians to study the area and recover data that would have been lost by the construction of the dam and reservoir. Today, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area protects the majestic beauty of the mountains and valleys of the Delaware River Valley; the quiet roads and trails; and the sites that echo the stories of American Indians, Europeans, African Americans, and American settlers.

Plan your visit
Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System, is in Northwestern NJ and Northeastern PA, along 40 miles of the Delaware River. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places files: Old Mine Road Historic District: text and photos and Walpack Center Historic District text and photos. Park grounds, trails, roadways, and the Delaware River are open 24 hours a day year round. The Park Headquarters information desk in Bushkill, PA is open Monday to Friday from 8:00 am until 4:30pm. The other visitor centers, Kittatinny Point Visitor Center NJ, Dingmans Falls and Visitor Center PA, and Millbrook Village NJ, have varied hours. For more information, visit the National Park Service Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area website or call 570-426-2451.

Places throughout the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Colonial National Historical Park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey; including those in
New Jersey (see Sussex and Warren Counties), and in Pennsylvania (see Monroe and Pike Counties). The National Park Service’s Archeology Program has also documented sites throughout the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.

 

Effigy Mounds National Monument, Iowa

American Indian ceremonial mounds can be found in many different locations across the United States; however, only in northeastern Iowa, along the high bluffs and lowlands of the Upper Mississippi River Valley, have so many of these mounds been found in the shape of animal effigies. Established in 1949, Effigy Mounds National Monument preserves many examples of pre-contact American Indian mounds that provide visitors with the opportunity to see remarkable evidence of, and further understand, the Woodland period American Indian mound building culture.

 

The 2,526 acre Monument preserves more than 200 mounds, including 31 in the form of bear and bird effigies. People known as the Woodland Indians built the mounds. The Woodland Culture, which dates from 500 B.C. to about 1200 A.D., is broken down further into three different sub-cultures: the Early Woodland (also called the Red Ochre), the Hopewellian classified as Middle Woodland, and the Effigy or Late Woodland. Between 800 and 1,600 years ago, in the Late Woodland period, American Indians began building earthen effigy mounds in the shapes of mammals, birds, and reptiles.

The hunter-gatherer culture that built these mounds thrived on the rich natural resources of the Mississippi waters, wetlands, and forests. They lived in large campsites along the river in the summer and found refuge under limestone rock outcrops in northeast Iowa in the winter. They survived by eating fresh water mussels, wild rice, nuts, fruits, and berries, and by hunting white-tailed deer, bear, bison, turkey, and waterfowl. On the two mile round-trip walk on the Yellow River Bridge Trail, visitors at the Monument can explore a wetland similar to the ones that Indians in northeastern Iowa depended on for survival.

Why these mounds were constructed remains a mystery. Archeologists and researchers hypothesize that some of the mounds were built for religious ceremonies, burial ceremonies, as clan symbols, or possibly as a way to connect people to their ancient ancestors and the spiritual world. Visitors to the Monument can view examples of the four different types of earthen mounds in this area as well as four different types of burial methods used throughout the Woodland period.

Conical mounds are the oldest and most numerous in the area. A conical mound is round, dome-shaped and usually about 10 to 20 feet across and two to eight feet high. Conical mounds were often used as burial mounds. A second mound type is the linear style: these mounds were two to four feet high, six to eight feet across, and were up to 100 feet long. Sometimes referred to as “cigar shaped,” these elongated mounds are often classified as ceremonial mounds and are generally absent of burial materials. The compound style was a combination of the conical and linear styles. These mounds look like a string of beads, where the conical domes are connected by the linear mounds. Like the conical mounds, the compound mounds were often used as burial mounds. Linear and compound mounds are only found in the Effigy Mounds Region. The mounds are accessible from the hiking trails in the Monument. Fire Point Trail is a two mile round-trip hike where visitors can view over 20 mounds, including all four types: conical, linear, compound, and an effigy.

During the late Woodland period from 400 AD to 1200 AD, effigy mounds began to appear. Effigy mounds (“effigy” meaning in the shape of) are found in various mammal, bird, and reptile shapes. Bear and bird effigy mounds dominate the Effigy Mounds National Monument. The effigy mound is both a burial and a ceremonial mound; however, its main use appears to be ceremonial. Only about 20 to 25 percent of them contain any burial material. One of the largest effigies visitors can see is the Great Bear Mound, which is 137 feet long and 70 feet wide. Great Bear Mound is about a two mile round-trip walk from the visitor center.

The four different burial methods were not particular to a specific mound style. Evidence of different burial methods has been uncovered within a single mound. The most common style was the bundle burial. In this style, human remains were left outside until most of the flesh was gone, and then the bones were bundled together with a piece of string and placed in a shallow rectangular pit. Sometimes these bundles contained the bones of many individuals. The other styles include cremation, the flexed burial, and the extended burial. In the cremation burial, ash and charred bone fragments were collected and placed inside the mound. In flexed burials, the body was in a sitting or fetal position, and in extended burials, the body was laid out flat. Trails throughout the Monument allow visitors to view mounds with evidence of these burial styles.

At Effigy Mounds National Monument, visitors can explore the mysterious origins of the mounds and gain an understanding of the Woodland period American Indians. The mounds are considered ceremonial and sacred sites by many Americans, especially the Monument's 12 affiliated American Indian tribes. A visit offers opportunities to contemplate the meanings of the mounds, the peoples who built them, and the relationships to their modern descendants. The Monument is located in a natural setting within one of the most picturesque sections of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area and along the "Great River Road" of the Mississippi River - a National Scenic Byway.

Plan your visit

Effigy Mounds National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 151 Highway 76, Harpers Ferry, IA. The Monument grounds are open daily sunrise to sunset year round. The park is accessible via 14 miles of hiking trails. The hours of the visitor center vary seasonally. For more information, visit the National Park Service Effigy Mounds National Monument website or call 563-873-3491.

El Malpais National Monument, New Mexico

The part of New Mexico that is now in El Malpais National Monument is a land covered in old lava flows, sandstone bluffs, ice caves, and lava tubes. People have adapted to and used this diverse and mysterious landscape for a myriad of purposes for more than 10,000 years. By the mid 1500s, early Spanish explorers named this area El Malpais, meaning “the bad country” or “badlands” because they found the jagged and jumbled black rock treacherous to navigate. For thousands of years American Indians have found ways in which to live in, around, and sometimes on these “bad lands.”

While archeological evidence proves that people interacted with the El Malpais landscape for more than 10,000 years, human occupation was the greatest between 950 A.D. and 1350 A.D. Around this time, Puebloan ancestors built the first permanent structures in the area. During the early years of their occupation, the ancestral Puebloans constructed pit houses and masonry structures. Eventually, in large part due to the influence of the extensive Chaco system (the Chaco system was a large political, economical, and spiritual system located 80 miles north of El Malpais), the ancestral Puebloans built complex, multi-story structures. The presence of Chaco-style architecture throughout El Malpais suggests that ancestral Puebloans were in contact with the Chaco system through economic exchange and religious pilgrimages. The presence of kivas, or ceremonial chambers, provides evidence that religion was an important element of the ancestral Puebloan way of life.

Visitors will encounter evidence of these early inhabitants in the archeological sites and petroglyphs at the Sandstone Bluffs. The ancestral Puebloans established their communities along the edges of the old lava flows. They adapted to their environment and were able to find many useful purposes for the lava and the surrounding landscape. They used lava tubes as places of refuge during periods of extensive heat, and utilized ice from neighboring caves by allowing it to melt in storage jars. They manipulated pieces of lava rock into tools for grinding, weaving, painting, and hunting. The people also utilized surrounding mesa tops and valleys to build domestic dwellings or conduct agricultural pursuits.

By creating rock bridges (ancient bridges where rocks were used to fill crevices, allowing passage to the other side) and rock cairns (stacks of rocks that are used as trail indicators), ancestral Puebloans were able to use and navigate the “bad lands.” Rock cairns are still used and are a valuable tool for navigating trails at the Monument today.

Through their farming, navigation, religious, and economic systems, the ancestral Puebloans sustained their communities in and around El Malpais until the mid 1200s. Around 1250, archeological evidence suggests that the ancestral Puebloan people left their communities and likely moved to the pueblos of Acoma or Zuni. These two major American Indian tribes flanked the malpais during this time. The Zuni resided on the western side of the lava beds, while the Acoma Pueblo was to the east.

The pueblos of Acoma and Zuni are connected by one of the oldest highways in the area, the Zuni-Acoma Trail, which has been used for over 1,000 years. This trail cuts right through the spiritually significant lava flows that separate the two communities. Visitors can hike and experience this trail even today. People of the ancient Pueblos of Acoma and Zuni likely built this trail to facilitate religious and economic pursuits. The trail helped move people across the lava flow as quickly and efficiently as possible. Parts of the trail lead to sites with evidence that suggests that they that may have been places of spiritual significance along the lava flow. Visitors can hike the 7.5-mile Zuni-Acoma Trail across the northern portion of the Monument in an environment that has not changed very much since people inhabited the area hundreds of years ago. The Zuni-Acoma Trail, which had spiritual and religious significance for the Pueblos of Acoma and Zuni over 1,000 years ago, still does today.

American Indian, Spanish and Anglo cultures have all played a role in the history of this cultural landscape--from the Puebloan cultures who settled here more than over 1000 years ago, to the homesteaders who fled the Dust Bowl in the 1930s. The Zuni, Acoma, and Laguna Pueblos and the Ramah Navajo all value this area as part of their history and culture.

Plan your visit

El Malpais National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located near Grants, NM. The Monument is south of Interstate 40 and is bordered by NM Highway 117 on the east, NM Highway 53 on the west, and County Road 42 on the south. The El Malpais Information Center is located 23 miles south of Grants, NM on NM 53. Visitors can also obtain information from the Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center, located south of I-40 at exit 85. The National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Forest Service jointly run this center.

El Malpais National Monument is open year round and all hours except for the Sandstone Bluffs Overlook, which closes at dusk. For more information, visit the National Park Service
El Malpais National Monument website or call one of the following numbers, El Malpais Information Center 505-783-4774; Northwest New Mexico Visitor Center 505-876-2783; BLM Ranger Station 505-280-2918.


Everglades National Park, Florida

Everglades National Park in southern Florida helps to protect the sub-tropical “River of Grass” known as the Everglades. The first national park designated to protect an ecological system (1947), the Everglades has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. The Everglades are home to frogs, toads, alligators, hundreds of species of birds, 300 different species of fish, Florida panthers (endangered), crocodiles, and snakes, just to name a few! Just as the diverse fauna and flora have survived for thousands of years in the Everglades, American Indians and later settlers have made this region their home. Everglades National Park invites visitors to experience a subtropical world that is unlike few other places on earth.

The Everglades are subtropical wetlands whose fresh water system begins near Orlando in the Kissimmee River. The water moves from the Kissimmee River to the shallow Lake Okeechobee, which averages 12 feet deep and covers 730 square miles. Historically, during the wet season the water moved from the lake into a slow-moving and shallow 50-mile wide river flowing across the Everglades saw grass and toward the mangrove estuaries of the Gulf of Mexico. Elaborate water control systems now disrupt much of this natural flow of water. Water and fire shaped the Everglades, which experienced frequent flooding in the wet season and droughts in the dry season. The Everglades encompass freshwater habitats, hardwood hammocks, saltwater habitats, cypress swamps, saw grass marshes, mangrove forests, and subtropical pine forests.

Over time, the diverse ecosystems in Everglades National Park have been the home of many pre-contact and historic period American Indian tribes. Major tribes in the area included the Calusa, Tequesta, Jega, Ais, and later the Seminoles. The Calusa, who primarily inhabited the southwestern region of this area, are considered to have been the largest and most powerful tribe in South Florida from 1000 B.C. until the 1700s. Other tribes including the Tequesta, Jega, and Ais, lived along the eastern coast.

Organized as a chiefdom, the Calusa lived in small village communities from the areas west of Lake Okeechobee down to Cape Sable. Many of these villages were at the mouths of rivers, on the coast, along the inner waterways, and along the Ten Thousand Islands. Today, visitors to the park can take a narrated boat tour of the pristine Ten Thousand Islands and imagine what it might have been like to live in a Calusa village in this area. Utilizing the natural bounty, the Calusa thrived by fishing for food on the coast, bays, rivers, and waterways. These hunters and gatherers subsisted on small game, turtles, alligators, shellfish and various plants. The Calusa used the abundance of shells found along the coast and in the coastal mangroves to create tools, jewelry, ornaments, and to construct their communities.

Shell mounds and “shell works” throughout Everglades National Park date back to the Calusa’s habitation of the area. The Calusa created the mounds when they discarded shells that they had used as tool and made other shell formations, called “shell works,” by piling shells and earth upon each other. The Calusa used shells to form high ridges, mounds, platforms, canals, and courtyards. Over many generations, these shell works became a noteworthy part of their villages. While the Calusa tribe declined in the late 1700s due to the introduction of European diseases, their shell middens, shell works, and shell mounds remain in the park as evidence of their way of life.

Just as the remnants of the Calusa’s shell works provide a lasting testament to their civilization, a prehistoric canal in Everglades National Park serves as a physical reminder and a lasting testament to the Tequesta Tribe. The Mud Lake Canal, a National Historic Landmark and one of only a few surviving prehistoric canoe trails in North America, is a well-preserved 3.9-mile aboriginal canoe trail. The canal, which extends 20-30 ft across and is 1-2 feet deep, is associated with the Bear Lake Mound Group, a site thought to have been a Tequesta village. The canal was likely a major travel route and hub of activity that connected the Everglades, Ten Thousands Islands, and the Florida Keys. Although diseases brought by the Europeans decimated the Tequesta by the 1700s as they had the Calusa, the Mud Lake Canal remains as a significant archeological site that allows us to learn about the Tequesta.

Following the demise of the Calusa and Tequesta tribes and with white settlement spreading throughout northern Florida, other American Indian groups were forced to move south toward the Everglades by the late 1700s. Creek peoples, including the Seminoles and the Miccosukee, filtered into the area in search of places to hunt and settle. While the Seminole and Miccosukee looked for places to re-settle in southern Florida, the British and then the Spanish claimed ownership of the region. By 1818, however, the United States questioned Spain’s ownership of Florida and Andrew Jackson successfully led American soldiers into the area hoping to seize it. By 1821, Florida belonged to the United States.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act. This law required that Indians who were residing in any of the States or territories that Jackson had recently claimed for the United States, be removed from their homelands and moved west of the Mississippi. The law resulted in most of the southeastern American Indians being moved from their homelands. While in theory the removal was to be voluntary and peaceful, the government pressured the tribes to agree to unfavorable terms and conditions. The Seminole met the Act with great resistance.

The Seminole Wars ensued, with some Seminoles withdrawing deep into the Everglades to elude troops rather than surrender to the United States government. The wars resulted in the forced relocation of many of the Seminoles, significantly diminishing their population in southern Florida. After the Seminole Wars, which took place in intermittent periods from 1817-1858, some of the Seminoles, as well as the Miccosukee, continued to live in small villages throughout southern Florida. Eventually, events such as the building of the Tamiami Trail (the road that serves as the north eastern park boundary); the establishment of the Everglades National Park; and the institution of systematic water management systems changed the Seminole and Miccosukee way of life in the Everglades.

Like the Everglades themselves, the lives of American Indians living in and around this region have been significantly altered over hundreds of years. In Everglades National Park, visitors can still experience the natural and cultural landscape of hundreds of years of American Indian cultural heritage.

Plan your visit

Everglades National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located in southern FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places files for Mud Lake Canal (text and photos.) The park has multiple entrances and visitor centers including Ernest Coe Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center, Shark Valley Visitor Center, Gulf Coast Visitor Center. They are all open 365 days a year.

For more information, visit the National Park Service
Everglades National Park website or call 305-242-7700.


Fort Bowie National Historic Site, Arizona

In the region between Dos Cabezas and the Chiricahua Mountains, the historic Apache Pass was for two decades the focal point of the bitter struggle that eventually ended in Geronimo’s defeat. Originally named by the Spanish as the Pass of Chance, the Apache Pass was a pass of death due to the violent warfare that occurred in the region for the duration of the Apache Wars. To protect soldiers and settlers traveling through the pass and to better execute the military operations against the Apache warriors, the US Army established a fort that would become the guardian of Apache Pass. Today, Fort Bowie National Historic Site commemorates the bravery and endurance of the US soldiers in their struggle to control the region and of the Apache warriors who fought to preserve their existence.

Two major events led to the development of Fort Bowie and the struggle at Apache Pass between the American Indians and white settlers: the Bascom Affair of 1861 and the Battle of Apache Pass in 1862. The Bascom Affair began when a band of American Indians raided the ranch of John Ward and kidnapped the son of a Mexican woman who lived at the farm. Ward informed military officials at Fort Buchanan of the attack and demanded that they recover his losses, wrongly accusing Chief Cochise and a band of Chiricahua Indians of taking Ward’s stepson and stealing his stock.

The army responded to the complaint by sending Lt. George Bascom and his troops to Apache Pass, where they lured Cochise and threatened to hold him captive until the Chiricahua returned the boy and the stolen property. Insulted by the accusations, Cochise sliced through Bascom’s tent wall and managed to escape to the mountains with a minor bullet wound on his leg.  Cochise and his Chiricahua warriors would later return to Apache Pass, where a two-week battle broke out that marked the beginning of open warfare between the United States Army and the Chiricahua warriors, which would stain Apache Pass with blood for more than 20 years.

Around the same time, the Civil War broke out, further complicating military operations at Apache Pass. While Union soldiers battled the Confederate army, US troops had to continue fighting Cochise and the Chiricahua as they traveled near or through the Apache Pass. The sporadic fighting with the Apache kept troops from reaching battle sites, which became the case in the Battle of Apache Pass, when Chief Cochise and 150 Chiricahua warriors attacked Brigade General James Carleton and his men while they were enroute to confront Confederate troops in Arizona and New Mexico.

When the two-day struggle between Carleton’s California Column and the Chiricahua ended on July 16, 1862, General James Carleton recognized the importance of establishing a fort that would secure Apache Pass and protect soldiers, settlers, and mail coaches as they traveled through the region. On July 28, soldiers from the fifth California Volunteer Infantry began constructing the fort and named it after their commanding officer, Col. George Washington Bowie.  In the beginning, the troops established a temporary camp consisting of 13 tents protected by stone breastworks, which they eventually replaced in the fall with huts made of crude stone and adobe.

These primitive structures stood until 1868, when the army built a larger and more stable Fort Bowie about 300 yards from the original campsite. When the troops completely abandoned the fort in 1894, this new military post consisted of more than 50 adobe and stone structures, including the barracks, officer’s quarters, a few corrals and storehouses, a trading post and hospital. Of the many structures, the only ones present at the site today are those built of stone. These include the ruins of the Butterfield Stage Station, an unknown building, and the post cemetery. Other ruins remain, but most of the adobe structures that existed until Geronimo’s defeat have melted over time.

Between its establishment in 1862, and the end of the Indian Wars in 1886, Fort Bowie was the center of US military operations against Cochise’s Chiricahua warriors and later Geronimo’s band of Apache warriors. Although a period of peace ensued after the government gave Cochise and his people a 3,000 square mile reservation in 1872, conflict eventually resumed as the younger Apaches became dissatisfied with reservation life. Once Cochise died of natural causes in 1874, the discontented Apaches began to escape from the reservation, which further increased the tensions and distrust between the government, settlers, and American Indians.

By 1876, after the government abolished the Chiricahua reservation, Geronimo and his warriors who had fled to Sierra Madre in northern Mexico began to terrorize the border region. For ten years, troops stationed at Fort Bowie would pursue and capture these renegades, then send them to the San Carlos reservation.  After their capture, most of the Chiricahua warriors managed to escape the reservation. The last outbreak occurred in May 1885, after Geronimo led 134 Chiricahuas back into Mexico. After a yearlong pursuit by the army, Geronimo and his warriors surrendered to Fort Bowie's troops, who in September 1886 exiled Geronimo and the Chiricahua warriors to Florida.

After Geronimo’s defeat ended the Apache Wars, the government began to withdraw its troops and officially closed Fort Bowie on October 17, 1894. Over time, erosion took its toll on the fort, but visitors today may tour the ruins and learn about the history of Fort Bowie and the Apache Pass at the Visitor Center. 

Plan your visit

Fort Bowie National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 3203 South Old Fort Bowie in Bowie, AZ. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Fort Bowie is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas days. Access to the Ruins Trail is from sunrise to sunset. There is no admission fee. For more information visit the Fort Bowie National Historic Site website or call 520-847-2500.

Fort Bowie is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.  Many components of the Fort Bowie National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including the Corrals, the Guardhouse, the Hospital, the Schoolhouse , the Infantry Barracks, the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, the Cavalry Barracks, and the Fort Bowie Ruins.

Fort Laramie National Historic Site, Wyoming

From trading post to military post, Fort Laramie was part of the epic story of America’s western migration. First, the fort served as the headquarters of the American Fur Trading Company, then as a well-known stopping point for wagon trains traveling on the Oregon Trail, and eventually Fort Laramie defended emigrants against the same American Indians with whom the American Fur Trading Company first built a fur trading empire. Today, the Fort Laramie National Historic Site preserves and interprets this “Grand Old Post,” offering a glimpse into the history of the development of the western frontier.

In 1832, after fur trader William Sublette established a trading partnership with Robert Campbell, the search began for a site in the Rockies to build a trading post for their fur company. Erected in 1834, Fort William--the first Fort Laramie—had a strategic location at the junction of the North Platte and Laramie Rivers. Known as Laramais’ Point, the crossroads between the two rivers was not only a gateway into the Rocky Mountains, but also the central location for trading with the Sioux and Cheyenne. Highly sought after for their buffalo robes, which was the fort’s primary commodity, the Cheyenne and Sioux camped outside the fort several times a year to trade their fur goods in exchange for tobacco, alcohol, blankets, powder, lead, and beads.

Although Sublette and Campbell successfully established a trading partnership with the Cheyenne and Sioux, Fort William did not become a major trading monopoly until the American Fur Company bought the fort in 1836. For the first five years, with no threat of competition, the company transformed Laramais’ Point into a major fur trade center. By the early 1840s, the first threat to the company’s successful trading empire arose, when Lancaster P. Lupton established Fort Platte a mile from Fort William. The competition from the new trading post prompted the American Fur Company to improve Fort William by replacing the unstable, decaying wooden post with a larger more secure structure.

The American Fur Company erected Fort John out of adobe in the summer of 1841, but despite using the name Fort John for official correspondence, the company commonly called the trading post Fort Laramie. Even though Fort Laramie was larger and more secure, the intense rivalry between Lupton’s Fort Platte and the American Fur Company at Fort Laramie continued. Until the mid 1840s, both posts thrived from their trade in buffalo robes, constantly sending their trading parties to Indian camps to exchange goods--especially liquor--which was a key item to beat out competitors in the fur trade. (This despite the restrictions of selling alcohol to Indians.) To get ahead of Fort Platte, the American Fur Company also sent traders in the winter to build shelters outside Indian villages, where the company displayed its goods for the exchange of Indian furs.

By 1845, after several factors lead to the abandonment of Fort Platte, the American Fur Company once again became a trading monopoly. Around the same time that Fort Laramie regained its influence as the premier location for the fur trade, it also became a well-known host for emigrant parties traveling west on the Oregon Trail. Having provided supplies to the 1,000 migrants led by Marcus Whitman and Peter Burnett during the Great Migration of 1843, Fort Laramie became a routine stopping point during the nation’s westward expansion. For the following two decades, guided by the principle of Manifest Destiny and drawn by the Gold Rush, people in thousands of wagons rolled across the western landscape in increasing numbers bringing to the region more than 50,000 emigrants a year.

Seeking to capitalize on the western migration, the owners of the Laramie trading post began selling supplies to the Oregon Trail travelers, who after a long tiring journey, eagerly anticipated their arrival at Fort Laramie. Here, they set up camp, bathed, washed their garments in the river, repaired their equipment, and restocked their supplies while they waited for the winter to pass before continuing on what soon became a dangerous journey. As the number of immigrants increased, the once amicable relationship between Fort Laramie and neighboring American Indian tribes changed.

By the late 1840s, young Indian warriors who resented white encroachment into their lands began attacking wagon trains as they moved across the Indian frontier. As a result, the US Army bought Fort Laramie in 1849 for the protection of emigrants traveling along the Oregon Trail. The army built a new post headquarters, stables, a bakery, officers’ and soldiers’ quarters, and by the 1860s, a telegraph station and other structures. The officers and soldiers stationed at Fort Laramie rarely engaged in combat. The primary objective was to maintain links across the continent, and the fort served as the major station for the Pony Express, which the telegraph later replaced.

In addition to protecting emigrants on the Oregon Trail and its role in facilitating communications, Fort Laramie also hosted major treaty councils between government officials and Indian tribal chiefs. In the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, the Sioux agreed not to attack wagon trains in return for a $50,000 annuity, but the treaty was unsuccessful because white officials failed to adhere to Indian negotiation customs. By the 1860s, when attacks escalated, Fort Laramie invited the Sioux back to renegotiate the annuities. Like the first treaty, this attempt also failed, since the Army had angered Sioux leader Red Cloud, who learned of the construction by the U.S. Army of three more forts along the Bozeman Trail. This resulted in the Red Cloud War of 1866-1868.

The conflict with Red Cloud ended when the government agreed to remove the forts, but once the Sioux learned that the reservation fell outside their tribe’s hunting grounds, they refused to sign the treaty. Eventually, the government agreed to allow Indians to hunt outside the reservation, but the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 did not last. In 1874, the Americans broke the treaty when they discovered gold in the Black Hills, which was on sacred ground within the Sioux reservation. When the US armed forces failed to keep settlers from moving into the Indian reservations, the Sioux and other American Indian tribes joined Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull in the Great Sioux Campaign of 1876. Many of Fort Laramie’s troops engaged in this war, including the Battle of the Rosebud in 1876.

Once the Indian hostilities ended with the death of Sitting Bull in 1890, the government no longer required the services of Fort Laramie and ordered the army to vacate the fort immediately. In the same year, the government sold the post buildings at a public auction. Although nothing remains of the first Fort Laramie, many of the later historic structures at the fort still stand, such as the post headquarters (Old Bedlam), which the army built when the US government first bought Fort Laramie in 1849. The post headquarters is the oldest standing military building in Wyoming.

At Fort Laramie National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the visitor center, where they can obtain audio units for a self-guided tour of the fort. Visitors also are welcome to enjoy the park grounds and participate in activities such as interpretive programs, hiking, bird watching, and fishing.

Plan your visit

Fort Laramie National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located off State Highway 160 in Southeast WY. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Laramie’s Museum and Visitor Center are open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Extended hours start in early June until Labor Day. The park is open daily from dawn until dusk. There is an admission fee for adults 16 and older. For more information, visit the Fort Laramie National Historic Site website or call 307-837-2221.

Many components of the Fort Laramie National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including the New Bakery, N.C.O Quarters, the Old Bakery, Commissary Storehouse, Old Guard House, Cavalry Barracks, Officer’s Quarters E, Magazine, Hospital (Ruins), Officer’s Quarters A, and Officer’s Quarters F.


Fort Larned National Historic Site, Kansas

Between 1822 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail provided one of the most important overland transportation routes in America. The trail allowed millions of dollars of commercial traffic to flow between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. The flow of travelers, traders, and settlers moving west; the gold rushes of 1849 and 1858; and the acquisition of vast southwestern lands by the United States government after the Mexican War caused the American Indians of this region much turmoil. The great influx of people along the Santa Fe Trail disrupted their way of life and prompted them to retaliate. Fort Larned was established to protect travelers, trail commerce, and the mail because of the rising tensions between American Indians and those using the trail. Fort Larned National Historic Site preserves the buildings, stories, and historical themes associated with Fort Larned.

By October of 1859, rising conflicts between American Indians and westward travelers along the Santa Fe Trail prompted the United States army to build a military post to protect and maintain peaceful relations with everyone on the trail. This first post, called “Camp on Pawnee Fork” and eventually called “Camp Alert,” was set up near Lookout Hill (now Jenkins hill) on the bank of the Pawnee River about five miles from its junction with the Arkansas River. Less than a year later, in June 1860, the fort was moved three miles further west, near the confluence of the Pawnee and Arkansas Rivers.

At this location, the army constructed sod and adobe buildings, including an officer’s quarters, storehouse and barracks, a guardhouse, a hospital, soldier’s quarters, a bakery, a meat house, and a building housing a blacksmith, carpenter, and saddler shops. Named Fort Larned for Col. Benjamin R. Larned, the US Army paymaster, this fort would serve as one of the most important defense posts along the Santa Fe Trail.

Between 1866 and 1868, the government replaced the original sod and adobe buildings of Fort Larned with more durable stone and timber buildings. Visitors can see these buildings today at the Fort Larned National Historic Site. The fort complex of nine buildings arranged around a 400’ square parade ground includes barracks, a post hospital, two company officer’s quarters, commanding officer’s quarters, quartermaster storehouse, the old commissary, the new commissary, and a shops building. Visitors may walk around and explore seven of the nine buildings at the fort to get a glimpse of what it was like to live on a western fort during the 19th century.

As one of the most important defense posts along the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Larned served many purposes. One purpose was to protect the flow of commerce along the Kansas segment of the trail. After the Chivington Massacre at Sand Creek in 1864, the War Department forbade travel beyond Fort Larned without armed escort. Fort Larned prepared detachments for the protection of mail stages and wagon trains.

By 1867, Fort Larned became the base for Maj. Gen. Winfield S. Hancock’s unsuccessful campaign against Plains Indian tribes. This campaign intended to intimidate and pacify the Indians with US military strength; however, it had the reverse effect and only intensified their hostilities. Hancock’s campaign caused a general outbreak of raids by the Kiowa, Comanche, and Arapaho. To respond to these raids, Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan ordered Lt. Col. George A. Custer into the area around Fort Larned. Eventually, Custer’s campaign ended in the defeat of Black Kettle’s Cheyenne at the Battle of the Washita on November 27, 1868. The Battle of the Washita ultimately ended American Indians' organized resistance around Fort Larned.

While the military sought to prevent conflict along the trail, Fort Larned became the seat of other more peaceful efforts to reach out to the tribes throughout the 1860s. The fort served as the headquarters and principal annuity distribution point of the Indian Bureau. The Indian Bureau attempted to find peaceful solutions to conflicts between American Indians and travelers, settlers, and adventurers. The treaties of Fort Wise (1861), the Little Arkansas (1865), and Medicine Lodge (1867) supported these peaceful principles.

In these treaties, the United States government agreed to pay annuities to the Cheyenne, Arapahos, Kiowa, Comanche, and the Plains Apache tribes in return for keeping peace along the trail and for staying on their reservations. Annuities included items like bacon, wheat, flour, coffee, sugar, fresh beef, tobacco, clothing, beads, blankets, metal tools, cooking utensils, gunpowder, and lead bullets. Presented with the great opportunities the Indian Bureau created for commerce, traders flocked to the area surrounding Fort Larned and established the fort as a major trading center. By 1868, with the movement of the tribes to new reservations in Indian Territory, Fort Larned’s role as an agent for the Indian Bureau ended.

Fort Larned’s final function was to protect railroad construction crews. The building of the railroad ultimately led to the end of the use of the Santa Fe Trail, which the fort was originally constructed to protect. After the Civil War ended, Americans renewed their energetic push westward, laying thousands of miles of railroad track. The worn dirt-road ruts of the Santa Fe Trail could not compete with the high powered, fast, and efficient railroad. Fort Larned helped to protect the workers who completed laying the railroad line in Kansas by 1872. Nearly six years later, in July 1878, the military abandoned Fort Larned, because it was no longer necessary for protection and keeping peaceful relations along the Santa Fe Trail.

Plan your visit

Fort Larned National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1767 KS Hwy 156 in Larned, KS. The park is open daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Larned National Historic Site website or call 620-285-6911.

Fort Larned National Historic Site has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.


Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Pennsylvania

Hoping to defend against an imminent attack by French soldiers, a young George Washington built a fort of necessity in a natural meadow in present-day Pennsylvania. Fort Necessity was the site of the first battle of the French and Indian War. Part of an international struggle to define empires and colonies, referred to as the Seven Years’ War in European countries, the French and Indian War (1756 to 1763) determined which colonizing power would control this part of North America—the French or the British.

The cause of the French and Indian War was the desire of the British and French colonies to expand into land each empire claimed. Once war had broken out between the two powers, the American Indian tribes had to decide whom to back. Throughout the conflict varying tribes allied themselves with the French or the British, in order to better suit their individual goals. During the battle of Fort Necessity seven different American Indian tribes fought with the French. These tribes included: the Huron, Huron of Lorette, Nipissing, Algonquin, Odawa, Shawnee, and the Abenaki.

During the mid-1700s, British colonies along the Atlantic coast began to move westward onto the land the French claimed in the interior. With support from the mother country, the British colonies fought to establish their dominance in North America. The common experience of fighting together helped encourage the colonies to band together later in the 1770s and start their own country, the United States of America.

Long before his election as the first leader of this new country, George Washington led troops at Fort Necessity. Though Washington surrendered there to the French, he learned valuable lessons that helped him lead the country later. In 1753, the governor of Virginia sent George Washington to the Ohio lands to discourage French settlement. When the French persisted, British military leaders sent George Washington to meet the French again in 1754. This time, Washington’s mission was to build a road to help resupply the English fort on the Ohio River. By the time Washington reached Pennsylvania, the French had already captured this fort, rebuilt it, and renamed it Fort Duquesne. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania occupies the site of Fort Duquesne.

Arriving at a natural clearing called the Great Meadows in May 1754, Washington set up camp to wait for further reinforcements. Shortly after, he discovered French soldiers camping nearby. With Half King, a Seneca chief, Washington surrounded the French killing Joseph Coulon de Jumonville, a commander of the French troops, during the fight. After the battle, Washington returned to the Great Meadows.

By late June, the French, seeking revenge, returned in great numbers, along with their Indian allies, to attack Washington and his men at the Great Meadows. The July 3rd battle produced heavy losses for the British forces ending with Washington’s surrendered to the French. In signing the surrender document, Washington agreed to having assassinated Jumonville, though Washington said that his English translation of the documents did not use this term. Following the surrender, the British returned to Virginia and the French burned Fort Necessity.

Washington engaged with the French along the Ohio again when he returned the next year under General Edward Braddock's command. Braddock’s forces were part of a larger British plan to attack multiple French forts throughout North America simultaneously. Braddock's troops tried to move quickly through the mountains to attack Fort Duquesne using the road Washington had built earlier, but the roadbed was too narrow for the heavy armament and the roughly 2,400 men. To increase his speed, Braddock made the fatal mistake of splitting up his troops.

As Braddock, and the first of his troops, approached Fort Duquesne, the French and allied Indians attacked. Braddock and more than half of the 1,200 British men with him died. The remaining soldiers retreated. British troops buried the general near Fort Necessity concealing the grave within the roadbed by marching over it, to prevent desecration of the general. Braddock’s final resting place lay hidden until 1804, when workmen discovered a body reported to be the general’s. A monument constructed in 1913 marks the site over the reinterred bones of General Braddock.

The road Washington and his troops built and Braddock and his troops improved did more than serve military objectives; it opened the area to settlement. Opportunities in the West drew so many that, in 1806, the Federal Government constructed the first totally federally funded highway. This highway, first called the National Road and today known as US Route 40, eventually stretched from Cumberland, Maryland to Vandalia, Illinois. Closely paralleling the Washington/Braddock route at its beginning, the National Road carried thousands west fueling the growth of towns along the highway. In stagecoaches and Conestoga wagons, goods and people traveled along the National Road. Taverns provided travelers with food, drink, and a place to sleep along the way. The National Road also figured prominently in the Underground Railroad helping slaves escape before the Civil War.

Mount Washington Tavern, which served wealthier men and women along the National Road, is in the park. Named for George Washington, who once owned the land on which the tavern sits, Mount Washington Tavern was built in the 1830s and operated until 1855 when rail transportation replaced much of the wagon traffic on the National Road. The automobile revived the need for a national network of roads. Building off existing stagecoach and wagon routes, early highways were often paved versions of the paths trod by horses less than 100 years before.

Today, visitors can go inside a reconstructed version of the fort and still see remnants of the original earthworks that Washington’s men built in preparation for the battle. A visitor center provides information about the battles and associated sites with an orientation film and guided tours. During the summer months there are historic weapons demonstrations and a variety of other interpretive programs. Visitors can explore the Great Meadow and Fort Necessity or visit Jumonville Glen (approximately 7 miles from the visitor center), and see the grave of General Braddock 1 mile west of the visitor center off US Route 40. Visitors can also walk the actual roadbed built for Washington and Braddock in their campaigns against the French, learn about the nation’s first highway at Mount Washington Tavern, and hike on trails in the park.

Fort Necessity National Battlefield protects sites that have had a lasting impact in American history from establishing the early military career of the nation’s first president to helping to define the route of the first federally funded highway. The events at Fort Necessity also inched the British colonies toward the American Revolution.

Plan your visit
Fort Necessity National Battlefield, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1 Washington Parkway in Farmington, PA. The Fort Necessity and National Road Interpretation Center, the park's grounds, Jumonville Glen, Mount Washington Tavern, and the parking lot at Braddock's Grave have varied hours. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Necessity National Battlefield website or call 724-329-5811.

Mount Washington Tavern, part of Fort Necessity National Battlefield, has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.

US Route 40 has been designated a National Scenic Byway. Click
here to explore this historic highway.


Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, North Carolina

In the 16th century, racing to colonize the Americas, Queen Elizabeth I granted Sir Humphrey Gilbert a charter in 1578 to “inhabit and possess all remote and heathen lands not in actual possession of any Christian prince.” Although Gilbert’s expeditions failed, his efforts paved the way for his half brother Sir Walter Raleigh to establish the first English settlements in the New World. Raleigh’s expeditions not only led to the founding of the first Virginia colonies, but also to the English encounters with the American Indians of Roanoke Island and the Chesapeake Bay. Today, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site interprets the history of Raleigh’s settlements and the cultural heritage of the American Indian communities on the east coast of North Carolina.

In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh obtained Gilbert’s charter from Queen Elizabeth to establish the first colony in Newfoundland, but instead Raleigh sought to establish a colony further south. Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe led Raleigh’s first expedition, sailing to America on April 27 1584, to determine whether the region was suitable for Raleigh’s first English colony. When the captains landed on the continent’s eastern coast, in present day North Carolina, they immediately made contact with the local Indians. The Roanoac and Croatoan Indians were two of many tribes of the Algonquian speaking people, whose communities spanned from North Carolina to the Great Lakes region.

Their towns were usually small, with private and public dwellings arranged around a circular common area, traditionally located adjacent to shallow waters of the eastern seaboard. The Algonquian lived in fixed houses, which they covered with bark to insulate.  Since bark was difficult to obtain, the Algonquian reserved these houses for kings, noblemen, and their families. Lower ranking tribe members often lived in mat covered houses.  Inside their homes, they usually had a table or sleeping bench. They also had structures for public use, especially for ceremonial gatherings. Other than the king’s home, the temple was usually the second largest building in the Algonquian towns. Although the size varied, Algonquian villages typically had about 18 buildings and one to two hundred residents.

Living on the waterways of the North Carolina coast, the Algonquians ate fish caught with spears and weirs. The weirs were nets attached to the bottoms of poles dug into the sand. To navigate the waters, they dug out trees to build canoes long enough to hold 20 people. They also raised crops, traded with neighboring tribes, and used bows and arrows for hunting deer and black bears. The men were responsible for hunting, fishing and fighting, while the women farmed, cooked, and took care of the children and elderly.

These were the Carolina Algonquians, as described by Amadas and Barlowe. According to expedition records, the people were peaceful, welcoming the Englishmen and helping Amadas and Barlowe explore their lands. After concluding that Roanoke Island was suitable for an English colony, the captains invited their two Algonquian guides, Manteo of the Croatoan Tribe and Wanchese of the Roanoac Tribe, to join them on their journey to England. In the spring of 1585, after Amadas and Barlowe returned with reports of “a most pleasant and fertile ground,” Raleigh’s cousin, Sir Richard Grenville, set sail with 500 men to Virginia, which Raleigh named in honor of the Virgin Queen. The first Virginia colony was on Roanoke Island, which to the colonists’ disappointment, proved to be unsuccessful as a privateering base. Anxious to relocate, especially after the once peaceful relations with the Roanoac Tribe of the Algonquian speaking Indians turned hostile, the colonists abandoned the settlement and returned to England with Sir Francis Drake.

By the time the colonists arrived in England in the summer of 1586, Raleigh had planned a third expedition to found a second colony in Virginia. Unlike the first settlement, which England established as a military post, the new colony would be more agrarian. Three ships carrying 17 women, 9 children, and 110 male colonists set sail in May of 1587 to establish a permanent settlement in Virginia.  Raleigh’s third expedition established the “Cittie of Ralegh” on the lower end of the Chesapeake Bay, where Ralph Lane--the governor of the first colony-- reported meeting a friendly village of Algonquian. The local Indians, who blamed the English for the depletion of their population, were not as welcoming to the colonists as they had been to past expeditions.

To improve relations, John White, the governor of Raleigh, arranged a peace conference with the local tribes, but the English attacked a local Algonquian village after a misunderstanding over the date of the meeting angered the colonists. The attack increased tensions, and the Indians and the colonists uneasily coexisted until the community of Fort Raleigh disappeared. In August 1590, upon his return from England with supplies for Fort Raleigh, Governor White discovered that the community had abandoned the site. Assuming the colonists had relocated to a nearby island after White found the word CROATOAN carved on a post, Raleigh and White made several attempts but never found the residents of the Lost Colony of Fort Raleigh, who may have fallen victim to Indian attacks or assimilated into nearby Algonquian communities for survival.

The reason for the disappearance of the Lost Colony remains a mystery. Fort Raleigh National Historic Site stands as a monument to England’s first agrarian colony and its encounters with the Carolina Algonquians. Fort Raleigh preserves the history of the men, women, and children--including Virginia Dare, the first English baby born in the New World--of the Lost Colony. It also tells the story of the African Americans, who in the face of the Civil War found a safe haven on Roanoke Island. Protected by the Union Army, this Freedman’s Colony of Roanoke Island gave African Americans a first taste of freedom. Today, many descendants of the freedmen community continue to live and work on Roanoke Island.

At Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the Lindsay Warren Visitor Center before seeing the Earthen Fort and walking the park’s Nature Trail and Hiking Trail. The Waterside Theater at Fort Raleigh features performances by the Lost Colony outdoor symphonic drama that bring to life the story of the colony.

Plan your visit

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1401 Park Drive in Manteo, NC. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The visitor center is open daily, except on Christmas Day, from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and until 6:00pm in the summer.  The park grounds are open daily from sunrise to sundown. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Raleigh National Historic Site website or call 252-473-2111.

Many components of Fort Raleigh National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including Fort Raleigh, the Entrance Gate, the Visitor Center, and the Waterside Theater.

Fort Smith National Historic Site, Arkansas

At the turn of the 19th century, as the developing nation expanded into present day Georgia and Tennessee, a group of Cherokee Indians moved into Arkansas, where the Osage Indians lived. The United States government promised the Cherokee and other eastern Indian tribes new homes in exchange for their peoples’ lands, but the movement of eastern tribes into Osage lands angered the local Indians. Eventually, after disputes over hunting grounds led to the deaths of several Osage and Cherokee Indians, the United States established a military post near the Osage border to end the hostilities between the tribes. Fort Smith National Historic Site commemorates the history of the fort’s role in establishing law and order during America’s westward expansion and it stands as a reminder of the removal of the Cherokee and other eastern tribes, whose journey is also commemorated on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.

Founded in 1817, the first Fort Smith had a strategic location at the point where the Arkansas and Poteau rivers meet. Known as Belle Point, this rocky bluff allowed the soldiers stationed at Fort Smith to have a commanding view of the countryside and river traffic. Built by Major William Bradford and designed by Maj. Stephen H. Long, who as the army’s Topographical Engineer also chose the fort’s location, Fort Smith was a small log and stone stockade enclosed by a 132 square foot sandstone wall. Guarding its northern and southern corners were two square blockhouses, each 28 feet long and two stories high. Within its walls were a hospital, storehouse, provision house, cabin for the commanding officer, and a few barracks to accommodate the 130 men stationed at Fort Smith.

Although these soldiers and the fort itself were armed to withstand an attack, the closest the Fort Smith garrison ever came to fighting the Indians was during the Bad Tempered Buffalo Affair. The incident occurred on April 9 1821, when the Osage requested that the US Army provide their people with gunpowder to fight the Cherokee. When the commanding officer refused to grant Chief Bad Tempered Buffalo’s request, the Osage threatened to attack Fort Smith. The garrison responded by wheeling out the fort’s two six-pound cannons aimed in the direction of the Osage who had set camp on the opposite side of the river. Upon seeing the cannons, Chief Bad Tempered Buffalo and the Osage warriors retreated, and although war did break out in the region between the Osage and the Cherokee, the first Fort Smith never engaged in any direct combat with either tribe.

After fighting between the tribes subsided, Arkansas Governor James Miller and the fort’s commanding officer Colonel Matthew Arbuckle immediately began to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokee and Osage to restore peace in the region. The 1822 Treaty of Fort Smith reconciled most of the difficulties between the tribes and guaranteed them that white emigrants would not settle on their lands. With the Cherokee and Osage crisis under control, the army abandoned Fort Smith in 1824, and moved its garrison 80 miles north to Fort Gibson, where the increase of eastern tribes in other Indian hunting grounds had created tensions on the western frontier. Although transient troops and Choctaw Indians used the first Fort Smith intermittently as a supply depot after its abandonment, the army never maintained the site, and all that remains today are the fort’s foundations that archeologists unearthed in 1963.

Although the reconciliation of the Cherokee and Osage Indians led to the abandonment of the first Fort Smith, by the 1830s the army would once again return to Belle Point, this time to keep peace between settlers and the American Indians living in the region. Following the election of President Andrew Jackson, despite the promise of the Fort Smith Treaty to keep non-Indian settlers from moving into Indian Territory, westward expansion gained momentum forcing increasing numbers of Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Seminole, and Cherokee out of their homelands. A result of the Indian Removal Act, this forced relocation was a painful and devastating experience for the eastern tribes, who, after facing hunger, disease, and death in their journey to Oklahoma, came to call their migration “The Trail of Tears.”

As eastern tribes and settlers continued to move west in increasing numbers, the American government ordered the army to reoccupy and expand Fort Smith to protect the citizens of Arkansas, which became a State in 1836. Established in 1838 by Captain Charles W. Thomas, the second Fort Smith was located 500 feet from the first Fort Smith. After seeing no Indian threats in the region, the War Department turned Fort Smith from a military post into a supply depot. Completed in 1846, the second fort had two officer’s quarters, a barracks, a commissary and a storehouse. Today, the commissary storehouse built in 1838, is the oldest building in the City of Fort Smith. Although originally constructed as a bastion, the commissary over the years served as a supply warehouse, a hospital, as residences for court officials, and as Judge Isaac C. Parker’s chambers.

After the Indian frontier moved beyond the Arkansas State boundary, the army moved out of Fort Smith, and in 1872, the Federal Court for the Western District of Arkansas moved in. Under its new management, the Fort Smith barracks became offices for the clerk, US marshal, and the US commissioner. A central room served as the courthouse, and the basement as a jail. In 1873, Fort Smith’s presiding Judge Parker, otherwise known as the “hanging judge,” along with the Federal Court, erected a gallows in the south corner. In 1886, the court built a new gallows on the same site that burned down in 1897. A reproduction of the 1886 gallows stand today at the site as a reminder of Judge Parker’s efforts to bring justice and order to the Indian Territory. Despite his reputation as a “cruel, heartless, and bloodthirsty man,” Judge Parker was a strong supporter of Indian rights.

Today, at the Fort Smith National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the visitor center in the former Barracks-Courthouse-Jail complex. Exhibits there highlight the history of the military, the Trail of Tears, the Federal Court, and Judge Parker. Visitors can also tour the park grounds to see the unearthed foundations of the first Fort Smith, The Trail of Tears Overlook on the Arkansas River, and the Second Fort Smith’s Commissary Building and its reconstructed barracks.

Plan your visit

Fort Smith National Historic site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 301 Parker Ave. in Fort Smith, AK. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Fort Smith National Historic Site Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The Visitor Center is closed on Christmas and New Year’s Day. The park grounds are open 24 hours a day all year long. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the Fort Smith National Historic Site website or call 479-783-3961. 

Many components of the Fort Smith National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including the Federal Court Building, the Barracks-Courthouse-Jail, and the Commissary Building.


Fort Stanwix National Monument, New York

In Rome, New York, an ancient trail connects the Mohawk River and Wood Creek allowing travelers to move between present-day Canada and New York for thousands of years. Named by the Europeans in the early 1700s as the Oneida Carry, this portage was a six-mile path that the Six Nations Confederacy and the Dutch, English, and French traders used to carry goods throughout the northern Indian Territory. When the French and Indian War broke out in the summer of 1754, the Oneida Carry fell at the center of this armed conflict as each of the parties involved in the war fought for control of this vital path.  In an effort to protect their empire’s interests in North America, the British constructed a military outpost at the Oneida Carrying Place. Today, Fort Stanwix National Monument tells the story of this strategic outpost in the defense of New York, its influence on America’s Indian affairs, and the significant role Fort Stanwix played in the Revolutionary War.

Constructed in 1758 by Brigade General John Stanwix, the fort not only helped end the French army’s invasions in the Mohawk Valley, it also gave the British control over one of only two water routes between Lake Ontario and the Oneida Lake. From this position, British forces also managed to capture the French forts at Kingston, Ontario, Oswego, Niagara, Montreal, and at the St. Lawrence River. Although the fall of Montreal in 1760 ended most of the fighting between the English and the French in North America, the French and Indian War continued overseas until the Treaty of Paris officially ended the Seven Years War in 1763. Despite the end of the war, tensions in North America remained since the American Indians and colonists grew increasingly dissatisfied with the policies of the English empire.

When the French signed the Treaty of Paris, Great Britain acquired all of the French claims in North America on the east side of the Mississippi River. Many American Indians living in these territories fought alongside the French during the Seven Years War. Having felt forced to accept the new regime, the Indians staged a war of independence against the British. Known as Pontiac’s Rebellion, this uprising eventually led to the Treaty of 1768, which settled the conflicts between the tribes and the English settlers. The superintendent of Indian Affairs, Sir William Johnson negotiated the treaty at the abandoned Fort Stanwix, where representatives of the Six Nations--the Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora agreed to cede the lands that lay on the south and east side of the Ohio River.

Despite resolving the conflict between the British settlers and the Six Nations Confederacy, the Treaty of Fort Stanwix could not prevent the North American fever for independence from spreading further into the colonies. Angered by the taxes that the English imposed on the North America settlers to finance the Seven Years War, the colonists declared their independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. During the American Revolution, Fort Stanwix (then Fort Schuyler) played a key role in the Americans eventual victory at Saratoga on October 17, 1777. Without the presence of the Continental Army at Fort Schuyler, as well as the victory at Fort Stanwix on August 23, 1777, the outcome of the Revolutionary War might have changed, since the British would have gained control of the Oneida Carry and New York.

Although the Revolution ended in 1783, like the British at the conclusion of the Seven Years War, the Americans faced conflicts with the American Indians who were dissatisfied with the United States. Representatives of the newly formed nation met at Fort Stanwix to sign a treaty with the Six Nations Confederacy in 1784. Despite the Second Treaty of Fort Stanwix that officially ended the conflict with the Indians, the United States continued to expand into Indian territories. Fort Stanwix became a significant player in the administration of the nation’s Indian affairs until 1790. Today, Fort Stanwix National Monument preserves and interprets not only the history of Fort Stanwix during the Seven Years and Revolutionary Wars, but also the vital role it played in negotiating land deals with the American Indians of New York.

Reconstructed in 1976, the present Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York appears as much as it did during the Revolutionary War. Using old illustrations and original documents from the fort’s heyday, the City of Rome and the National Park Service built a replica of the Old Fort Stanwix. Like the original fort, most of the structures at the present day site are made of wood. These structures include the East Barracks, where workmen and junior officers slept; a Storehouse, which may have also contained the Quartermaster’s room; a Sally Port or hidden exit that allowed soldiers to sneak past enemy lines; the Northeast and Northwest Bastions; and the Southwest Bastion that presently stands above the makeshift hospital exhibit.

Other structures at the fort today are two Officer’s Quarters, the Commandant’s Quarters, an Artillery Officer’s Quarters, and the Staff/Dining Room, which in its glory days served as the office for Colonel Gansevoort. Also reconstructed are the Southeast, West, and Southwest Casemates, which once served as the living quarters for soldiers and the fort’s civilian workmen. The reconstructed fort also has a drawbridge, but it is unknown if this particular design is a true replica of the drawbridge used during the American Revolution. The present day drawbridge is a replica of a design commonly used at forts during the late 18th century.

Before entering Fort Stanwix, visitors should begin their tour of the National Monument at the Willet Center located across the street from the parking facilities on James Street. Here, park rangers provide an orientation about the three short trails that surround the monument. Two of the trails interpret the 1777 siege of Fort Schuyler, and the third trail follows the history of the Oneida Carrying Place. At the visitor center, tourists may also learn about the history of Fort Stanwix by visiting the museum area and participating in one of the many living history programs offered at the fort.

Plan your visit

Fort Stanwix National Monument, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 100 S. James Street in Rome, NY. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Stanwix National Monument is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the Fort Stanwix National Monument website or call 315-338-7730.

Fort Stanwix National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey. Fort Stanwix National Monument is also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Battle of Oriskany: “Bloodshed a Stream Running Down.” The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Fort Union National Monument, New Mexico

First established in 1851 in the Mora Valley in northeastern New Mexico, Fort Union was the main guardian of the Santa Fe Trail, one of the most important overland trade routes serving North America since the early 1820s. The trail itself was originally established approximately 2,000 years ago by American Indians and, during the 19th Century, became a complex web of international business, social ties, tariffs and laws, which allowed millions of dollars of commercial traffic to flow between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Fort Union, situated in land used by plains and pueblo Indians, sat at the junction of the two main branches of the Santa Fe Trail to protect travelers, commerce, and mail routes from increasingly frequent Indian raids. Through the Santa Fe Trail, Fort Union, and the United States Army, Anglo-American culture penetrated the Hispanic and Indian cultures of the region.

Today, Fort Union National Monument reflects the fort’s evolution from the 1850s through the Civil War and into the late 1880s. Visitors can experience the site’s cultural ties and military history by viewing the ruins of three separate forts and see some of the best-preserved wagon ruts of the Santa Fe Trail--all in a prairie setting that evokes the time when Fort Union played an important role in the settlement of the American West.

In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spanish rule. The Santa Fe Trail soon became a great gateway to the West. The trail made possible the transporting and trading of goods such as furs, woolens, cottons, silks, china cups, whiskey, combs, flatware, jewelry, dry goods, and hardware. It was also an avenue for the exchange of cultural practices and traditions, as many different peoples met and did business with one another. Americans and New Mexicans, settlers and traders from the eastern part of the United States and beyond, and newly independent Mexicans converged with American Indian tribes including Comanche, Kiowa, southern bands of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Plains Apache, Osage, Kansas (Kaw), Jicarilla Apache, Ute, and Pueblo Indians. During the early years of the Santa Fe Trail, most, but not all, encounters between travelers and the Indians were peaceful.

With the United States’ annexation of northern Mexico in 1848 as a result of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, traffic along the Santa Fe Trail increased exponentially. As the trail’s popularity grew, relations with American Indians began to deteriorate. The great influx of people along the Santa Fe Trail disrupted their way of life and negatively impacted the environment, prompting many tribes to retaliate. With Indian raids becoming a frequent occurrence, the United States government responded by increasing military presence along the route and establishing Fort Union in 1851 (and later, Fort Larned, another unit of the National Park System featured in this travel itinerary).

Lt. Col. Edwin V. Sumner, the commander of the Military Department of New Mexico, established Fort Union at the junction of the Mountain and Cimarron branches of the Santa Fe Trail to protect the region. During the first few years, Fort Union's mounted troops patrolled the trail and provided escorts for mail stages. The soldiers lived in poor conditions at the shoddily constructed first Fort Union. Made of unseasoned, un-hewn and un-barked wood, the fort’s small, low buildings suffered from extensive rot and pest infestation. Even the fort’s hospital was dark, damp, and under constant threat of a roof collapse.

The start of the Civil War brought changes to Fort Union on a grand scale, as the Confederacy plotted an invasion aimed at capturing the western portion of the Santa Fe Trail and the entirety of the Southwest, which included the highly prized silver and gold fields of Colorado and California. This potential Confederate threat of diverting much needed goods and mineral wealth away from the Union prompted the Federal Government to build a new Fort Union in the valley to the east of the first structures. The second fort began to take shape in 1861 as a massive, bastioned earthwork with parapets in the shape of an eight-pointed star. Each parapet supported firing platforms and artillery emplacements, and within each star point were barracks, storehouses and officers’ quarters. Despite the improved defenses, living conditions for the soldiers remained largely unchanged. Within the earthen outer walls, buildings of the second fort were made of un-barked pine logs that quickly rotted and housed nesting insects, promoting disease and illness.

Work on the second Fort Union continued as Confederate forces neared, capturing the capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe. With their immediate sights set on Denver, Colorado, Fort Union was the only major military obstacle in the Confederates’ path. Union soldiers from Fort Union, comprised of native Hispano volunteers from New Mexico and regiments from Colorado, quickly joined forces and headed south to meet the Confederate Army nineteen miles outside of Santa Fe at Glorieta. The Battle of Glorieta Pass, March 26-28, 1862, was the decisive battle in the New Mexico Campaign during the Civil War in the Western territories. The Union win squelched the "grand design for the Confederacy in the West" and eliminated the Confederate threat to the region. After the Battle of Glorieta, Union forces continued the campaign against American Indians in the Southwest Territory.

Today, the second Fort Union is the sole surviving earthen star fort erected west of the Mississippi River. It is the most intact Civil War-era, bastioned, earthen fort remaining anywhere within the United States.

In 1863, with New Mexico securely in Union hands, the large defensive fort was no longer necessary. Work began on the third, and most substantial, of the fortifications at the Fort Union site, which took six years to complete. The new fort included the Post of Fort Union, the Fort Union Quartermaster Depot, and the Fort Union Ordnance Depot and was the largest ever constructed in the American Southwest. The large territorial style buildings of adobe brick coated in kiln-fired plaster set on stone foundations were of native materials better equipped to handle weather conditions, unlike the earlier forts. Tools, nails, properly dressed lumber, window glass, and red- fired bricks all came via the Santa Fe Trail from as far away as Santa Fe and Missouri.

Although it still functioned to protect travelers along the Santa Fe Trail, the new fort primarily responded to the needs of the area’s trade and military supply concerns. The two depots served as supply bases for large portions of the Southwest’s military outposts as the Indian Wars continued. The Quartermaster Depot was the largest and most elaborately staffed trade post in the region. The fort had an array of structures and amenities, from a teaching hospital to a chapel, classrooms, warehouses, mechanics, and stables.

The third Fort Union made use of materials like adobe brick and glass.Here Infantry and Calvary officers relax in front of one of the post buildings.

Fort Union’s role of protecting commerce along the Santé Fe Tail continued until the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad in 1879, which slowly put an end to the Santa Fe Trail. Once traffic dwindled on the trail, the fort continued its policy of “pacifying” and relocating local American Indian peoples onto designated reservations. At Fort Union, between 1876- 1881, and then again from 1886-1887, this military duty fell upon the Ninth Cavalry. Comprised of African-American soldiers and commonly referred to as “Buffalo Soldiers”, the members of the Ninth Cavalry distinguished themselves in service at Fort Union and throughout other military outposts in the Southwest. Finally, in 1891, a year after the traditional closing of the frontier and conclusion of the Indian Wars, the military officially abandoned Fort Union.

Today, Fort Union National Monument serves as a reminder of the fort’s history and the vital role it played in the development of the distinct cultural character of the American Southwest and the settlement of the American West. Visitors to Fort Union National Monument can experience the entire history of the site and its three consecutive forts. Although no aboveground ruins of the first fort remain, interpretive programming, special events, and guided tours at the first fort site help explain the fort. The earthworks of the second fort and the ruins of the third still stand as dramatic features on the landscape. A 1.6-mile and a 0.5 mile self-guided trail interpret the ruins for visitors. All interpretive trails are fully accessible by wheelchair. The largest and best-preserved network of wagon ruts from the Santa Fe Trail is visible near the third fort’s ruins.

The park offers special family and children friendly programs. A digital copy of the National Park Service’s Junior Rangers booklet for the park can be found here or in hardcopy at the park’s visitor center. For more information on various events young people will enjoy, check out the park’s website here.

Plan your visit Fort
Fort Union National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located in the Mora Valley in northeastern New Mexico at the western edge of the Great Plains, eight miles from Watrous, NM. The park is easily accessible via New Mexico Highway 161, Exit 366, on Interstate 25. The monument is open daily except on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years Day. Winter hours from Labor Day to Memorial Day are 8:00am to 4:00pm. Summer Hours from Memorial Day to Labor Day are 8:00am to 6:00pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Union National Monument website or call 505-425-8025.

Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text. This travel itinerary series also includes the Santa Fe Trail and Fort Larned.


Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, Williston, North Dakota

In 1828 the Assiniboin Indians requested that John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company establish a trading post in their homeland to protect them from hostile tribes. Kenneth McKenzie thus founded Fort Union in what is now North Dakota. Strategically located near the homelands of 10 Northern Plains tribes, Fort Union was the most important trading post of the Upper Missouri fur trade until smallpox decimated the population of numerous Plains tribes. After resentment toward the white encroachment into Indian Territory led to Sioux hostilities, the need for trading posts declined as the call for military posts increased. The Army dismantled the post in 1867 to build Fort Buford, but historic accounts provide information about the Upper Missouri fur trade and the American Indians who exchanged goods at the Fort Union Trading Post, which is now Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.

Established near the junction of the Missouri and Yellowstone rivers, Fort Union Trading Post was a 220 by 240 foot quadrangle enclosed by vertical logs with bastions at the northeast and southwest corners. Fort Union had two points of entry, but the gate on the south side facing the river was the main entrance for the trading public and wagons. Once inside the complex, traders and notable visitors found several prominent buildings surrounding a central courtyard where the flagstaff stood. On the west side of the gate, a long building served as the staff sleeping quarters, and on the east, a similar building housed the retail store and stockroom.                                                                                           

Across from the main gate stood the striking bourgeois house, where McKenzie and his successors lived. The largest of the Fort Union buildings, this two-story structure had glass windows, a fireplace, and other modern conveniences. Behind the bourgeois house was the Fort Union kitchen, which was also near the trading post’s bell tower. The fort also had an icehouse, a stable, a cut stone powder magazine, and blacksmith shops.  White leather tents or tipis surrounded the flagstaff, and a reception room by the main gate was where the Indians traded their goods.

 

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, North Dakota

Although the American Fur Company built Fort Union at the request of the Assiniboin Indians, the company also welcomed many of the other Upper Missouri tribes into the post’s reception room. Other than the Assiniboin, the most common Northern Plains tribes trading at Fort Union were the Crow Indians who lived on the upper Yellowstone River, and the Blackfeet who claimed lands on both sides of the border between the United States and Canada. Also welcomed at Fort Union were the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara who lived along the Missouri River; the Dakota Sioux; the Plains Cree from eastern Canada; and their allies, the Ojibwa, from the Great Lakes region. 

The peaceful Northern Plains tribes traded their renowned buffalo robes, which were becoming a highly sought after commodity at the time of Fort Union’s establishment. By the 1830s, the demand for beaver pelts began to decline, as silk hats were preferred over beaver hats, and the demand for tanned buffalo robes increased.  Fort Union thrived because of the post’s proximity to the Plains Indians. In exchange for the Plains tribes’ buffalo robes, the Americans traded axes, firearms, and other technological goods. Fort Union also installed a distillery in 1832 to produce corn whiskey to offer the Indians in exchange for their buffalo robes.

Although trading liquor proved successful, the establishment of the distillery nearly resulted in the loss of the American Fur Company’s license. It was unlawful to bring liquor into Indian Territory because it gave Fort Union a competitive advantage over other fur companies, and in 1833 the government ordered the American Fur Company to destroy the distillery. Eventually, given their tarnished reputation, the incident forced John Jacob Astor and Kenneth McKenzie into early retirement, and by 1834, Fort Union was under new management.

During his visit, artist Karl Bodmer painted the Assiniboin at Fort Union in 1833. Although not pictured here, this watercolor is one of several works by Bodmer that continue to offer further insight into understanding the culture of the Assiniboin Indians.

During his visit, artist Karl Bodmer painted the Assiniboin at Fort Union in 1833. Although not pictured here, this watercolor is one of several works by Bodmer that continue to offer further insight into understanding the culture of the Assiniboin Indians.

Following McKenzie’s departure, Fort Union welcomed several outstanding managers (called "bourgeois"), including Alexander Culbertson, Edward Denig, James Kipp, and Charles Larpenteur. As the bourgeois, these men managed the post and were responsible for employing workers and establishing successful trading relationships with the tribes. Assisting the bourgeois were the clerks, who helped maintain the fort’s inventory of traded goods and kept track of tools, equipment, animals, and food. Other employees at Fort Union worked as interpreters, hunters, herders, traders, blacksmiths, carpenters, and masons. Together, these workers, the bourgeois, and their families made up the 200 residents needed for the successful operation of the trading post.

Although most of the residents at Fort Union were employees of the American Fur Company, the trading post had some notable visitors. Among them were George Catlin, Prince Maximilian of Wied, Father Pierre De Smet, John James Audubon, Karl Bodmer, and Rudolph Frederich Kurz, whose paintings and written accounts of life at the post provided the basis for the National Park Service’s reconstruction of the site.

At Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, visitors can explore the reconstructed portions of Fort Union including the walls, stone bastion, Indian trade house, and Bourgeois House. The visitor center and bookstore are at the Bourgeois House. Living history programs are available during the summer at the Trade House. Visitors can also walk the Bodmer Overlook Trail to the location where Karl Bodmer once stood and painted “The Assiniboin at Fort Union” in 1833. Each year the site hosts a living history trade fair, but schedules and dates vary. For more information on the annual Fort Union Rendezvous, visit the Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site.

Plan your visit

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System a National Historic Landmark, is located at 15550 HWY 1804 in Williston, ND. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Fort Union Trading Post is open daily from 8:00am to 8:00pm during the summer and from 9:00am to 5:30pm in the winter. The Bourgeois House is open daily from 8:00am to 8:00pm in the summer and 9:00am to 5:30pm during the winter. The Bourgeois House visitor center is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The Trade House is open daily from 10:00am to 5:45pm and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site website or call 701-572-9083.

Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site is also featured in the National Park Service’s Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, New Mexico

Over 700 years ago, deep within the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, a hunter and gatherer community built structures and dwellings within the natural caves of the Cliff Dweller Canyon. While many different groups inhabited this area over thousands of years, only one built within the canyon’s natural caves. This group was part of the Mogollon Culture, a pre-contact American Indian group that combined traditional hunting and gathering with farming. Established by presidential proclamation on November 16, 1907, Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument preserves the cliff dwellings, the TJ Ruin (a small pueblo inhabited from roughly A.D. 900 to A.D. 1150), and other significant archeological sites related to the Mimbres branch, a subculture of the larger Mogollon culture area.

These sites contribute to an ongoing discussion about who these people were, why they built the cliff dwellings, how they lived their lives on a daily basis, and ultimately, how they relate to the cultural heritage of American Indians today. This Monument is especially important as the only unit in the National Park System that contains Mogollan sites, which are rapidly disappearing elsewhere in the Southwest.

People of the Mogollon Culture constructed and inhabited the cliff dwellings between the late 1270s and 1300. The Mogollons were hunters and gathers who also incorporated farming into their daily lives. Their farms were on the mesa tops and along banks of the West Fork of the Gila River. In the fertile soil of the Gila River valley where the growing season averages 140 days, the Mogollons raised squash, corn, and beans. To complete their diets, they hunted animals, possibly mule deer, elk, beaver, ducks, and turkeys, and collected berries and nuts from the surrounding forest. They also produced pottery congruent with the Tularosa phase (1100-1300) including brown bowls with black interiors and black-on white vessels. Their clothing and sandals were of yucca cord, agave leaves, bark, and cotton.

Archeologists estimate that 40-60 Mogollons constructed the Gila Cliff Dwellings. They built their dwellings in five caves and each dwelling had approximately 40 rooms. Estimates are that no more than 10 to 15 families lived in the dwellings at a time and that multiple generations used them. The Mogollon incorporated fallen rocks into the construction of some of the different rooms. They also used thin conglomerate slabs laid in large amounts of mortar to construct other walls. Today, more than 40 percent of the walls retain this original plaster. The dwellings contain habitation rooms, storage rooms, ceremonial rooms, and communal rooms. Prepared floors can be found throughout the dwellings, while some of the rooms' floors simply utilize the existing bedrock in the caves.

Visitors may experience the cliff dwellings and a piece of Mogollon culture by following the “Cliff Dwellings Trail.” This trail leads to the dwellings, passing through some of the rooms. Ladders along the trail provide additional glimpses of the dwellings. The trail is a one-mile loop that takes around one hour round trip. The short (1/4 mile) and handicapped accessible trail, “Trail to the Past,” leads to a small Mogollon alcove dwelling and a large pictograph panel. “Trail to the Past” is accessible from the Lower Scorpion Campground. Visitors can obtain information about these trails at the Monument’s visitor center. The visitor center displays Mogollon artifacts that were found throughout the cliff dwellings and the surrounding area and an exhibit on the Chiricahua Apache, who consider the wilderness to be their homeland. A 15-minute video illustrates what life may have been like for those who built the cliff dwellings.

Plan your visit

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, administered jointly by the National Park Service and the Forest Service, is 44 miles north of Silver City, NM, at the end of NM 15. During the summer, the cliff dwellings trail is open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, and the visitors center is open from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm; the rest of the year, the trail is open 9:00 am to 4:30 pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument website or call 575-536-9461.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service
American Southwest Travel Itinerary.


Grand Portage National Monument, Minnesota

When the French ceded Canada to Great Britain in 1763, traders immediately began moving across the Canadian frontier to take advantage of the region’s wealth of resources forming trading companies throughout the Canadian Northwest. Among these was Simon McTavish’s North West Company, which from 1784 to 1803 was the most profitable fur trading corporation on the Great Lakes. Although based in Montreal, the company’s inland headquarters was on the Grand Portage, an 8.5-mile footpath that allowed travelers to bypass the Pigeon River Rapids. Known by the Ojibwe as the Kitchi Onigaming or Great Carrying Place by voyagers who lugged their canoes over the portage trail, this historic gateway into Canada’s fur country is part of the Grand Portage National Monument, which tells the stories of the American Indians and voyageurs of Minnesota’s Grand Portage.

Although the Cree, Sioux, Blackfoot, Beaver, and Chipewyan Indians are commonly associated with the fur trade in the Canadian Northwest, the Grand Portage was and continues to be the home of the Ojibwe Indians. Also known as the Anishinabe, the Ojibwe Indians reached the Grand Portage during the Anishinabe migration to Lake Superior in the 1600s. They were a resourceful people, who in preparation for the Biboon or winter, began hunting, fishing, and gathering wild rice and other plants as early as the last days of the previous Biboon. Used for food, medicine, and clothing, these resources allowed the Ojibwe to survive the long winter months, which they endured while living inside peaked birch bark covered lodges.

Approximately 20 feet long, 10 feet wide, and 7 feet high, these winter lodges were different from the traditionally cone-shaped lodges the Ojibwe used in the warmer months. The winter lodges were warmer, different in design, and built larger to accommodate up to three or more generations of the Ojibwes’ extended family. Both the warm weather lodges and winter lodges were made of birch bark. The Ojibwe also used the water resistant birch bark to build their canoes, which were between 25 to 35 feet long and able to carry up to 12 people. The Ojibwe used the canoes for fishing, hunting, and for other purposes, and voyageurs and traders eventually began using them for their own commercial needs.

Once the Ojibwe taught French explorers how to build birch bark canoes, the lightweight and speedy canoes gave the voyageurs greater access to Canada’s fur-bearing animals and wilderness. The North West Company hired skillful voyageurs to transport furs and other goods between Montreal and the Canadian Northwest. To meet the demand for furs and to cover the territory between the Great Lakes and Canada’s extensive fur country, these voyageurs separated into two groups. The north men or “winterers,” covered the Northwestern territory in Canada. Their counterparts were the Montreal men or “pork eaters,” who navigated the Ottawa River and Great Lakes. Once the northern men completed their trade in the fur country, they returned to Lake Superior, where they met the Montreal men at the company’s inland depot at the Grand Portage.

Established in 1784, Grand Portage Depot was the largest fur trade post, where the “winterers” and “pork eater” voyageurs brought trade goods and gathered supplies. The depot structures did not survive after the post’s abandonment, but historic accounts offer insights into the daily life and overall design of the Grand Portage Depot. These accounts and archeological excavations provided a basis for reconstructing the depot. Among the reconstructed structures at Grand Portage National Monument today are the Great Hall, where company partners dined and talked business with Indians and clerks; the Kitchen located behind the hall; the Cedar-Picket Palisade and Warehouse that served as a secure storage facility; a fur press; and a lookout tower.

The North West Company’s Grand Portage Depot was the site of the annual gathering that allowed partners, clerks, traders, voyageurs, Indians, and anyone connected with the company to wait out the long winter months. Known as the Rendezvous, which in French means "a meeting or assembly," this winter gathering was both a commercial and celebratory event. The Rendezvous was a great opportunity for trappers, traders, voyageurs, and Indians to display and trade furs, liquor, supplies, and other goods while dancing and feasting through the night. The partners and their guests usually ate and drank inside the Great Hall. The Ojibwe dressed in their ceremonial garb and the voyageurs in their best attire hosted their own celebration outside the palisade.

Once the Rendezvous ended, a new trading season began, and voyageur canoes would once again ply the Great Lakes until the next Rendezvous. Although the Rendezvous at Grand Portage ended when the North West Company abandoned the post in 1803,  Grand Portage National Monument continues to celebrate this tradition with its own annual Rendezvous during the second week of August. Held in conjunction with the Pow Wow Rendezvous Days of the Grand Portage Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, this event commemorates the rich heritage of the Grand Portage.

Visitors are encouraged to begin their tour at the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center. This new 16,600 square foot facility overlooks the reconstructed fur trading post and honors the history of the peoples of Grand Portage. The Heritage Center houses exhibit galleries interpreting Ojibwe culture and the history of the fur trade, a bookstore, multi-media programs, archives, and a classroom.

Beyond the Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center, visitors can tour the reconstructed depot on Lake Superior, historic gardens, the Ojibwe village, the voyageur encampment, the dock, and the site’s three log buildings--the great hall, canoe warehouse, and kitchen. Other popular activities at Grand Portage National Monument include hiking the Mount Rose Trail, picnicking beside Lake Superior at the historic pork eater’s camp, participating in ranger walks, and becoming a Grand Portage Junior Ranger Voyageur.

Plan your visit

Grand Portage National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located within the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in Minnesota’s northeastern “Tip of the Arrowhead,” ½ to 1 mile south of the west and east exits from Minnesota State Highway 61 in the village of Grand Portage, Cook County, MN. The Grand Portage National Monument Heritage Center is at 170 Mile Creek Rd. in Grand Portage, MN.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Heritage Visitors Center is open year around, the Historic Site (Great Hall, Kitchen, Canoe Warehouse, Ojibwe Village, Voyageur Encampment and Three Sisters and Kitchen Historic Heirloom Gardens) is open seasonally. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Grand Portage National Monument website or call 218-475-0123.

Two components of the Grand Portage National Monument have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, the Warehouse and the Buildings Complex.

 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee and North Carolina

Humans have long lived among the natural wonders of the Great Smoky Mountains, a place of breathtaking natural beauty with a vast variety of landscapes, plants, and animals. Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee and North Carolina preserves and interprets the natural and cultural heritage of this area. Also designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, the park covers 800 square miles of mountainous land and protects more than 100 tree species, 1,500 flowering plants, dozens of native fish, over 200 species of birds and 60 mammals, and the evidence of how people used the area over time. The Great Smoky Mountains has a varied and complex human history in which American Indians, European and American explorers and settlers, the Civilian Conservation Corps, loggers, miners, and mountain people all played a role. With its nearly 80 historic buildings and structures and its magnificent natural landscapes, Great Smoky Mountains National Park is an exciting destination, sure to inspire a sense of awe.

The Great Smoky Mountains had already been inhabited for thousands of years before the first white settlers reached the area in the late 1700s. Paleo Indians occupied the area during prehistoric times. Later, around 1000 A.D., the Cherokee Indians--a branch of the Iroquois nation--inhabited the area. By the time Europeans arrived in the Great Smoky Mountains, which the Cherokee named “Shaconage,” or “place of blue smoke,” they encountered a well-established matriarchal society with permanent towns, cultivated croplands, well instituted political systems, and an extensive network of trails.

In their communities, the Cherokee built homes made of wooden frames covered in woven vines and saplings plastered with mud (replaced in later years by log structures). They also constructed council houses, where they held ceremonies. The tribe made important decisions through a democratic process in their council houses, whereby a Peace Chief counseled during peaceful times and a War Chief during times of conflict, and all tribal members had the opportunity to voice their concerns. The Cherokee usually located their communities in fertile river bottoms because they provided good locations for planting ‘the three sisters’--corn, beans, and squash. While the women gathered wild food and cultivated ‘the three sisters,’ Cherokee men hunted and fished throughout the Great Smoky Mountains wilderness.

Cherokee life drastically changed during the 1700s and 1800s, largely due to the arrival of European and American settlers. Initially the Cherokee, the Europeans, and the Americans co-existed relatively peacefully. They traded with one another, adopted one another’s technologies and other aspects of one another’s cultures, sometimes intermarried, and shared food. Eventually, however, as the white population expanded and as their desire for land grew, conflicts became more prevalent. First the British and then the United States forced the Cherokee, who were organized as the Cherokee nation by the early 1800s, to sign over much of their land.

In 1830, President Andrew Jackson signed the “Indian Removal Act” which resulted in the removal of almost all southeastern American Indians from their homelands to west of the Mississippi River. In 1838, nearly 14,000 Cherokees from the East were removed from their homes and forced to make the trek westward to Oklahoma and Arkansas. During this six month journey, known as the “Trail of Tears,” more than 4,000 Cherokees died from exposure, disease, cold, and hunger. Many Cherokee resisted removal and a small group in western North Carolina, the Oconaluftee Cherokee, negotiated to say on their homeland in the Southeast in 1838. In the park, overlooks at Balsam Mountain and Heintooga Ridge provide visitors with a view of the vast wilderness where some Cherokee Indians retreated to avoid removal on the “Trail of Tears.”

Europeans and Americans came to settle the Great Smokies to farm, mine, and log the forests, and eventually to protect the land with its amazingly diverse landscape, natural resources, and cultural heritage. The nearly 80 historic buildings and structures z throughout Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the many acres of preserved environment provide visitors with an opportunity to behold a site of millions of years of natural history and thousands of years of human history.

In the park, visitors can take a walk or drive through Cades Cove (a National Register of Historic Places Historic District) or Cataloochee Valley to view the impressive landscapes where the Cherokee once hunted and where white settlers later formed small communities. Surrounded by mountains, Cades Cove is a broad, verdant valley with a variety of wildlife. Visitors may glimpse white-tailed deer, of black bear, coyote, ground hog, turkey, raccoon, skunk, and other animals. Europeans came between 1818 and 1821, leaving behind historic buildings such as the three churches, a working grist mill, barns, log houses, and many other faithfully restored 18th and 19th century buildings and structures scattered along the loop road.

Cataloochee Valley is surrounded by 6000-foot peaks. A variety of preserved historic buildings are in the valley, including two churches, a school, and several homes and outbuildings. This is the best place in the park to see historic frame buildings from the late 19th and early 20th centuries in what was one of the largest and most prosperous settlements in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The estimated 1,200 people who lived here in 1910 farmed and made their living from the early tourism in the area. Cataloochee also abounds with wildlife such as deer, elk, and turkey, which visitors may spot, especially if they take to the fields in the morning or evening. The Boogerman Trail is a seven-mile loop in Cataloochee that takes hikers by picturesque landscapes and the historic remains of early settlements.

Visitors can also explore the Oconaluftee area, much of which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. This area offers both a visitor center and the Mountain Farm Museum, which is a collection of historic log buildings gathered from throughout the Smoky Mountains and preserved on a single site. Two excellent walking trails start from the vicinity of the museum. Visitors can follow the 1.5 mile Oconaluftee River Trail that connects the Oconaluftee Visitor Center’s Mountain Farm Museum with the Qualla Boundary (a Cherokee Reservation that is open to the public and lies just south of the park). The trail has wayside signs about the cultural and spiritual significance of the mountains to the Cherokee. Once in the Qualla Boundary, visitors can experience Oconaluftee Cherokee Indian culture and tradition through the programs, museums, and the traditional Cherokee village on the reservation.

Plan your visit

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located on the border of Tennessee and North Carolina. Visit this website for directions and maps. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places files: Cades Cove Historic District: text and photos. The park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year; however, some secondary roads, campgrounds, and other visitor facilities close in the winter. For a complete listing of the specific hours of operation of visitor centers and information about seasonal openings and closings, please click here. For more information, visit the National Park Service Great Smoky Mountains National Park website or call 865-436-1200.

Several features in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park have been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.


Hohokam Pima National Monument, Arizona

Hohokam Pima National Monument recognizes the significance of Snaketown, a Hohokam village inhabited from about 300 AD to around 1200 AD. This ancient village, which may have had as many as 2,000 inhabitants, is within the Gila River Indian Reservation near Sacaton, Arizona.

Snaketown was excavated in the 1930s by the Gila Pueblo Foundation and again in the 1960s under the direction of Emil Haury, Assistant Director of Gila Pueblo. After the 1960’s work, the site was backfilled to protect it for future research, leaving nothing visible above ground. The excavations revealed that the Hohokam of southern Arizona were one of the main cultural groups of the Southwest. The site also contained information that indicated that the Hohokam people were strongly influenced by cultural groups in Mexico. Mexican cultural groups introduced patterns of “urban style” living to the Hohokam people who earlier lived in scattered rancherias around the region. Snaketown provided evidence of the “urban style” of living the Hohokam culture embraced with its central plaza, two oval shaped fields surrounded by pit houses, an elaborate irrigation system, crematoriums, and places for inhabitants to produce pottery and jewelry.

Most of the Hohokam population lived in pit houses constructed in a manner similar to that of the Mogollon pit houses. Pit houses were carefully dug, shallow and rectangular depressions in the earth that were constructed of logs covered in reeds, saplings, and mud. The pit houses at Snaketown were situated around two oval shaped fields thought to be ball courts. The ball courts are each about 60 meters long, 33 meters apart, and 2.5 meters high.

The extensive irrigation canal systems throughout Snaketown fed water to the nearby fields where residents grew beans, maize, squash, corn, cotton, melons, and other fruits. The irrigation canals were generally shallow and wide (on average 10 feet deep and 30 feet wide), and they reached up to ten miles in length. The Hohokam used woven mats as dams to channel and control the flow of water throughout the irrigation system. In addition to growing crops, the Hohokam hunted wild game and traded locally for other food items to supplement their diets. The extensive irrigation systems and trade with other local tribes permitted the Hohokam to have a more sedentary lifestyle and enabled them to settle in large population centers like Snaketown. Within these large population centers, the making of Hohokam art, pottery, and jewelry flourished.

Hohokam Pima National Monument, which is under the ownership of the Gila River Indian Reservation, preserves this significant piece of American Indian cultural heritage. Due to the sensitive nature of this site, the Gila River Indian Community has decided not to open this site to the public. There is no public access to the Hohokam Pima National Monument.

Plan your visit

Hohokam Pima National Monument is located on the Gila River Indian Reservation, AZ and is not open to the public. The Arizona State Museum, located in Tucson AZ, has information and artifacts from Snaketown. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Hohokam Pima National Monument website or call 520-723-3172.


Hopewell Culture National Historical Park,
Ohio

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park preserves the earthworks and mounds of the American Indians of the Hopewell Culture, a people who flourished between 2,200 and 1,500 years ago. The term Hopewell describes a broad network of beliefs and ceremonial practices that different groups of American Indians shared in a large portion of eastern North America. The Hopewell peoples had extensive trading routes, designed and crafted distinct pieces of art, and constructed earthworks and mounds for specific ceremonial practices. The park protects five different archeological sites in Ross County, Ohio: the Mound City Group, the Hopewell Mound Group, the Seip Earthworks, the Hopeton Earthworks, and the High Bank Works.

The remains of their earthworks and mounds provide the most profound evidence of the existence of the Hopewell Culture. The earthworks and mounds are highly concentrated in the Scioto River Valley near the present-day city of Chillicothe, Ohio. The earthworks are in the form of circles, squares, and other geometric shapes. Conical and loaf-shaped earthen mounds are often associated with these earthworks. The embankments of the Hopewell earthworks were 10-12 feet high, sometimes up to 1,000 feet across, and contained up to 40 mounds within earthen walls.

The largest known Hopewell mound is part of the Hopewell Mound Group, which features more than three miles of earthen embankments and 40 mounds. Visitors can use either the Sulphur Lick Road or the Tri-County bike trail, which crosses a mile of the Hopewell Mound Group, in order to view parts of this site. About 15 miles southwest of the Hopewell Mound Group, visitors should also make a stop at the Seip Earthworks and view the Central Mound by following a trail that the Ohio Historical Society maintains.

Hopewell groups were usually scattered, although they probably gathered seasonally and for ceremonial occasions at the earthworks and mounds. The groups likely congregated for feasting, trading, presenting gifts, marriages, competitions, mourning ceremonies, and mound construction. The extensive size of the earthworks and mounds tells us that the Hopewell Culture had to be highly organized to succeed at constructing these ceremonial places.

The Mound City Group includes at least 23 mounds within a 13-acre rectangular earthen enclosure. Visitors may view the mounds by following a self-guided interpretive trail or by taking another trail that circles the outer perimeter of the earthworks. Many of these mounds cover the remains of charnel houses. A charnel house is a wooden structure the Hopewell people used during the cremation ceremony of one of their deceased loved ones. After the ceremony was complete, participants burned the charnel house and constructed a mound over the remains. The Hopewell also placed objects or burial offerings, such as shells, clay pots, arrowheads, and copper figures, in the mounds. During the construction of the mounds and the ceremonial occasions associated with the mounds, the Hopewell people used tools, ornaments, and objects made of materials that they obtained via extensive trading routes. Visit the Mound City Group’s visitor center museum to view many of these artifacts.

The people designed and crafted elaborate objects from mica, copper, and obsidian to use during the ceremonial occasions associated with the mounds. The extensive variety of materials used to make objects indicates that inhabitants were able to circulate raw materials throughout the Hopewell Culture area as a result of extensive trading routes the Hopewell people established and maintained throughout North America. Through trade, the Hopewell people in this part of Ohio obtained copper and silver from around the Great Lakes, obsidian from what is now Yellowstone National Park in western Wyoming, sharks teeth and seashells from the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, and mica from the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. They transformed these raw materials into fine objects such as mica cutouts, copper breastplates, long ceremonial blades, or into artistic creations in the shapes of birds, mammals, reptiles, humans, and many other forms.

Sites related to the Hopewell cultural system are found from Pennsylvania and New York to Iowa and central Kansas, and from Michigan and Wisconsin to Louisiana and Florida. The distinct way of life of the Hopewell Culture ended about 1,500 years ago. Today, Hopewell Culture National Historical Park helps people understand and appreciate this highly organized society, its vast trading routes, and specific religious practices.

Plan your visit

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park Service, is located throughout Ross County, OH. The park visitor center, located at Mound City Group, is on State Route 104, two miles north of U.S. 35 and three miles north of Chillicothe, OH. The park is open daily except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Hours are from 8:30 to 5:00 pm with extended hours in the summer. The grounds close at dark. The Mound City Group, Hopewell Mound Group, and Seip Earthworks are open to the public, while the Hopeton Earthworks and High Banks Works are closed except by permit or for special events. For more information, visit the National Park Service Hopewell Culture National Historical Park website or call 740-774-1126.

Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration files for the Mound City Group (
text and photos.)


Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, Alabama

 “This bend which resembles in its curvature that of a horse-shoe, includes, I conjecture, eighty or a hundred acres. The River immediately around it, is deep, & somewhat upwards of a hundred yards wide. As a situation for defense it was selected with judgment, & improved with great industry and art.”

In his own words, Andrew Jackson described the site where US forces and allied warriors from the Cherokee Nation defeated Chief Manawa’s Red Sticks of the Creek Nation. A defining moment in American history, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend provided a glimpse of the fate that lay ahead for the American Indians as the nation continued to expand and as Andrew Jackson took the oath of office as President of the United States. Today, Horseshoe Bend National Military Park preserves the site of the last battle of the Creek Indian War of 1813-1814, where the US Army under General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creek Nation--breaking the power of the southern tribes and opening the area for white settlement.

Before Europeans first encountered the indigenous people of the New World, the Creek Nation had not yet formed in the American Southeast. Originally, the Creeks descended from a large population of southwest Indians, who eventually migrated to the present States of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas. Over time, for reasons still debated, by displacing or incorporating other tribes, these southeastern Indians began to build a confederacy of small tribal towns that together formed what eventually became the Muscogee Nation. Although each of the tribes spoke a different language and most came from different cultures, the tribal towns developed a strong political alliance that helped keep the people of the Muscogee Nation at peace. By the time the British arrived in 1715, the tribal towns stretched along both sides of Georgia’s Chattahoochee River.  Seeing one of the Muscogee communities on the Ochese Creek, the English began calling these allied peoples Creeks. Divided by the river, the Creek Indians were broken into two groups: the Upper Creeks and the Lower Creeks, who until the English encounter peacefully shared the river and its surrounding lands. Eventually, the British lifestyle began to influence the Creeks’ traditions and overall way of life.

Like many American Indians who traded with the Europeans, the Creeks developed a dependence on British luxuries, which changed their world and created competition among the tribes. Over time, Creek dependence on European goods would have a tremendous impact on their communities, permanently dividing the Upper Creeks and Lower Creeks from what was once a strong political alliance of the Muscogee nation. Although the world the Creek Indians knew began to change during the first European encounters, the greatest impact on their lifestyle occurred after the American Revolution.

Once the Creeks and the United States signed the Treaty of New York in 1790, U.S. Indian Agent Benjamin Hawkins began working with many Creeks to improve their agricultural traditions and living standards. He hoped that this effort would foster peaceful relations between the Creeks and American settlers. Because the Lower Creeks lived closer to the American settlers, the Upper Creeks were unable to benefit from Hawkins’ “civilization” program. Conflict arose from the growing division, and as the Lower Creeks continued to develop a closer relationship with the American settlers in Georgia, the Upper Creeks began attacking settlers and Creeks who ignored their call to rise up against the “white man,” and drive him out of their lands.

War broke out between the Creeks in February 1813, when the Upper Creek warriors known as Red Sticks murdered seven frontier families living in the region. Since the Red Stick Indians acted independently from other Creek warriors, representatives of the Creek tribal council agreed to execute the Creek Indians who killed the American families. Angered by the council’s decision the other Red Sticks retaliated and killed all who had a hand in the executions of the Upper Creek warriors.

As the civil war between the Creeks progressed, and as the Red Sticks began attacking and killing American settlers and all groups associated with Hawkins’ civilization program, the governors of the Mississippi Territory, Georgia, and Tennessee began mobilizing their militias to end the Red Stick resistance and the growing division between the Creeks. By March 1814, after numerous campaigns against the Red Sticks, Major General Andrew Jackson of the Tennessee Militia lead the Lower Creek warriors and the Cherokee allies in the final battle against Chief Manawa’s Red Sticks.

On March 22, Jackson and his men marched out of Fort Williams toward the Tallapoosa River bend where the Red Sticks had their village of Tohopeka. The Creeks believed that the river bend, known as the Cholocco Litabizee or “Horse’s flat foot,” would protect their village from enemy attacks. Although the encircling river was difficult to cross, it did not keep Jackson from moving his troops and Indian allies across the horseshoe shaped bend on the morning of March 26, when he sent 700 mounted infantry and 600 Cherokee and Lower Creek warriors three miles downstream to cross the Tallapoosa River and position themselves around the bend. Once Brigadier General John Coffee began to lead their forces across the river, Jackson and the rest of his army moved into the peninsula where they attempted to break down the log barricade the Red Sticks had built to protect their village.

Although Jackson’s artillery had no effect on the barricade, by noon Coffee’s Cherokees had already crossed the river and began attacking the Red Sticks on the other side of the barricade. When Jackson realized that the Cherokees had successfully launched a rear attack, he immediately ordered his troops to pour over the barricade to close in on the Red Sticks from the front. By sunset, the Battle of Horseshoe Bend was officially over, and although Chief Menawa managed to escape, the Red Sticks had a great number of casualties. Of the 1,000 Red Sticks at Tohopeka, only 200 survived, while Jackson only lost 49 men.

Despite Jackson's victory, many Red Sticks refused to surrender and moved to Florida, where they joined the Seminoles. Eventually, the Creeks who stayed in Alabama surrendered to Jackson, and ceded 23 million acres of their ancestral lands to the United States in the 1814 Treaty of Fort Jackson.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend established Andrew Jackson’s reputation as a military leader and an Indian fighter. After defeating the Creeks, Jackson continued his campaign against the American Indians. After the nation elected him President in 1828, Jackson signed the Indian Removal Bill that forced the southeastern tribes and their allies to move west in the journey known to the Cherokee as the “Trail of Tears.”

Visitors can see where the battle took place and learn more about the history of the encounter at the Horseshoe Bend National Military Park Visitor Center.

Plan your visit

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 11288 Horseshoe Bend Rd. in Daviston, AL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park grounds are open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, and the visitor center hours are from 9:00am to 4:30pm. Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission to the park is free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Horseshoe Bend National Military Park website or call 256-234-7111.

Horseshoe Bend National Military Park is the subject of an online lesson plan, The Battle of Horseshoe Bend: Collision of Cultures. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

Hovenweep National Monument, Colorado and Utah

In a relatively remote area along the Colorado and Utah border, narrow ravines, steep canyon walls, and flat mesa tops reveal the well-preserved ruins of Ancestral Puebloan communities. Hovenweep National Monument protects and interprets six groups of Puebloan village ruins. At one time, these communities were home to nearly 2,500 people. The mystery, histories, and stories of a people who lived long ago come alive in the walls, stones, and geographic placement of these communities.

The Ancestral Puebloans inhabited the Four Corners region of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona from about 500 A.D. to 1300 A.D. Today, most of the structures that visitors can see at Hovenweep (a Ute Indian word meaning "deserted valley") date from sometime between 1200 A.D. and 1300 A.D. The Monument includes the remains of coursed-stone masonry pueblos, petroglyphs, small cliff dwellings, towers, kivas, and a large number of other scattered ruins. The Square Tower Group is the largest and most accessible of the six Puebloan-era villages. The other groups include Cajon, Cutthroat Castle, Goodman Point, Hackberry, Holly, and Horseshoe.

What makes these ruins unique and of special note are the towers at each site and the attention to detail that is evident in the masonry throughout the Monument. Square, oval, D-shaped, and circular towers are grouped at canyon heads and were usually built atop or near springs and seeps. Many of the towers are on top of isolated or irregular boulders. Archeologists hypothesize that the placement of these towers had to do with protecting sources of water, which for a desert-dwelling agricultural community was essential for survival. Other theories suggest that the towers were for ceremonial purposes, celestial observation, defensive strategies, storage facilities, civil buildings, or homes, or any combination of these uses.

The most easily accessible unit in the Monument is the Square Tower Unit. This unit contains the largest collection of Ancestral Puebloan structures in the Monument and is the only unit with a paved road leading to it. Visitors can take a moderately strenuous trail along the canyon rim (most visitors take about 1 to 2 hours to explore the unit) and view the remains of kivas, Hovenweep Castle, the Square Tower, check dams, cliff dwellings, pueblos, petroglyphs, and a variety of other structures. Built right on the canyon edge, Hovenweep Castle has several rooms and D-shaped towers. The Square Tower below Hovenweep Castle is a three-story tower built on a boulder at the head of Little Ruin Canyon.

Although they are much less visited, the other units within the Monument offer a stunning glimpse into the history and world of the Ancestral Puebloan people. Cajon Group consists of structures at the head of a small canyon. At this site, visitors will see pictographs painted in the Mesa Verde pottery style, the remains of an earthen dam, and a circular tower built to conform to three irregular boulders. Visitors can view another impressive tower by following a pedestrian trail at the Holly Group. At the Holly Group, the multi-story pueblo named Tilted Tower is atop a large sandstone boulder. The tower began to tilt after a boulder shifted sometime after 1300 A.D. Similar to Cajon Group and the Holly Group, the walking trails at the Horseshoe and Hackberry Groups offer stunning views of towers that the Ancestral Puebloans built at the heads of canyons and of the precise masonry skills they used to construct these structures.

Exploring more of the sites at the Monument, visitors will find that the Cutthroat Castle Group and the Goodman Point Group are different from the other units in Hovenweep. The Cutthroat Castle Group is unique from the other groups, for most dwellings were built deeper within the canyon instead of at the head of the canyon or on the rim, and this site has a large number of kivas in comparison to its other structures. The Goodman Point Group features partially buried pueblos, ranging in size from small hamlets to large villages instead of the tall, multi-storied towers throughout much of the Monument.

Sometime in the late 1200s A.D., failing crops, drought, overuse of resources, and possibly internal tribal conflicts led to the abandonment of this region. The Ancestral Puebloans left this land over 700 years ago and settled in what are now the pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico and the Hopi mesas of Arizona. Their presence is still evident in the homes and other structures they built, the images they drew, and the pottery they designed and made.

Plan your visit

Hovenweep National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located along the border between southeast Utah and southwest Colorado, just north and west of Cortez, CO. The Monument is open year round; while the visitor center is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm (April through September) and 8:00am to 5:00pm (October through March), except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Days. For more information, visit the National Park Service Hovenweep National Monument website or call 970-562-4282.

Hovenweep National Monument is featured in the National Park Service
American Southwest Travel Itinerary and has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Arizona

Having first opened its doors to traders in the late 1800s, Hubbell Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona is one of the oldest operating trading posts in the American Southwest. For almost 90 years, the Hubbell family welcomed traders and notable visitors to trade with the Navajo. Now the trading post is part of the National Park System. Although the Hubbell family eventually sold the post in the 1960s, the Western Parks Association has continued to operate it as a trading business as if it were still under the management of John Lorenzo Hubbell and his family. Today, visitors can learn about the Navajo’s heritage and their material culture, witness traders negotiating deals with American Indians, learn to weave Navajo rugs, and purchase crafts and art from the Indians at any of the trading post’s shops.

Although John Lorenzo Hubbell established the post in 1878, the story of Hubbell Trading Post begins in the early 1860s, when in an effort to find gold in the Navajo territory, General James H. Carleton began forcibly removing the Navajo Indians from their homelands. Leading this gruesome campaign was Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson, who, under the direction of Carleton, instituted a “scorched earth” policy in the Navajo territory. Under this policy, Carson’s troops were to destroy the Navajo’s livelihood by killing their livestock, and by burning their homes and crops. To terrorize the Indians into leaving their homelands further, Carson and his men massacred several Navajo men, women, and children.

By the winter of 1863, after suffering from starvation and fearing the loss of more people, the Navajo surrendered to Colonel Carson’s troops. The following year, Carson and his troops rounded up the Navajos who survived General Carleton’s vicious campaign, and forced over 8,000 Navajo to walk more than 300 miles from northeast Arizona to Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico. Known by the Navajo as the Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo, a 40 square mile reservation on the Pecos River, this episode changed the Navajo world and had a significant influence on their material culture and economic pursuits.

While living at the Bosque Redondo reservation, the Navajo attended school, practiced Christianity, and learned to incorporate in their daily lives the products that the mobile trader introduced into their society. They grew highly dependent on these new materials, which the people used to make the crafts that the Navajo exchanged with traders for food and other products that were essential for their way of life. Without the mobile trader, the people would not have survived in the world the white man created, especially after the government allowed the Navajo to return to their homelands in 1868.

Following the return of the Navaho from the Bosque Redondo, traders continued supplying them with the materials they had grown accustomed to using during their four-year exile. Among the traders to establish a successful relationship with the Navajo was John Lorenzo Hubbell. Hubbell not only developed an industry from the Navajo crafts, but also helped the Navajo adapt to their new environment. Known to the Navajo as “Old Mexican” or “Double Glasses,” John Lorenzo Hubbell had become familiar with the Navajo’s language and traditions while traveling around the Southwest as an interpreter for the US military. Hubbell was able to use his knowledge of the Navajo culture and language to establish perhaps the most successful trading empire in the American Southwest.  He opened the trading post that is now Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in 1878, ten years after Navajo returned to their homeland from their Bosque Redondo exile. Hubbell’s trading post not only provided food and merchandise to traders and the Navajo, but was also a place where artists and other travelers, including Theodore Roosevelt, could find shelter.

Hubbell’s trading empire at one point consisted of 30 trading posts, two wholesale stores, a few curio shops, and some bean and apple farms in Gallup and Farmington, New Mexico. His facilities allowed the Navajo to display their art and crafts, while also providing the Indians with food and the material goods they required to make their crafts. Eventually, as his business developed, Hubbell was also able to build freight and mail lines, which he used to transport supplies and to send mail order catalogs that promoted Navajo crafts.

The store at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is still in operation.  Once inside the masonry post, visitors will find a sales room, a large storage room, and two office rooms that housed all of the trading post’s records from the time of its establishment. Today, these rooms house a unique collection of pioneer artifacts and Navajo art. Behind the trading post stands the Hubbell family home, which also displays a collection of Navajo artwork. Hubbell’s family sold the property to the National Park Service in 1965.  The trading post and Hubbell home look much today as they did during Lorenzo Hubbell’s time.

At the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the visitor center and learn from a skilled Navajo artist how to weave an authentic Navajo rug. Visitors can also purchase food and other goods at the bullpen; buy a Navajo rug, jewelry, and baskets; attend the “Sheep is Life” workshop to learn about the Navajo lifestyle; and attend a Native American art auction. Beyond the trading post, visitors may take a guided tour of the Hubbell family home and explore the grounds of the Hubbell family homestead with its barn, bunkhouse, guest hogan, historic farm equipment, horses, chickens, and Navajo Churro sheep. They can also view a private collection of Southwestern and Native American arts and crafts.

Plan your visit

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located one mile west of Hwy. 191 on U.S Highway 264 in Ganado, AZ. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Hubbell Trading Post is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm during the summer and 8:00am to 5:00pm in the winter. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site website or call 928-755-3475.

Many components of the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey including: Ganado, Storage Building, Navajo Day School, Unfinished Shed, Two-story Barn, Root Cellar, Gazebo, Guest Hogan, the House, HB-1, Bunkhouse, and Bread Oven. Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.


Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, Missouri

In 1947, architect Eero Saarinen entered his name in the competition for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Chosen from 172 entries, his world-renowned stainless-steel masterpiece memorializes America’s historic expansion across the West. Although popularly known as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates not only the history of western migration, but also the role President Thomas Jefferson played in opening the West with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from the French. In addition, the park interprets the history and culture of St. Louis and the city’s role as the Gateway to the West.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis and his partner William Clark to lead the Corps of Discovery in on expedition through the nation’s newly acquired territory. Their mission, according to Jefferson’s instructions, was to explore the Missouri River and find the elusive Northwest Passage for the purpose of commerce. Although Lewis and Clark never found a direct water route to the Pacific Ocean, their expedition advanced the nation’s geographical knowledge of the once uncharted West. With the help of their Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea, the Corps of Discovery managed to locate 50 American Indian tribes, many of which Lewis and Clark befriended by offering peace medals to the most important chiefs. As a result, the Corps of Discovery expedition helped open the west for America’s fur trade.

The publication of Lewis' and Clark's detailed accounts of their journey of discovery generated a great American interest in the Indian fur trade. By 1810, with Clark’s map of the West at hand, traders marked the beginning of the historic Missouri River trade as they moved into the Indian Territory to exchange goods with the Plains tribes. The Plains Indians traded their buffalo robes, horses, and mules for the American’s tobacco, axes, firearms, and other technological goods. Although the buffalo hides were highly sought, beaver pelts were also of great interest. As a result, traders began sending trappers further west to set beaver traps. Among these was St. Louis fur trader William H. Ashley, who in 1822 employed 100 trappers to work in the Rocky Mountains. Known as the legendary mountain men, these trappers helped America expand further west.

Although the decline in beavers eventually slowed the fur trade, America’s rapid westward expansion continued as the notion of Manifest Destiny swept across the nation. Popularized in the 1840s, the term justified America’s expansion into the West with the claim that America had a divine right to expand from sea to shining sea. As a result, for two decades large numbers of white wagons painted the American landscape as settlers traveled across the western trails. By 1869, western settlement increased since the completed transcontinental railway facilitated travel all the way to California. America had fulfilled its destiny. The American frontier was gone in less than 90 years.

In the end, displacing several American Indian tribes from their homelands, over 300,000 settlers traveled across the West in search of land, gold, and religious freedom. Although the journey proved difficult at times, especially as American Indians fought to keep their lands, America’s expansion into the West played a significant role in the development of the nation's unique culture. Involved in this mass-migration were peoples of many backgrounds. African Americans, American Indians, French traders, Spanish explorers, Asian railway workers, and the Homestead Act immigrants from around the world all helped shape the American West. Today, Jefferson Expansion Memorial and the Gateway Arch pay tribute to the diverse people of America, whose stories, whether of triumph or defeat, highlight the historic movement into the West.

At Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, visitors may begin their tour at the Gateway Arch, where they can ride the tram to the top and enjoy the majestic view of St. Louis from the observation deck, which faces both east and west. After riding the tram, tourists can proceed to the Museum of Westward Expansion. Located beneath the Arch, the museum features two films: The Monument to the Dream documenting the construction of the Gateway Arch, and Lewis and Clark, Great Journey West shown in the Odyssey Theatre. The museum also features several exhibits that chart the history of the American West, where visitors can see a full size tipi, lifelike animal displays, a stagecoach, a covered wagon, a bullboat, and other mounted exhibits that demonstrate how the American Indians and pioneers lived.

Beyond the Gateway Arch and Museum of Westward Expansion, the park also tells the story of the Old St. Louis Courthouse. From 1812 until 1865, over 300 African American slaves living in the St. Louis area sued their masters for their freedom at this courthouse. Among these were Dred Scott and his wife Harriet; their 1846 lawsuit against Irene Emerson became one of the most important cases ever tried in the United States. Although the Circuit Court of the St. Louis County awarded Dred Scott and his family their freedom in 1850, the United States Supreme Court overturned the ruling in 1856 after determining that as property, African American slaves had no right to sue. The Supreme Court dismissed Scott’s suit since at the time of its adoption, the United States Constitution did not consider African Americans as citizens. Although Scott lost his case, this Supreme Court ruling moved the nation to the brink of Civil War, which led to the emancipation of all slaves in the United States.

Across from the historic Old Courthouse, visitors are also welcome to tour the Old St. Louis Cathedral, which remains to this day an active Catholic parish.

Plan your visit

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 11 North 4th St. in St. Louis, MO. The park’s Gateway Arch and Westward Expansion Museum are open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm. During the summer season, both the museum and Gateway Arch are open from 8:00am to 10:00pm. The Old Courthouse is open daily form 8:00am to 4:30pm. All sites at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee for most sites.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Jefferson National Expansion Memorial website or call 314-655-1700.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The memorial is also featured in the National Park Service's Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary. The Old Courthouse is the subject of an online lesson plan, The Old Courthouse in St. Louis: Yesterday and Today. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site, North Dakota

The Missouri River has long supported life as it stretches thousands of miles through America’s heartland. Close to the Canadian border in North Dakota, the stories of a number of Plains Indian peoples intersect along the banks of the Missouri and Knife Rivers. Here, an hour north of present-day Bismarck, several tribes formed great villages on the plains. Today, the remains of some of these villages are preserved in the Knife River Indian Villages National Historic Site.

The first people to live in the areas around the Knife River arrived possibly as early as 12,000 years ago. Visitors to the park can see what is left of much later villages of two tribes, the Mandan and the Hidatsa. Like earlier peoples, the Mandan and Hidatsa were hunters, but they also successfully cultivated crops like corn, beans, and squash. The villages grew and the tribes began to trade with the surrounding communities. The Knife River gets its name from the flint found near the river. This flint was used to make knives that were traded. The growing villages along the Knife and Missouri rivers were composed of earthlodges. In addition to touring the location of earthlodge villages, visitors to the park may also explore a reconstructed earthlodge.

Among the Hidatsa, women owned and largely built the earthlodges. The men of the tribe did help with the construction, though women supervised them. Earthlodges consist of a framework of posts and beams covered with branches, grass, and strips of sod. Inside were separate spaces for sleeping, eating, and storage; a shrine and a sweatlodge were also common features. Sometimes, the Indians kept horses inside the earthlodge. An earthlodge lasted about 10 years and housed between 10 and 20 people. The largest villages had roughly 120 earthlodges. By the late 1800s, the Hidatsa built fewer and fewer earthlodges, because they began to live in houses as they were moved to reservations. The dimpled plains along the rivers record the time the Hidatsa lived in earthlodge villages. The main villages within the park are Awatixa Xi’e Village (Lower Hidatsa), Awatixa Village (Sakakawea Village), and Big Hidatsa Village. Built between 1525 and the late 1700s, the villages are connected by a trail system marked by signs describing the history.

The Lewis and Clark expedition recorded life among the American Indian groups at Knife River in the 1800s. Lewis and Clark’s 1804 expedition was successful in part because of the assistance provided to them by a couple they met while staying at nearby Fort Mandan. Toussaint Charbonneau and his wife Sakakawea (also known as Sacagawea) served the explorers as interpreters and translators for two years. The village that Sacagawea lived in, Awatixa Village, is also named after her. In addition to helping Lewis and Clark communicate with the peoples they met along their journey, Sacagawea also helped the expedition navigate across the Rocky Mountains. A native Shoshone, she was able to obtain horses from her brother who was chief of the Shoshone tribe. Lewis and Clark gathered valuable scientific information during the expedition and had a good relationship with their American Indian guides.

Life on the plains changed as interactions with Europeans and Americans increased in the following years, and the villages became major trading centers. In the roughly 500 years the villages at Knife River were inhabited, the Hidatsa and Mandan created very developed communities along the Knife and Missouri rivers. The traders and later explorers who came to these communities often remarked on their sheer size. The villages within the park boundaries housed hundreds, if not thousands of people. However, this would not last.

Beginning in the 1830s, steamboat traffic up the Missouri brought more people into contact with the tribes at Knife River. A major smallpox epidemic in 1837 wiped out most of the Mandan and weakened the Hidatsa. Both tribes abandoned the villages within the park about this time and relocated to Like-A-Fishhook Village. A third tribe, the Arikara, joined them. The three tribes formed an alliance known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, although each tribe maintains separate traditions and has a separate history. The Mandan came to the Dakotas beginning in the mid-1200s, while the Hidatsa ancestors appear to have arrived between 1450 and 1550. These Hidatsa ancestors were the first settlers of the villages at Knife River. All three tribes lived only briefly together at Like-A-Fishhook Village before their lands were gradually taken away from them, and they were moved onto the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Later, construction of the Garrison Dam flooded some of their lands.

Plan your visit

Knife River Indian Villages, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 564 County Road 37, one-half mile north of Stanton, ND. Within the park, the Big Hidatsa village has been designated a National Historic Landmark. The village has also been listed in the National Register. The park maintains seasonal hours and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Knife River Indian Villages website or call 701-745-3300.

Interpretive signs at each village site explain the history of the region and peoples. Other hiking trails are available; some may be skied in winter. Ranger-led tours of the reconstructed earthlodge are held hourly in the summertime. An online virtual touris also available. Tours of the Lower Hidatsa and Sakakawea Village are available on weekends. The annual Northern Plains Indian Culture Fest is held at the park in July.

Knife River Indian Villages is also featured in the National Park Service Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary and as a site along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. The park is the subject of an online lesson plan, Knife River: Early Village Life on the Plains. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.


Lava Beds National Monument, California

Located in far northern California, Lava Beds National Monument is a place of contrasts. From scrubland to mountains with hundreds of caves in between, Lava Beds supports a variety of animal and plant life above and far below ground. Beginning approximately 7,000 years ago, American Indian tribes began to use the lands within Lava Beds. The Modoc called the area their homeland from 5,000 BC until the 1870s.

Though Lava Beds continues to be important to the Modoc, they no longer inhabit the land there as a result of the Modoc War. Today, the Modoc live among the Klamath Tribe of Oregon and the Modoc Tribe of Oklahoma. Visitors to Lava Beds National Monument can explore some of the ancestral homeland of the Modoc, including possibly sacred places with petroglyphs and pictograms, and tour the site of the last great Modoc stand against the United States. Visitors will also enjoy the diverse natural habitat.

The Modoc War continued a policy of Indian Removal begun under President Andrew Jackson. Indian Removal was the forced relocation of American Indian tribes from their ancestral lands to other lands, usually with the hope of freeing up better lands for white settlers. The Modoc War of 1872 – 1873, was the only major conflict to occur in California. The war was costly to the Modoc, forcing them to leave their homeland and relocate with other tribes.

The Modoc were a mobile people until the 19th century, migrating seasonally between hunting grounds to take advantage of game and plant life at various locations along the present-day California-Oregon border. When white explorers first made contact with the tribe in 1826, they planted the seeds of the Modoc War. Initial interactions were beneficial to the Modoc providing them the opportunity to incorporate horses into their culture. Fights over land escalated, however, and by the 1860s, some white settlers asked for the removal of the Modoc to the Klamath Reservation. Most of the Modoc wanted to stay. The Modoc War determined whether the Modoc would stay or go.

Between November 1872 and June 1873, fewer than 200 Modoc fought roughly 1,000 soldiers. The entire Modoc War demonstrated the tribe’s commitment to preserving their land and culture, but the conflict at Captain Jack’s Stronghold best demonstrates this commitment. In 1864, the Modoc signed a treaty with the United States agreeing to move to the Klamath Reservation in Oregon. A Modoc named Captain Jack, or Kientpoos, led a group of 200 Modoc who felt that the United States was not offering the protection and other benefits guaranteed in the treaty. Captain Jack and his band alternated between living on and off the reservation until 1872 when President Ulysses S. Grant ordered their relocation to the reservation by force. Captain Jack’s group fought US troops in a number of battles around Lava Beds.

President Grant created a commission to seek peace with the Modoc and convince them to leave their homeland again and return to the Klamath Reservation. Immediately preceding these efforts at peace, troops from the United States attacked roughly 70 Modoc men at Captain Jack’s Stronghold. The Modoc were able to turn back the 300 attacking US soldiers. After their repulsion by the Modoc, the troops began negotiating peace using a Modoc woman (Winema, also called Toby Riddle) and her husband Frank Riddle as translators.

In the peace negotiations, the Modoc sought the creation of a reservation along the Lost River and immunity from prosecution for killing settlers. During one of the meetings between representatives of the United States and the tribe, the Modoc killed the head of the peace commission, General Edward Canby, and other representatives sparking additional battles.

More than 600 troops attacked Captain Jack’s Stronghold for a second time in April 1873. Despite having successfully defended their claim for months against a larger force, the Modoc were not able to turn back the federal troops again, although they managed to hold on until June 1873 when Captain Jack surrendered. Following the surrender, he and three other Modoc were sentenced to death for their killing of white settlers and hanged. The remaining group of Modoc was sent to the Quapaw Agency in the Indian Territory (later known as Oklahoma). Very few of the Modoc who went to Oklahoma survived the difficult initial years in a new land. The descendents of the survivors are still in Oklahoma.

Lava Beds National Monument preserves parts of the Modoc homeland relatively unchanged including natural features of the landscape, plants, and animals. The Modoc had difficulty in adapting to the Klamath Reservation or the Quapaw because the plants, animals, and spiritual places of the Modoc were not in their new home. Visitors to the park can explore the spiritual home of the Modoc with the plants and animals that were there when they lived in the area.

Visitors can also see pictograms and petroglyphs, some of which are in Tule Lake on Petroglyph Point. Until recently, the water level in Tule Lake fluctuated naturally. Petroglyph Point was once submerged, except during long dry spells. Modoc ancestors painted the pictograms on the cliff face, most of which date from between 1500 and 400 years ago. The Indians also carved petroglyphs into the rock. Elsewhere in the park, Symbol Bridge and Big Painted Cave also have pictograms that appear to be done by the Modoc, although this is not certain since the Modoc tribe has lived away from this area for so long. Petroglyph Point is a separate unit of Lava Beds National Monument approximately two miles west of the East Wildlife Overlook.

Remnants of the Modoc War are still visible, including federal troop and Modoc constructed fortifications at Captain Jack’s Stronghold. Lower to the ground than those of the US soldiers, the Modoc defenses followed the natural contour of the land, often making use of natural trenches in the lava. In contrast, the US military built round stacked stone defensive structures above ground. Gillem’s Camp also has military fortifications along with a howitzer ring, a horse corral, and cemetery wall--all made of lava rock. The Thomas-Wright Battlefield was the site of a Modoc ambush of US troops during one of the battles. Trails lead through Captain Jack’s Stronghold, the Thomas-Wright Battlefield, and Black Crater.

Formed of the lava from which Lava Beds National Monument takes its name, the many caves were spiritual places for the Modoc. The park includes more than 700 caves, most of which are open to the public. Mushpot Cave is easy to tour, because the cave has lighting and offers interpretive exhibits.

Plan your visit
Lava Beds National Monument is located off California State Routes 161 and 139 in northern California near Tulelake, CA just south of the California-Oregon border. Forest Service Routes 49 and 10 provide seasonal access, though these and other routes are not fully paved. Several sites within Lava Beds National Monument have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for the registration file for Captain Jack’s Stronghold (text and photos) and Thomas-Wright Battle Site (text and photos). A fee is charged to enter the park. The park maintains seasonal hours and is open every day of the year except for Christmas Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Lava Beds National Monument website or call 530-667-8100.

Exploring the caves at Lava Beds National Memorial is a popular activity. Reservations that are required for ranger-led tours of Fern Cave and Crystal Ice Cave may be made by calling 530-667-8113. Hiking and camping facilities are also available.


Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, Montana

Throughout the late 1800s, the collision of two very different and separate ways of life played out on the Great Plains across Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. Though neither the first nor the last armed conflict, the June 1876 battle of the Lakota Sioux and Northern Cheyenne against the 7th Cavalry and other soldiers of the United States Army is one of the most remembered. Part of the larger Great Sioux War, the battle at Little Bighorn, also referred to as Custer’s Last Stand, was instrumental in ending the free movement of American Indians throughout the West. At Little Bighorn, the Lakota and Cheyenne and others thoroughly defeated the United States Army under the leadership of George Armstrong Custer, a United States Military Academy educated and highly successful Civil War leader. Despite this victory, the Plains Indians were forced onto reservations in the coming years. Until the 1990s, Custer Battlefield National Monument was the name of the Little Bighorn National Monument.

Today, visitors to Little Bighorn Battlefield will find a landscape very similar to the way it was when the battle occurred--from the hill where Custer and his men met their deaths, “Last Stand Hill,” to the site of further fighting to the southeast. Monuments to the US troops and the American Indian warriors document the struggle. At the Reno-Benteen Battlefield site, rifle pits and other trenches are visible. Throughout the park, low white markers approximate the sites where soldiers died. Red granite markers identify fallen American Indians on the field of battle. After the battle, popular outcry led to the creation of a National Cemetery near the battlefield to remember the troops killed there. This cemetery is the final resting place for soldiers from a number of conflicts, including Vietnam. Built for the cemetery, the Superintendent’s House houses some park facilities today.

Settlers moving from the east coast of the United States often came into contact with various American Indian tribes living in the West. To encourage and protect growing settlements in the West, the Federal Government negotiated treaties with local tribes with the goal of limiting the land on which the tribes could live to free land for settlers. The government negotiated a treaty in 1868, which established a reservation for the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne peoples on the Plains. According to the treaty, this reservation was for the exclusive use of the Indians. Some bands of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne did not want to be confined to a reservation and preferred to maintain a traditional, nomadic lifestyle. Under the leadership of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, two men who later became famous for their roles in fighting white settlement, these bands often lived and hunted well outside the established boundaries of the reservation.

White settlement in the area, and the West as a whole, increased following the Civil War. The discovery of gold in 1874 on the land promised to the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne in the 1868 treaty suddenly brought thousands onto the reservation. This influx and settlers’ disregard for treaty lands and native ways of life heightened the tension on the Plains. An 1875 order by the Department of the Interior attempted to compel the nomadic bands to return to the reservation by the end of January 1876. When, for a variety of reasons, this order failed to make the bands living off the reservation return, the stage was set for the conflict at Little Bighorn.

General Alfred Terry ordered Custer and the 7th Cavalry and other troops to strike at the nomadic bands of Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne in southeastern Montana. Positioned generally to the north, other US Army units were supposed to block their escape according to the plan. After sighting the Lakota and Cheyenne camp in the valley of the Little Bighorn River, Custer attacked on June 25, 1876, believing that the Indians were preparing to strike their camp. To better contain the scattering villagers, Custer divided his troops.

Custer misread the sightings, however. The villagers were not scattering, nor were they taking down their camp. Instead, many warriors were in the village and able to attack Custer’s troops. Two officers, Major Marcus Reno and Captain Frederick Benteen, defended a position preventing the annihilation of some parts of the regiment assigned to Custer. The site of this position is known as the Reno-Benteen Battlefield. All of Custer's men died in particularly bitter fighting on Last Stand Hill. The surviving Indian warriors disbanded. Sitting Bull went to Canada, though he returned to the United States in 1881 and surrendered to the government.

The War Department erected a monument to honor the 7th Cavalry, attached civilian personnel, and Indian scouts who died in the battle. The War Department also controlled access to the site and how the battle was interpreted. Finally in 1991, the U.S. Congress changed the name of the battlefield from Custer Battlefield National Monument to Little Bighorn National Monument and ordered the erection of a memorial to the American Indians who fought for their families, land, and culture. Some 100 American Indian men, women, and children also perished in the battle.

A visitor center near Last Stand Hill offers exhibits and an orientation film on the battle, plus additional information on Custer, Sitting Bull, and the weaponry of the battle. Native culture displays and seasonal cultural demonstrations provide information on the Cheyenne and Lakota Sioux. Guided tours focusing on the battlefield are available at the visitor center as is a walking tour of the monuments. A tour road running between the Last Stand Hill portion of the park and the Reno-Benteen Battlefield has wayside exhibits. A cell phone based tour provides information on the battlefield areas and additional information. A self-guided tour is available for the National Cemetery.

Little Bighorn National Monument is in memory of the US Army's 7th Cavalry and the Lakota Sioux and Cheyenne who fought in one of the Indians’ last armed efforts to preserve their way of life. Though the Cheyenne, Lakota Sioux, and others who fought at Little Bighorn won, it was a Pyrrhic victory. Their victory caused the Army to pursue them across the Plains and ultimately marked the end of their nomadic culture and forced their confinement on reservations.

Plan your visit

Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located off Interstate 90 (Exit 510) on US 212 East in Crow Agency, MT. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. There is a fee to visit the park which maintains seasonal hours and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information visit the National Park Service Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument website or call 406-638-3217.

The Superintendent’s House at the battlefield has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

 

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado

About 1,400 years ago, long before Europeans explored North America, Ancestral Puebloans, sometimes called Anasazi, made their homes at Mesa Verde. For more than 600 years they and their descendants lived and flourished here, eventually building elaborate stone communities in the sheltered alcoves of the canyon walls. By about 1300 A.D. they had left their homes and moved south. Mesa Verde National Park preserves a spectacular reminder of this ancient culture. Although archeologists have called these people Anasazi, we now call them Ancestral Puebloans, reflecting their modern descendants.

Ancestral Puebloans first arrived in the area of Mesa Verde National Park around 550 AD. Skilled basketweavers and later potters, they were a nomadic people in transition to a more settled way of life. At Mesa Verde, they farmed crops such as beans, corn, and squash and supplemented their diet by gathering wild plants and hunting deer, rabbits, squirrels, and other game. At first, they lived in pithouses, usually dug into the ground on the mesatops, but sometimes also located in alcoves in the cliffs. Later, as their population grew, they built larger houses of adobe, called pueblos. By 1000, they were building advanced, multi-story houses of shaped stone. Between 1100 and 1300, during the Classic Period, the population at Mesa Verde may have reached several thousand people, with most concentrated in compact villages of many rooms, often with kivas built inside the enclosing walls of the pueblos. Ancestral Puebloan people left the remnants of their villages and lives at sites throughout the Four Corners area.

Around 1200 AD, some people began to move back into the cliff-side alcoves. Anthropologists and archeologists do not know exactly why this population shift occurred, but Mesa Verde is famous for the cliff dwellings built by this last group of Ancestral Puebloans. Mostly constructed from the late 1190s to late 1270s, these cliff dwellings range in size from one-room structures to villages of more than 150 rooms, such as Cliff Palace and Long House. Builders fit the structures to the available space, constructing their villages from sandstone blocks and mud mortar. Livings rooms averaged about six feet by eight feet, space enough for two or three persons. Smaller rooms in the rear and on the upper levels were likely used for storage. Most villages included undergound kivas, thought to have been used as ceremonial chambers.

A few generations later, around 1300, the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned Mesa Verde for points south. While no one today knows why, the people may have migrated away because of droughts and crop failures or the depletion of heavily used soils, forests, and animals. Perhaps they experienced social and political problems and wished to look for new opportunities elsewhere. When they left Mesa Verde, they traveled south into Arizona and New Mexico, settling among their kin who were already there.

Visitors should stop at the Mesa Verde Visitor and Research Center (at the park entrance) for information and orientation and to purchase tickets. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House are three of the most impressive sites to see. Other highlights include exploring the Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, taking a self-guided tour of Spruce Tree House, anddriving the Mesa Top Loop Road (six-mile loop). Visitors can also hike to the Far View Sites Complex. Some historic cliff dwellings offer opportunities for self-guided tours, but others are restricted and can only be visited with a guide. Overnight guests can plan to stay at the Far View Lodge or the Morefield Campground.

Most of the archeological sites open to the public are along the Chapin Mesa or Wetherill Mesa. As one drives into the park, Montezuma Valley, Park Point, and Geologic overlooks to get a good sense of the Mesa Verde landscape. During the summer months, visitors should plan to spend some time at both Chapin Mesa and at Wetherill Mesa. Wetherill Mesa is closed from Labor Day to Memorial Day.

Most of the archeological sites open to the public are along the Chapin Mesa or Wetherill Mesa. The Far View Visitor Center and Chapin Mesa Archaeology Museum offer programs and exhibits on the people and culture of the area. In summer, the Far View Visitor Center is an important first stop to purchase tickets for tours of the cliff dwellings. Although there are numerous self-guided sites, you must have a ticket for a ranger guided tour to visit Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Long House. In fall of 2012, the park’s new Visitor and Research Center is expected to open. Located at the park entrance, it will offer trip planning assistance and tickets of the cliff dwellings, and the Far View Visitor Center will be closed. At Far View, you’ll find food service and lodging during spring, summer, and fall. Camping is available at Morefield Campground from spring through fall.

Most of the best-known and most heavily visited Mesa Verde cliff dwellings are found on Chapin Mesa. Cliff Palace, Balcony House, and Spruce Tree House are among the largest and most impressive cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde, but they are atypical of alcove sites in general. Most contain approximately ten rooms, but all three of these sites are much larger, with numerous rooms and kivas. Some of these larger cliff dwellings are thought to have been administrative centers, with spaces set aside for public purposes as well as living spaces. These sites are world famous and very busy from June through early August. For a quieter visit, schedule your trip to Mesa Verde for late summer and fall, or include Wetherill Mesa in your summer itinerary.

Wetherill Mesa is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and is reached by a spur road leading from the Far View area. Long House, the largest cliff dwelling one can visit on Wetherill Mesa, requires a ticket for a ranger-guided tour, and is accessible by tram from the Wetherill Mesa parking area. Step House, also located in an alcove on Wetherill Mesa, is unusual because the visitors can clearly see both dwellings from the 600s and a pueblo from the 1220s, when it was re-occupied by Ancestral Puebloan people. Wetherill Mesa is always less busy than Chapin Mesa, but there are fewer services available. Although there is a snack bar at Wetherill Mesa, visitors should come prepared with snacks, water, and sun protection.

The Ancestral Puebloans occupied and built upon the flat tops of the mesas throughout their time at Mesa Verde, and found them especially useful for farming, hunting, and gathering wild foods. Mesa-top sites to visit on Chapin Mesa include Cedar Tree Tower, used between 1000 and 1300 when towers and kivas often were built together—perhaps for religious reasons or as part of a communications system. Nearby, the Farming Terrace Trail allows visitors to learn about water retention and other ancient farming techniques. In the Far View area, you’ll find trails to several excavated sites dating from between 900 and 1300, including Far View House, Pipe Shrine House, Coyote Village, Far View Reservoir, Megalithic House, and Far View Tower. These sites are part of an estimated 50 villages in the Far View area. Along Mesa Top Loop Road, the mesa-top Sun Temple, which contemporary Pueblo Indians describe as a ceremonial space, is accessible by self-guided tour. On Wetherill Mesa, ride the tram to the trailhead for the mesa-top Badger House Community that dates from c. 600 to c. 1200 AD, as well as several short trails to overlooks.

What the Spanish called Mesa Verde, “green table,” many Ancestral Puebloans once called home. Although the inhabitants of the mesa are gone, visitors to the park will marvel at the spectacular cliff dwellings and artifacts that tell of a people adept at building, artistic in their crafts, and skillful at making a living from a difficult land. By the Classic Period, Ancestral Puebloans were heirs of a vigorous civilization, whose accomplishments in community living and the arts rank among the finest expressions of human culture in North America. Today, at least 24 tribes throughout New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, and Texas trace their roots to the cliffs of Mesa Verde.

Plan your visit

Mesa Verde National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located off US Route 160, 10 miles east of Cortez, CO. The Mesa Verde Administrative District, part of Mesa Verde National Park, has been designated a National Historic Landmark.Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration files for the Mesa Verde Administrative District (text andphotos). Mesa Verde National Park is designated a World Heritage Site. For more information, visit the National Park Service Mesa Verde National Park website or call 970-529-4465. 

Sites within the park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey and Historic American Engineering Record. Mesa Verde National Park is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

Montezuma Castle National Monument, Arizona

Organized settlement in the Americas began long before European explorers arrived.  Bands of people, some nomadic, others more fixed, moved about the continent leaving behind a rich archeological record that helps to tell the story of where and how they lived.  In the Verde Valley of Arizona, Montezuma Castle National Monument protects an impressive cliff dwelling, Montezuma Castle, and a large sinkhole. Montezuma Well, that were important to early peoples as they gradually transitioned from highly mobile societies to more sedentary ways of life.

First constructed during the early 1100s, Montezuma Castle was part of a complex of dwellings built at various times, which the Hohokam and later the Sinagua people inhabited until the Sinagua deserted the entire site around 1425.  The five-story, 20-room castle is evidence of an important shift in early American Indian culture from a nomadic to a more settled way of life. Before the Sinagua built Montezuma Castle, various peoples, including the Hohokam, were in the area. The first settlements date from between 1 and 700 AD. The Hohokam seem to have been the first to set up long-term residence.  Importantly, the Hohokam appear to have begun either to divide labor into specialized crafts or to develop trading routes.  Whether through trade or expert craftsmen, the Hohokam developed a community not based solely on hunting and gathering.  They constructed both private and communal pithouses (perhaps for religious ceremonies), but the pithouse dwellings were below ground level and offered little protection against attack.

The Sinagua moved village life up into the cliffs when they constructed Montezuma Castle. Much larger than the individual pithouses, the castle rests on limestone covered with mud.  The interior of Montezuma Castle is not open to the public but a paved trail that leads to the base of the site from the visitor center allows visitors to understand the height advantage gained by the Sinagua in moving the settlement from the valley to the cliffs.  Living in this protected site, the Sinagua developed a rich material culture that further refined the division of labor present in the earlier Hohokam settlement to include pottery, tools, basketry, and clothing.  Many Sinagua artifacts were found near Montezuma Castle in a structure called Castle A against the base of the cliff, part of the progression from living on the valley floor to overlooking it.  Because of its greater exposure, Castle A is badly deteriorated, but it once was larger than Montezuma Castle.  Artifacts from both Castle A and Montezuma Castle are on display in the visitor center museum.

Large communal dwellings like Montezuma Castle where people occupied close spaces necessitated a shift in how individuals relate to each other and in their food gathering patterns.  These shifting patterns were the result of a gradual change from solitary hunter-gatherers to communities composed of larger numbers of individuals living together.  These changes would not have been possible in Montezuma Castle National Monument without Montezuma Well.  This sinkhole near Montezuma Castle was the source of constant potable water in an arid land.  Montezuma Well provided the communities that grew up around it water to drink and to fill a series of irrigation canals begun before 1150 AD and improved by the Hohokam and Sinagua.  Some of these canals continue to be used today.  The presence of water in the desert supported plant and animal life. The sinkhole attracted previously nomadic peoples to settle in the area by enticing wild game and supporting agriculture in close proximity to a village.  Visitors to Montezuma Well can explore this unexpected ecosystem by foot along a half-mile paved trail.

Despite the advantages of castle dwelling and the fresh water from Montezuma Well, inhabitants abandoned both sites for unknown reasons around 1425 AD.  When the first European explorers traveled through the Verde Valley in the late 1500s, the Yavapai occupied the castle and sinkhole areas, but they do not appear to have established settlements either as large or as permanent as previous groups.  The relationship between the Yavapai and Sinagua is unclear, and changes in the composition of the tribes of the Southwest largely brought about by increased Anglo settlement further confuse who occupied the sites after the 1500s.  Today, Montezuma Castle National Monument primarily emphasizes the period of Sinagua settlement, because the castle and well both highlight Sinagua material culture and represent the end of a pre-contact settlement pattern that began on the valley floor and steadily moved up into the cliffs.

Plan your visit

Montezuma Castle National Monument is a unit of the National Park Service with two parts.  Montezuma Castle is located approximately 45 minutes south of Flagstaff, AZ on Montezuma Castle Road, off Interstate 17, Exit 289.  Montezuma Well is also off Interstate 17 at Exit 293 past the towns of McGuireville and Rimrock, AZ.  Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Montezuma Castle National Monumentwebsite or call the visitor information line at 928-567-3322.  

Montezuma Well and Montezuma Castle have both been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey: Montezuma WellMontezuma Castle. Montezuma Castle National Monument is also one of a number of sites featured in the National Park Service American Southwest travel itinerary.

Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee

Winding through historic countryside that has witnessed many years of human settlement, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive from Natchez, Mississippi to just a few miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. The parkway is a trip through fine scenery and 10,000 years of human history on the Old Trace, which was used by American Indians, “Kaintucks,” settlers, and others who played a role in American history. Today, visitors can learn about America’s first inhabitants and the founding and settlement of this country through the people and places of the Natchez Trace and also enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

American Indians settled along animal trails they followed through the forest. The original Natchez Trace connected the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez tribes. Europeans mapped the trace as early as the 1730s. A narrow ribbon winding along ridgelines through wooded and open areas, the trace connected neighboring villages with each other and with communities further away. As European settlements grew, the role of the trace changed as it became a major north-south trade route. In the 1800s, traders and merchants began to look for opportunities to sell their goods and services to those living on the frontier of the new United States.

The Natchez Trace was part of an expanding Euro-American trade network that served States such as Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Traders called Kaintucks transported agricultural products, coal, and livestock down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from the north to the south. When they reached New Orleans or Natchez, they sold the boats that carried the goods for lumber. The Kaintucks then walked or rode back approximately 500 miles on the Natchez Trace to Nashville and on to other cities north. At its peak, more than 10,000 Kaintucks traveled the Natchez Trace annually. By foot, the trip took roughly 35 days.

Crossing lands sometimes called the “Old Southwest,” the Natchez Trace cut through the historic homelands of the Chickasaw and Choctaw. The Chickasaw remained on their homeland until the 1830s when a treaty with the U.S. government forced them to move west--along with Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles. Approximately 5,000 Chickasaw endured a forced march west to Oklahoma along a series of trails they named the "Trail of Tears" for the hundreds who died during the march. The Choctaw also walked west as part of this migration, though some have returned to the area. Forced to abandon their homelands for white settlements, thousands of American Indians traveled and perished along the Trail of Tears, which is included in this travel itinerary.

The ancestors of today’s American Indians first arrived in the area of the Natchez Trace around 12,000 years ago. Between 2100 years ago and the 1700s, these first peoples constructed mounds. The earliest mounds were burial mounds; later mounds were temple sites or possibly the residences of important persons. Built by the complex societies of the Mississippi area, these mounds were part of a network of settlements throughout the region. Diseases introduced by Europeans in the 1500s wiped out much of the indigenous population, thus ending the mound-building tradition.

The first mound-builders lived between 100 B.C. and 200 A.D., which archeologists call the Middle Woodland period. Peoples of this time were primarily semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Mounds from this period tended to be the burial places of prominent tribal members. The later mound-builders lived between 1000 and 1700 A.D. Unlike earlier mounds, which had rounded domes, the mounds these people constructed were flat earth platforms. The society of these later mound-builders was significantly more socially complex.

When Europeans arrived, they found the mounds and the trails of these first peoples. These ancient routes formed the beginnings of the Natchez Trace. What had once been the paths of animals and hunting trails soon became a major long-distance trade route until new technology, like the steamboat in the 1820s, made the long journey by foot unnecessary.

Today, the parkway offers many opportunities to explore the history, culture, and peoples of the Old Southwest. Miles are measured from zero, beginning at Natchez. Between Natchez and Jackson at mile marker 10.3, visitors can view Emerald Mound, a very large temple mound. Boyd Mounds Site is at mile marker 106.9, Bynum Mound and Village Site at 232.4, Bynum Mound and Village Site at 232.4, Pharr Mounds at 286.7, and Bear Creek Mound and Village Site at mile marker 303.8. The Tupelo Visitor Center provides information on these sites.

Also between Natchez and Jackson, Mount Locust at mile marker 15.5 is the last of approximately 50 inns (also known as “stands”) that once dotted the roadside between Natchez and Nashville. Visitors can walk the grounds of the property, see the house, and tour the graveyard of the family that operated the inn and their slaves. The property is open seasonally, with guided tours available. At mile marker 41.5, visitors can walk along a short trail on the old Trace and view a rut worn into the soil by the steady trampling of thousands of feet.

Between Jackson and Tupelo, visitors can explore the natural setting of the trail at sites like Ross Barnett Reservoir (105.6) or Cypress Swamp (122.0). The Bynum Mounds site encompasses two restored mounds and interpretive exhibits on the earliest residents of the area. The Chickasaw Village Site (261.8) is a recreated village. This site also provides access to the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. The main visitor center at Tupelo( 266.0) offers an orientation film and exhibits highlighting the natural and cultural history of the parkway. From Tupelo, through Alabama, to Tennessee, visitors can walk along the original Trace (Old Trace, (269.4) or visit Pharr Mounds, (286.7). At the mound site, wayside exhibits describe the lively village life of the site 2,000 years ago. A seasonal visitor center is at the former landing site of the Colbert Ferry (327.3). A bridge now crosses the Tennessee River at this spot.

In Tennessee, visitors can stop at the gravesite of Meriwether Lewis, who, with William Clark, led the first United States expedition (1804–1806) to the Pacific Coast. Lewis died under mysterious circumstances near mile 385.9. A reconstructed cabin at the site is similar in style to the inn where Lewis was staying when he died. The site also has a campground, picnic area, and hiking trails. The Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (401.4) interpret the cultivation and curing of tobacco, an important agricultural crop that continues to support the South. Visitors may also drive along the original Trace route (southbound only).

Plan your visit

Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park System, runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. The main park visitor center is located at 2680 Natchez Trace Parkway in Tupelo, MS. The Emerald Mound Site, part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Approximately two dozen sites along the Parkway have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There is no fee to visit sites along the Parkway. The main visitor center is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily, except for December 25. For more information, visit the National Park Service Natchez Trace Parkway website or call 1-800-305-7417.

The Parkway has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record. Natchez Trace Parkway is also featured in the National Park Service Indian Mounds of Mississippi Travel Itinerary. The Natchez Trace is an All-American Road and a National Scenic Trail. Locations along the parkway are also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.


Navajo National Monument, Arizona

The Hopi, San Juan Southern Paiute, Zuni, and Navajo Indians all trace their ancestors to Navajo National Monument. Called the Ancestral Pueblo, these ancient people constructed Betatakin, Keet Seel, and Inscription House--the three major cliff dwellings located within the park. The Ancestral Puebloans occupied these pueblos for a relatively short time, leaving behind very few clues as to why they left, but considerable evidence about how they lived.

Though the first residents of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona arrived approximately 10,000 years ago, these first peoples were primarily nomadic. Starting around 6000 BC, however, the population of the area grew, and by 500 BC, the cultivation of crops began, as did the organized practice of religion. Agriculture reshaped living patterns and foodways as these early peoples began to settle in fixed places longer. While they were still comparatively mobile, they tended agricultural crops, which required that they reside at least part of the year in one area, often living in caves.

Archeologists believe that approximately a thousand years later, in 500 AD, residents of the region still shifted residences seasonally, alternating primarily between two locations based on the food or water resources at each location. To house increasingly fixed populations, the design and layout of dwellings became more sophisticated. Communities formed as the Ancestral Puebloans constructed groups of buildings together. Population growth around 900 AD caused small, distinct, regional groups to break off from larger communities. One of these breakaway groups was the Kayenta Anasazi, the ancestral Hopi.

Developing a settled, sedentary agricultural life using the farming of corn and other crops to supplement their diets throughout the year, the Ancestral Puebloans abandoned the need to travel constantly to hunt for food. With growing success at producing a surplus of drought-resistant crops and an expanding trade network, the communities in the area grew and established the cliff dwellings visible today. By 1100 AD, however, it was difficult to sustain this growth. In the early 1200s, settlement within the park declined because the land could no longer support the population, possibly because of drought. While most of the pueblos at Navajo National Monument show great architectural sophistication in comparison to the pithouses from earlier settlement groups, they also represent the waning years for the settlement as a whole.

Visitors to the park can hike to two Ancestral Puebloan villages from the 1200s, Betatakin and Keet Seel, where it is possible to get a sense of what life in the American Southwest was like more than 700 years ago. Visitors will also be albe to enter the ruins to experience them firsthand.

The pueblos the Ancestral Puebloans constructed generally had three types of spaces--living, storage, and ceremonial. The ceremonial spaces are usually called kivas. Villages were most often of the plaza, courtyard, or pithouse variety. Plaza sites had a long central room surrounded by residential or storage areas with other rooms present but opposite an open plaza. Villages of the plaza type mixed the building traditions of a number of cultures together reflecting the variety of cultural influences in the region. Courtyard sites, which had no standard form, often used interior open courtyards between rooms as kivas. Defensive walls fortified these settlements, protecting the somewhat loosely knit groups of inhabitants. Pithouse villages were often built close to the land used for farming and were quite spread out. One reason for the variability in construction patterns was the challenging environment of the canyon. Water was then, as it is now, a precious commodity; prolonged or unexpected drought led to crop failures that could cause family groups to migrate away from even the most established communities in search of better land or resources.

Called Talastima by the Hopi, Betatakin was a village built after 1250 AD. Though there is evidence that previous groups had lived in the cave at Betatakin, the Ancestral Pueblo rebuilt existing structures rather than reusing them. The pueblo at Betatakin has about 135 rooms and relatively few kivas, which is surprising given that Ancestral Puebloan dwellings usually had ceremonial spaces. Also located at a previously occupied site, Keet Seel dates from between 900 and 1170 AD and most likely took the form of a courtyard settlement. The pueblo at Keet Seel had 154 rooms with spaces for storage, living, and worship. When visiting Betatakin or Keet Seel, note how the physical geography required that each pueblo be fit to the site. The shape of each cave determines the presence of courtyard or plaza sites, for example.

Betatakin and Keet Seel were not occupied for long periods. The village at Betatakin was used only between 1250 and 1300, while the larger pueblo village at Keet Seel was largely abandoned around 1300 AD. Beyond the caves that shelter these two villages are smaller Ancestral Pueblo buildings and sites. Perhaps a climactic change, like the drought mentioned above, caused this area to become uninhabitable or perhaps strained personal relations drove the Ancestral Pueblo away to be absorbed into other groups in the Southwest. Before leaving, they constructed the impressive pueblo villages visible today and left behind finely crafted pottery and other artifacts. In addition to intricately decorated pottery frequently decorated with geometric patterns, the Ancestral Pueblo also created textiles with similar patterns. After the abandonment of the area, the canyon was empty until roughly 1400-1500 AD when the Navajo arrived just about the same time as the Spanish explorers.

The Hopi have deep ties to the area, and the Navajo reservation surrounds the pueblos. The lands of Navajo National Monument are equally important to the San Juan Southern Paiute and Zuni. The San Juan Southern Paiute, neighbors to the Navajo and Hopi, have used the land as a hunting ground and to grow food. Zuni tradition recognizes the caves and canyons of Navajo National Monument as having been part of the Zuni migration to the Grand Canyon. The area is important to the cultural identity of a number of peoples.

Plan your visit

Navajo National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at the end of State Highway 564 in Shonto, AZ. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The park and visitor center are open daily, with seasonal hours. For more information, visit the National Park Service Navaho National Monument website or call 928-672-2700.

Keet Seel has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. All three of the main cliff dwellings at Navajo National Monument are featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.


Nez Perce National Historical Park,
Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington

A park dedicated to preserving the traditions, culture, and land of an entire people, Nez Perce National Historical Park includes 38 sites stretching across four States—Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The park focuses on three broad themes: Nez Perce culture, the “discovery” and mapping of America, and westward expansion during the mid-1800s. The arrival of settlers from the east, treaties that defined Nez Perce land, and conflicts between settlers and the Nez Perce profoundly altered the more than 11,000-year-old Nez Perce culture. In the park, visitors will learn about the endurance and resilience of the Nez Perce people.

Orientation information, such as films and museum exhibits, is available at several visitor centers associated with sites in the park. The main visitor center in Spalding, Idaho offers a film and exhibits about the Nez Perce, seasonal guided walks, and tipi demonstrations. At the visitor center at Big Hole National Battlefield, visitors can learn about the 1877 Nez Perce War and Big Hole National Battlefield. Bear Paw Battlefield interprets the Nez Perce War and its impact.

The Nez Perce

Nez Perce National Historical Park includes some of the homelands of the Nez Perce that are culturally and spiritually part of the past, present, and future of the tribe, which today is composed of three separate bands. Early settlement sites include the Lenore Site, where the Nez Perce lived more than 10,000 years ago. In a rest area along Highway 12 in Idaho, interpretive panels describe the village that was located nearby. Elsewhere in Idaho, the Hasotino Village Site and Weiss Rockshelter are two other traditional areas. An exhibit in the visitor center at Hell’s Gate State Park provides information on Hasotino Village. At the Weiss Rockshelter, which was inhabited between 8,000 and 600 years ago, a wayside exhibit describes how the Nez Perce lived and displays some archeological records found at the site.

Visitors can learn about Nez Perce storytelling and culture at several sites that figure in traditional Nez Perce stories, such as Ant and Yellowjacket, Coyote’s Fishnet, and The Heart of the Monster. The stories use the landscape of Idaho to tell about the life of Coyote and other spirits and communicate important cultural lessons. Interpretive signage at Ant and Yellowjacket and Coyote’s Fishnet recounts the stories. A walking trail and audio tour at Heart of the Monster give visitors the background and story. More information on these legends—including directions to the sites—is available here. Ancestors of today’s Nez Perce also left behind sacred sites. Just as important to the Nez Perce culture as the legends are the pictographs and petroglyphs made by their ancestors along the Snake River at Buffalo Eddy, south of Lewiston, Idaho. Visitors can see these images by boat.

The land is very important to the Nez Perce, who seasonally relocated from high to low ground and returned to favored hunting and gathering locations. In Idaho, visitors can learn about collecting camas, a traditional food, at Camas Prairie along US Route 95. The Camas Prairie site, which looks out over Tolo Lake, was an important meeting place for the Nez Perce and the location of some of the initial fighting during the Nez Perce War of 1877. Other root gathering sites include the still used Musselshell Meadow and Weippe Prairie. Confluence Overlook near Lewiston Grade offers a view of the Nez Perce homeland. In Oregon and Washington, visitors can see other Nez Perce lands at Joseph Canyon Viewpoint off Oregon State Route 3 north of Enterprise, the site of a typical winter living place. Traditional summer campsites are at the confluence of the Lostine and Wallowa Rivers at Lostine Campsites. The Nez Perce Nespelem Campsites are another seasonally inhabited area.

Exploring and Mapping America: Lewis & Clark

To people in the East, the Nez Perce lands were a great unmapped western wilderness. Following the addition of the Louisiana Territory to the United States, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, in 1804, led the “Corps of Discovery” to describe this new land and find a way to the Pacific Ocean by water. The Corps traveled from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean on a more than two and a half year trip fraught with danger.

Journeying through Nez Perce territory, Lewis and Clark followed the traditional Lolo Trail west across the Bitterroot Mountains on a route that connects present-day Idaho to Montana and the Great Plains. Weather delays and a lack of food hampered their progress. Visitors can learn about the Lolo Trail by following US Highway 12 or the Lolo Motorway (Forest Road 500) stopping at a seasonally open visitor center. The expedition first encountered the Nez Perce on the open plains next to the Bitterroot Mountains. Interpretive signs on the highway at Weippe Prairie provide information on the site.

Visitors to the Canoe Camp site along the Clearwater River can see where, in 1805, the Nez Perce helped the members of the expedition carve canoes that the Corps used to reach the Pacific Ocean. The Nez Perce agreed to watch their horses while the expedition headed west in the newly made canoes. A reproduction canoe and wayside exhibits line a trail at the site today. Overwintering in present-day Oregon, Lewis and Clark returned to where they had met the Nez Perce in the fall of 1805, hoping to retrieve their horses and return further east. Poor weather forced them to camp for a month at a site called Long Camp at Kamiah, Idaho, where the explorers again spent time with the Nez Perce. Clark, a physician, tended injured Nez Perce. When the weather cleared, Lewis and Clark departed, leaving the Nez Perce as good friends.

In the mid-1800s, Americans believed that it was the Manifest Destiny of the United States to expand across the continent, and settlers began to move west into traditional tribal lands. A treaty in 1855 was intended to define and protect the Nez Perce homeland, but the discovery of gold on that land brought in many outsiders. The US military built Fort Lapwai in Lapwai, Idaho, to help manage the thousands of miners who descended on the Nez Perce reservation. An 1863 treaty reduced the size of the reservation to enable easy access for non-Indians to the lands where gold was discovered. The fort continued to be a military outpost on the reservation and played a role in the later armed conflict between the Nez Perce and the military. Visitors to the fort site can see an Officers’ Quarters building and a later Indian Agency building.

The Nez Perce faced constant change during the 1800s struggling to assert their rights against invading miners and contending with other forces. At Slickpoo, Idaho, St. Joseph’s Mission is a reminder of the missionaries who came in the 1870s to convert the Nez Perce and others to Christianity. When the church is open, guided tours are available. A wayside exhibit gives the history of the Slickpoo community and the mission. Earlier mission sites include the Asa Smith Mission around Kamiah at the Lewis and Clark Long Camp site. The park’s main visitor center at Spalding, Idaho was the site of the mission of Henry and Eliza Spalding in the 1830s. The Spaldings first tried to establish Lapwai Mission. Less than five years after the discovery of gold, the region’s first courthouse appeared in Pierce, Idaho. The Pierce Courthouse offers visitors both indoor and outdoor exhibits on the history of the area and the impact of gold mining on the Nez Perce.

The 1863 treaty dramatically reduced the amount of land allocated to the Nez Perce, and chiefs whose land lay outside the new boundary refused to sign the new treaty. Five bands are known as the non-treaty Nez Perce. In 1877, the government ordered all bands to go to the reservation, whether they had signed the treaty or not. Chief Joseph, a leader of one of the non-treaty bands, objected to the 30-day timetable given to the Nez Perce to get to the reservation, which did not allow them sufficient time to gather livestock or for the water in the Snake River to fall to a level at which it could be easily crossed. Even so, the Nez Perce attempted to follow the order and crossed the river at Dug Bar along the Idaho-Oregon border. In the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area a sign, visible from the river, tells the story of this crossing. In June 1877, at a campsite close to the reservation, three Nez Perce warriors attacked white settlers who had earlier wronged them or their families. More warriors joined in the attack killing 17 settlers. Long a gathering site for the Nez Perce, the campsite is along Tolo Lake, outside of Grangeville, Idaho, where visitors can go birding, fishing, and boating.

Most of the non-treaty Nez Perce went to White Bird Canyon to defend themselves against a retaliatory attack. Two days later, US troops attacked and badly beat them in the first battle of the Nez Perce War. At White Bird Battlefield, visitors can learn about the battle, its effects, and Nez Perce life. The Nez Perce fled east to avoid further attacks. Troops under General O. O. Howard pursued them, and skirmished intermittently with them until a two-day battle along the Clearwater River broke out. A stalemate, this battle ended when Chief Looking Glass’s Nez Perce headed toward Montana to join the Crow. Crossing the Lolo Trail, the Nez Perce thought they were safe, but Colonel John Gibbon’s troops pursued and the two sides engaged at the Battle of Big Hole. Located outside of Wisdom, Montana, Big Hole National Battlefield has a visitor center and trails. The conflicts continued as the remaining Nez Perce moved south and east along the Beaverhead Mountains. They passed through Yellowstone National Park while attempting to join Sitting Bull, who had fled to Canada following the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Approaching the Canadian border, the Indians encountered federal troops at the Battle of Bear Paw. Heavy fighting killed many, including Chief Looking Glass. Under Chief Joseph, the remaining non-treaty Nez Perce surrendered. Approximately 800 began the flight to Canada roughly 1,200 miles away—of these, 200 made it to Canada or hid elsewhere. The remainder either died or were among the 431 who surrendered, ending the Nez Perce War. Visitors can take a self-guided trail through Bear Paw Battlefield following a trail map available at the Blaine County Museum or the battlefield. Metal stakes mark where the Nez Perce fell. Ranger-led tours of the battlefield are available seasonally. The Nez Perce (Nee-Me-Poo) trail retraces the flight of the Nez Perce from the army in Oregon to the Canadian border. Information on the trail is available at the Nez Perce National Historic Trail website.

The Nez Perce War and other fighting ended the nomadic traditions of the Nez Perce and confined them to reservations. Today, their culture endures despite great disruption. Nez Perce National Historical Park interprets the history of the Nez Perce, the growth of the United States, and the competing interests in westward expansion.

Plan your visit

Nez Perce National Historical Park is focused on 38 sites located across Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. The Lolo TrailWeippe Prairie, and Chief Joseph Battleground of Bear’s Paw (Bear Paw Battlefield) have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration files for the Lolo Trail (text and photos), Pierce Courthouse (text and photos), St. Joseph’s Mission (text and photos), Weippe Prairie (text and photos), White Bird Battlefield (text and photos), and Chief Joseph Battleground of Bear’s Paw (text and photos).

Directions, contact information, and hours of operations for sites within the park, including the visitor centers at Spalding, Idaho, Big Hole National Battlefield, and Bear Paw Battlefield may be found here. For more information, visit the National Park Service Nez Perce National Historical Park website or call 208-843-7001.

Several national trails pass through Nez Perce National Historical Park, including Nez Perce National Historic Trail and Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Within Nez Perce National Historical Park, the Lolo Trail has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record and Watson’s Store (part of the Spalding visitor center site) by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

Sites within the park are also featured in the National Park Service Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary and are the subject of an online lesson plan, The Lewis & Clark Expedition: Documenting the Uncharted Northwest. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. Visit the National Park Service Teaching with Museum Collections lesson plansand virtual exhibit on Nez Perce National Historical Park.


Ocmulgee National Monument, Georgia

Beginning with the hunters of the Ice Age before 9000 BC and lasting until around 1715 AD, a series of peoples lived in the area around Ocmulgee National Monument. Each successive group left behind a record of their presence in what is today central Georgia. Some cultural groups constructed mounds, trenches, and ceremonial structures, the largest visible reminders of the region’s past residents. These mounds, trenches, and structures, and more than one million artifacts represent over 10,000 years of human history.

The earliest American Indians who settled in the area of what is now Macon, Georgia were highly nomadic hunters whose presence is traced to what is called a Clovis point, a specific type of spear point known to be produced before 9,000 BC. Later groups continued to hunt, but developed sedentary agricultural practices. Using more advanced tools, they tended crops, like corn and beans, and crafted pottery. A group of peoples called the Mississippians, after the Mississippi Valley where they originated, pushed earlier settlers out of the Ocmulgee National Monument area. From 900 to roughly 1350, the Mississippian peoples were the dominant cultural group. They brought their own traditions and adopted those of previous cultures. Among the most significant cultural features of the Mississippians were the lodges and earthen mounds they constructed. Several of these mounds, a reconstructed lodge, and a late Mississippian village are within Ocmulgee National Monument. The village was inhabited from c. 1350 to the late 1600s, when the Creek Indians moved to the area. The Creek came to trade with the British, after they established a trading post in 1690.

No one knows the exact significance and purpose of all of the mounds. The Great and Lesser Temple Mounds were religious structures, although how they fit into worship is unknown. Both are flat-topped mounds. The Great Temple Mound was built between 900-1100 AD and, like the Lesser Temple Mound, was constructed in stages as layers of earth and plant matter were alternated to build up the structure. The Great Temple Mound originally had a dirt ramp that led to a prominent structure built on top of the mound. The laying of railroad tracks partially destroyed the Lesser Temple Mound; however, the Great Temple Mound is in better condition and accessible to visitors to the park.

The Cornfield Mound and the Funeral Mound are also in the park. The arrival of the railroad damaged the Funeral Mound, which is the only burial mound in the park. The remains of over 100 people have been found in this mound. Some of the bodies were buried with shell or copper ornaments. Cornfield Mound is on top of what was once a field and was likely used as the foundation for a ceremonial structure; since the mound encapsulated the field, the field is very well preserved. The location of the field is unusual, as the Mississippian people usually farmed closer to the river. Other mounds in the park include the McDougal Mound (which may have been conical), the Southeast Mound, and the Dunlap Mound, where a home for a chief may have once stood. Later settlers sometimes disturbed these and other sites. Cutting the right-of-way for railroad tracks carved out parts of some mounds and the construction of roads used dirt from other mounds as fill material. Despite these changes, visitors to the park can see a wide variety of Mississippian ceremonial mound structures.

The sod-covered earthlodge at Ocmulgee is a reconstruction. The original earthlodge was a gathering place for the Mississippian. The placement of seats around the edge of the room and a smaller group under the figure of an eagle suggests that the earthlodge was a meeting place. Visitors to the park may enter the earthlodge. While the roof and walls have been rebuilt, the lodge still has portions of the original floor from 1015 AD. Near the earthlodge is a series of trenches from may have been the soource of the soil to construct the mounds. These trenches partially surround the site of a village that included the earthlodge and several mounds possibly intended to protect the community. It is unclear whether other groups threatened the inhabitants of this area along the Ocmulgee River. Nevertheless, the village community that constructed so many of the mounds and the earthlodge left the area around 1100.

After the first group of Mississippians' departure, death, or absorption by other tribes, the village site saw little use until a new Mississippian group settled in the 1300s. This group, called the Lamar, used the old village site and established a new, fortified site to the south. Surrounded by a palisade, the new Lamar village site also had two temple mounds, one of which featured a spiraling ramp leading up to the top. The Lamar Mississippians also created distinctive pottery, some of which is on display at the park museum and visitor center. Despite the advanced culture of the Lamar, larger changes with deep cultural impacts were on the horizon. The first European explorers came to the region in the mid-1500s, and after them European settlers. European disease and cultural practices reduced American Indian populations and removed some from their land. By the late 1600s, the British established a trading post and the Creek gradually replaced the Mississippian culture until the builders of these massive mounds were no more.

Plan your visit

Ocmulgee National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1207 Emery Highway in Macon, GA. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. There is no fee to visit the park except during two special events, the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration held in September and the Lantern Light Tours offered in March. An orientation film can be viewed at the visitor center. Ranger-led tours of the Lamar Mounds and village are available seasonally. Biking and hiking trails are also located within the park. The park is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, except for Christmas and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Ocmulgee National Monument website or call 478-752-8257.

Pea Ridge National Military Park, Arkansas

Between March 6 and 8, 1862, Union and Confederate troops met in battle at Pea Ridge in Arkansas. Even though Union forces were fighting deep in the South, they successfully defeated Confederate troops, despite being surprised and outnumbered. This important victory commemorated at Pea Ridge National Military Park ensured that Union forces controlled Missouri and the major transportation center at St. Louis throughout the Civil War. Visitors to the park can learn about the battle, about the Cherokee soldiers who fought there, and also about the Trail of Tears the Cherokee and other American Indian tribes followed when they were forced to leave their homes.

Today, Pea Ridge rises above quiet fields that show little evidence of the conflict that took place there roughly 150 years ago. The landscape is still very similar to that of the 1860s; some argue that Pea Ridge is the best-preserved Civil War battlefield. Though the battle at Pea Ridge took place in Arkansas, it served to drive pro-Confederate forces from Missouri. In two days in 1862, Federal troops defeated Confederates through superior leadership. Many of the major leaders at Pea Ridge went on to even greater successes in the US Army. Visitors to the park can learn about the people and places of Pea Ridge at the visitor center by viewing the orientation film and exhibits on the Civil War.

The battle at Pea Ridge took place just about a year after the war began in April 1861. Fighting occurred primarily at the village of Leetown and the Elkhorn Tavern. The 1835 tavern burned following the battle. A reconstructed tavern from the 1880s replacing the original cabin is in the park. During the fighting, the tavern sheltered the family who lived there and troops from both sides depending on who controlled the area. The soldiers used the tavern as both a hospital and a headquarters office. All that remains of the village of Leetown is a burial plot.

Telegraph Road (Wire Road) brought trade, commerce, and settlers to Arkansas in the early 1800s. In the late 1820s, thousands of American Indian groups were marched west along this road. During the Civil War, soldiers marched to battle along the roadbed.

Brigadier General Samuel Curtis led Federal troops. Curtis anticipated that Confederate troops, under the direction of Major General Van Dorn, would attack him from the south. Instead, Van Dorn divided his troops. Some came from the north following Telegraph Road, and others came from the west, attacking Leetown. In deciding on this tactic, Van Dorn made a mistake. Sending his troops on ahead, he left the ammunition wagons behind. When the first day of fighting was over, Curtis and his troops were able to resupply themselves. The Confederates fell into a trap; without access to fresh supplies, they were defeated despite their numbers. Curtis received a promotion to major general following Pea Ridge.

While no scars from the battle mar the open fields at Pea Ridge National Military Park, visitors to the site will notice trenches in a separate part of the park south of the visitor center. Though Federal troops under Curtis built these trenches during the battle at Pea Ridge, troops did not use them during the struggle. They did play a role in the battle, though, as they convinced Van Dorn to attack from the north. The trench area is accessible to the public via a short interpretive walk around the site.

The area around the battlefield was a major crossroads and several roads pass through the park. One of these roads, the Springfield to Fayetteville Road, also known as Telegraph Road, passes just by the Elkhorn Tavern. Many troops marched along this road during the battle. In the late 1820s, thousands of Cherokee and other Indian tribes followed this road and passed by the tavern as the Federal Government forced them to relocate from tribal lands in the East to new land in the West. This road segment at Pea Ridge, together with other routes, forms the Trail of Tears. While visiting Elkhorn Tavern, visitors to the park can see one of the best-preserved roads along which the Cherokee traveled in the 1820s.

Some of the Confederate soldiers who fought at Pea Ridge were Cherokee who earlier traveled along the Trail of Tears as part of the relocation. One of the men who signed the treaty allowing the government to force the Cherokee west, Stand Watie, led a group of soldiers at Pea Ridge. Watie formed the Confederate 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles and commanded the regiment at Pea Ridge. Afterwards, he led the regiment to fight in 18 battles and major skirmishes and other minor skirmishes and raids. In 1864, he became the only American Indian promoted to brigadier general in either the Union or Confederate army. He also has the distinction of being the last Confederate general to surrender to Union soldiers.

Plan your visit

Pea Ridge National Military Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 15930 E Highway 62 in Garfield, AR. Pea Ridge National Military Park and several other sites within the park are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration files for Pea Ridge National Military Park (text and photos). There is a fee to enter the park. The park and visitor center are usually open 8:00am to 5:00pm daily. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Pea Ridge National Military Park website or call 479-451-8122.

Elkhorn Tavern has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

Riding and hiking trails are available at the park. In addition, the visitor center offers an orientation film as well as exhibits highlighting the history of the battle. An auto tour route with signs explaining the battle is also available.

 

Pecos National Historical Park, New Mexico

On the historic Santa Fe Trail, where the Pecos Indians once commanded the trade path between Pueblo farmers of the Rio Grande and hunting tribes of the buffalo plains, lie the ruins of the Pecos pueblo and Spanish missions. This old frontier brought war and trade, and witnessed the rise and decline of the powerful Pecos, the development of Spanish churches, the creation of the Santa Fe Trail, and the Civil War. Today, Pecos National Historical Park preserves over 12,000 years of history including the ancient pueblo of Pecos, colonial Missions, Santa Fe Trail sites, 20th century ranch history of Forked Lightning Ranch, and the site of the Civil War Battle of Glorieta Pass.

The Pecos Indians were an advanced tribe with a heritage deeply rooted in the Puebloan culture of the American Southwest.  Like their Pueblo ancestors, the Pecos practiced ancient customs in agriculture, religion, and architecture. Farming was essential to their livelihood.  By applying an ancient agricultural technique that had originated in Mexico, the people of Pecos were able to supply most of their diet of corn, beans, and squash. Farming also influenced the architectural design of the Pecos village, and like many Pueblo tribes of the American Southwest, the Pecos built storerooms to set aside food for the winter and check dams to regulate the water that flowed to their crops. Their impressive architecture also included large multi-story houses built above the storerooms using adobe--a mud and straw-based material they mixed and molded together to look like bricks. To protect the village, the Pecos erected a large wall, which according to one Spanish conquistador, was visible from a far distance.

The most impressive structures were the kivas, subterranean pit-houses used for religious and ceremonial purposes. Although they varied in shape and size, they were traditionally circular with a hole in the floor. The hole in the ground represented the connection to the underworld, which the Pecos and other Pueblo tribes believed was their people’s place of origin. Kivas connected the world above to the spirits of the underworld, and the floor opening allowed the people to have a closer communion with the spirits below. The Pecos routinely prayed to the underworld through ceremonies and brought offerings to the spirits to receive good fortune. They feared that failing to perform these rituals would upset the spirits, which in turn would cause their crops to die and their overall world to become unbalanced. The Pecos continued to hold onto these beliefs after the Spanish came.

The Spanish first encountered the Pecos when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado traveled to northern Mexico in search of the seven golden cities. The legendary cities, known as Cibola, attracted many explorers to the American Southwest once Cabeza de Vaca spoke of their existence after returning from his expedition in 1536. Hearing the tales of Cabeza de Vaca’s travels, Coronado set out in 1540 to New Spain’s northern frontier with an army of 12,000 to claim these Native American cities. When Coronado and his men reached the village of Pecos, they did not find Cibola.  Instead, they encountered a Plains Indian held captive at Pecos who told Coronado and his men about a land filled with the riches that the Spaniards sought. In the spring of 1541, Coronado and his men followed the Plains Indian to this mystical land called Quivira.  After wondering for days through present day Kansas, Coronado killed the Plains Indian when he learned that the guide tricked them.  Having failed to find Cibola, Coronado and his men turned back and returned to Mexico empty-handed.

Although Coronado’s expedition failed, the Spanish were still determined to colonize the Pueblo lands and convert the American Indians to Christianity. By 1598, the Spanish had crossed the Rio Grande, and under the leadership of Don Juan de Onate, the Franciscan friars began to convert the people of Pecos. Initially, the Spanish missionaries failed. When veteran missionary Fray Andres Juarez arrived to Pecos in 1621, the relationship between the natives and the missionaries improved. The Franciscans gained the trust of the Pecos Indians and under the direction of Juarez, the Pecos and the Franciscan friars built an adobe church that was the most prominent of all of the New Mexico mission churches. The mission succeeded under the ministry of Fray Juarez, and from 1621 to 1634, the Franciscan missions continued to expand throughout New Mexico. Eventually, the missions would fail when church and civil officials began to compete for the labor and loyalty of the natives, which bred Indian resentment that led to the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.

After decades of Spanish demands, numerous tribes of Pueblo Indians united to drive the Spaniards from their ancestral lands. Although some Pecos Indians were still loyal to the Franciscans, most followed their tribal elders in the revolt and killed the priests. The survivors of the struggle moved back to Mexico. The Spanish would not return to Pecos for another 12 years. When Diego de Vargas revisited the lost Spanish colony in 1692, he was awed by the warm welcome at Pecos and by the Indians’ willingness to assist the Spaniard in his quest to reclaim the American Southwest.

After the people of Pecos supplied Vargas with 140 warriors, the Spanish recaptured Santa Fe, and began to rebuild the mission. The Pecos and the Spanish erected a smaller church on the ruins of the old mission church, and together established a peaceful Spanish-Pueblo community. The serene environment in Santa Fe lasted until the 1780s, when disease and Comanche raids destroyed Pecos and reduced the population to less than 300. Survivors eventually left their decaying community, and in 1838, the Pecos joined their kinfolk at Jemez pueblo.

Pecos National Historical Park remains rich in Pecos culture and history. Visitors to the park can climb down into two kivas, the ceremonial and social spaces that the Pecos believed allowed them closer communion with the spirits of the underworld. Kivas continued to be a significant part of Pecos life even after the Spanish Franciscan friars established their first church, “The Lost Church,” in the early 17th century. Guided tours of the original structure of the Lost Church are one of the key attractions in the park. Tourists can also see the ruins by following the self-guided trail to parts of the Pecos Pueblo, Mission Churches, and the two reconstructed kivas. 

Those interested in Pecos Civil War history can stop by the site of the Battle of Glorieta Pass, which scholars often refer to as the Gettysburg of the West.  Pecos National Historical Park is also the site of the Forked Lightning Ranch House made famous by its occupants, Tex Austin “Daddy of the Rodeo,” oilman and rancher E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson, and his wife, actress Greer Garson.

Plan your visit

Pecos National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located 25 miles east of Santa Fe, NM off Interstate 25. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Pecos National Historical Park Visitor Center and Trail are open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm during the summer. The trail’s winter hours are from 8:00am to 5:00pm, and the visitor center closes at 4:30pm. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Pecos National Historical Park website or call 505-757-7200.

Pecos National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Pecos is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

 

Petroglyph National Monument, New Mexico

Approximately 130,000 years ago, lava poured from a crack in the earth today located in New Mexico, west of Albuquerque. As it cooled, this lava created a 25,000-foot thick sheet of rock. Later, volcanoes and other forces shaped the rock into a long ridgeline. Here, groups of both American Indians and Spanish settlers carved messages and religious symbols into the ancient volcanic rock. On a network of trails, visitors to Petroglyph National Monument can explore this land with its volcanoes, archeological sites, and some 24,000 carvings of animals, people, brands, crosses, and other images that still have meaning for people today.

Trails for moderate to strenuous hikes at Boca Negra Canyon, Rinconada Canyon, and Piedras Marcadas Canyon, offer views of the petroglyphs. The volcanoes area in the park shows more of the natural features of the park. A visitor center provides information about the trails and special activities within the park. The visitor center is housed in the adobe-style former home of Dr. Sophie Aberle, an early anthropologist.

The petroglyphs are carved directly into the surface of the rock, chipped off by chisel and other stones. The ancient Puebloans created most of the petroglyphs. These ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indians lived in the area around the Rio Grande for more than 1,500 years. Around 1300 AD, the population of the Puebloans increased and new settlements were formed to accommodate this growth. As the population expanded throughout the Southwest, some groups settled on the lands that are included within the park where they, the Apache, and the Navajo appear to have created most of the petroglyphs between 1300 and the 1680s. The earliest petroglyphs are considerably older, dating from 2000 BC.

These petroglyphs are not just reminders of the heritage of American Indian peoples in the American Southwest. The petroglyphs also have contemporary religious and ceremonial meaning for some tribes. The orientation of a symbol relative to other symbols, parts of the landscape, or the horizon are significant, just as is the petroglyph itself. Some petroglyphs record important events for a family group or a tribe, while others have much more personal, private meanings.

American Indian tribes consider the images and the land within Petroglyph National Monument to be a sacred space. Visitors to the park are encouraged to observe the petroglyphs, but not to touch them; touching the carvings or other surfaces of the rocks is forbidden, as this will disturb their patina. Once this happens, the original petroglyph can be eroded and lost. A patina, or coating, forms on the surface of the rocks over time. Those who carved the petroglyphs chipped away at this patina, also called desert varnish, to create the images we see today.

The Ancient Puebloans were not the only ones who carved images and symbols into the rocks of the desert around Albuquerque. Spanish settlers who arrived in the area beginning in the 1540s also created petroglyphs. The earliest Spanish were not settlers, but explorers looking for land suitable for future settlements. Having found good land along the Rio Grande, these explorers provided reports back to Spain that encouraged others to come and settle. For roughly 80 years, between 1600 and 1680, the Spanish moved into the area, creating a farm and ranch system along the Rio Grande.

During the Pueblo Revolt in 1680, the native Puebloans in the area rebelled against the forced labor and the Catholicism the Spanish imposed on them. For 12 years, American Indians again controlled a large amount of land in present-day New Mexico before Spanish forces retook the land. Don Diego de Vargas, who succeeded in reoccupying New Mexico for the Spanish, recognized the contributions of one man who fought for the Spanish, Don Fernando Duran y Chaves II, by giving him more than 80,000 acres west of the Rio Grande. Spanish settlement in the area of the park resumed and the amount of land given to Don Fernando increased through additional grants. Within the area of the grant, known as the Atrisco Land Grant, the Spanish settlers carved petroglyphs just as the Puebloans had. The Spanish petroglyphs were usually Christian symbols, replicas of livestock brands, or a set of initials.

After New Mexico became part of the United States in 1848, the American Indian and Spanish carvings became a part of the American story. The social and cultural roots of Petroglyph National Monument are much older than the United States, though. The park protects the land, the sites, and the petroglyphs and makes them accessible to those who value them today.

Plan your visit

Petroglyph National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located in Albuquerque, NM. Visitors are recommended to begin their tour at the visitor center located off Unser Boulevard on Western Trail. The visitor center is open daily from 8am to 5pm and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Each trail has different opening hours. More information and directions to the trails mentioned above may also be found here. There is no fee to visit the park, although there is a fee to park at the Boca Negra Canyon site. For more information, visit the National Park Service Petroglyph National Monumentwebsite or call 505-899-0205.

While in Albuquerque, visitors may also explore historic Route 66 featured in the National Park Service Route 66 Travel Itinerary.

 

Pipestone National Monument, Minnesota

A hard, reddish stone laboriously quarried by hand, pipestone is a reminder of both a shared history and a common future for many of the Plains Indians. Sacred to the northern prairie cultures and the peoples of the Plains, the lands included within Pipestone National Monument have long been important culturally and socially. From this shared place, generations quarried stone to use for both ceremonial and practical objects. Such was the natural abundance of workable stone at Pipestone that the Indians saw the stone as a gift not to any one tribe but to many. Some sources suggest that the quarries at Pipestone were neutral ground where warring groups would suspend conflict. Ceremonial pipes, home goods, tools, trade objects, and folklore came from Pipestone, where American Indians and Europeans shaped its objects and history. Today, visitors to the park can learn about how Indian groups quarried and formed pipestone into objects and explore one of the few remaining tallgrass prairies in the country.

Pipestone was and is a spiritual center for the nearby Sioux who came to dominate the region in the 1700s, though the area is important to other tribes, too. As a shared sacred place, it provided a common ground for ritual and ceremony for the peoples of the Plains, and it is the source, both historical and contemporary, for sacred objects. Though trade in Pipestone began before 700 AD prior to the arrival of the Sioux, the limited population of the Great Plains restricted circulation of the pipestone. As the population in the area grew after 700 AD, use and trade of the stone increased as many different tribes shared the quarry. Aided by horses and firearms European colonizers introduced in the 1500s and 1600s, the Sioux expanded into the Pipestone area driving out the Oto, Omaha, and Iowa peoples who lived there. One band, the Yankton Sioux, built a trade empire not on quarried pipestone, but on buffalo and beaver. Not primarily concerned with pipestone as a commodity, the Yankton Sioux nevertheless restricted access to the quarries within their lands to protect trade goods of interest to them.

European and Euro-American interference and influence shaped who controlled the pipestone quarries. As much as the lands of Pipestone tell the story of American Indians in southwestern Minnesota, they also speak to larger themes of westward expansion and settlement from the eastern seaboard. An alternate name for pipestone is Catlinite, a hint at the impact explorations of the 1830s had on native culture and lifeways. The great painter of American Indians, George Catlin, one of the more prominent visitors to the quarries and the source of the name Catlinite, arrived in 1836. Joseph Nicholas Nicollet followed Catlin in 1838 and 1839. Nicollet produced the first map of the quarry area. He is commemorated by Nicollet Rock, which has the names of his expedition carved into the rock. Both Catlin and Nicollet helped bring attention to the region that the Sioux did not want.

Such was the interest in the stone and the quarry that, in 1849, a piece from the quarry was included in the Washington Monument, then under construction in Washington, DC. The token stone, chosen to be Minnesota’s official State contribution to the monument, is located at the 220-foot level of the monument where visitors can still see it today. In 1855, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem The Song of Hiawatha drew further attention to the quarry. In 1857, Inkpaduta retreated there with a group of white hostages, after he and a band of Santee Sioux set upon a group of settlers at Spirit Lake in Iowa. The Sioux killed more than 30 settlers in their protest against the Treaty of Traverse des Sioux.

In 1859, the Federal Government set aside land, including what would become Pipestone National Monument, for the Yankton Sioux, who already occupied it. The creation of the reservation gave the Sioux the right to quarry. Following the end of the Civil War, white settlement in the area and use of the quarry increased. Some of the white settlers made claims to the land to establish homesteads, which led to protracted battles to decide true ownership. The Yankton Sioux’s claim to the property as their reservation was settled in 1890. They soon sold the property to the United States for $125,000. Perhaps because the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and North Railway had established a right of way and built tracks on the eastern edge of the reservation, the Yankton Sioux allowed the sale with the stipulation that the land would remain a park or reservation. Nevertheless, Congress authorized a further intrusion into the reservation when it allowed construction of an Indian School in 1892. Homesteaders also made claims against the reservation’s land. Litigation tied up final determination of ownership until 1929, though less than ten years later in 1937, the land again reverted to the government, this time as a national park.

Immediately upon entering the park, visitors will see a collection of rocks that are spiritually significant to tribes in the area. Called the “Three Maidens,” these rocks mark the spiritual gateway to the quarries. Historically an arrangement of other stones and offerings surrounded the Three Maidens. On these stones, those who came to quarry or worship carved a series of figures petroglyphs into very hard stone. These petroglyphs must have been quite important because they required a great effort to form. The figures include large game and birds, turtles, and human forms, which are readily visible, as well as other forms that are not identifiable. Fewer carved stones are visible today than in the past. Some relocated stones are on display in the visitor center.

In addition to the area around the Three Maidens formation, other archeological areas in the park record where the extracted pipestone was dressed and formed. Visits to the quarries to find and prepare the stone often lasted several weeks. During this time the tallgrass prairie, nearby Winnewissa Falls, and Lake Hiawatha must have provided ample food to support the carvers, some of whom traveled great distances. Pipestone, once extracted, was usually formed on site. Visitors can spot the remaining open quarry spaces easily by following the Circle Trail, a ¾ of a mile paved trail that leads through the prairie by the pipestone quarries.

Today, members of federally recognized Indian tribes may quarry pipestone from the land within the park. In much the same way as their ancestors did, tribal members extract pipestone by removing the earth and hard Sioux Quartzite that overlays the softer pipestone. Using hand tools to extract the stone, they remove layers of quartzite by chipping off larger chunks, reducing them to smaller pieces, and then discarding them or using them to help form a protective retaining wall around the quarry pit to prevent its collapse. Extracting the quartzite exposes the vein of pipestone that once revealed is carefully broken off the vein. These pieces from the pipestone layer have internal strata along which the large slabs are broken into smaller, more workable pieces that are shaped into pipe bowls to which a pipestem is added. The form of the pipes has changed over time, with details determined by individual carvers. Although perhaps most familiar as the stereotypical “peace pipe,” these pipes were used in a number of settings and held a wide cultural significance as items of trade, war, peace, and other rituals. A video presentation at the visitor center provides a history of the use, creation, and significance of pipes and pipestone. Local American Indians carve pipestone throughout the summer months in the Upper Midwest Indian Cultural Center, which is inside the visitor center. The park also offers hiking and picnicking opportunities.

Plan your visit

Pipestone National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located just north of the city of Pipestone, MN, roughly seven miles from the South Dakota border. Pipestone is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as Cannomok’e Pipestone National Monument. There is a fee to visit the park that is waived for members of federally recognized tribes. The visitor center is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm on Monday to Thursday and to 6:00pm Friday through Sunday. The visitor center is closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the National Park ServicePipestone National Monument website or call 507-825-5464.

Pipestone National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service Pipestone, Minnesota Travel Itinerary. Pipestone National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record.

 

Piscataway Park, Maryland

Along the Potomac River just opposite Mount Vernon, mammoths and mastodons once wandered the land near the home of the first president of the United States, George Washington. Piscataway Park in Maryland became a unit of the National Park System to protect the view George Washington experienced from his home in Virginia across the Potomac River, but the area has a much longer and richer history. First occupied by human hunter-gatherers between 3,000 and 500 BC, this area along the Potomac underwent waves of settlement by successive people until colonists from Maryland and Virginia settled the land. Today, the beautiful vista from Mount Vernon is much as it was in Washington’s time, and visitors to Piscataway Park can experience a natural landscape similar to that found in the time of American Indian and colonial residents of the area. This landscape, the Piscataway homeland, was the site of the political center of the Piscataway chiefdom, a large Indian village that was able to sustain itself on the natural riches of the Potomac, nearby game, and agriculture. When Captain John Smith first mapped the area in 1608, the Piscataway chiefdom spread throughout southern Maryland and included a number of semi-independent nations.

In the beginning, native peoples’ use of the land around the river was brief, coinciding with sporadic hunting and gathering trips. Around 500 BC, small villages began to develop, the importance of agriculture increased, and between 300 and 900 AD, permanent settlements were constructed. Between 500 BC and 300 AD, different groups of people migrated in and used the space, but no one group settled there. Periodic use of the area followed by abandonment continued until around 1200 AD when the Potomac Creek, also called the Piscataway people, related to the Algonquin, occupied the area. By 1300 AD, the settlement was a fishing village with a developed agricultural system and homes protected by a palisade. Archeological evidence from this time includes fishhooks and other hunting tools. Multiple graveyards (ossuaries), some with as many as 600 bodies, surrounded the village, giving a clue as to its relatively large size. The Accokeek Site, the place of a Piscataway settlement, is a National Historic Landmark. This successful settlement did not survive long after the arrival of European explorers. Nevertheless, the area that is now Piscataway Park remains the spiritual center for the Piscataway people. Although the Piscataway people now are scattered, many still live in Maryland.

The troubles for the Potomac Creek or Piscataway people, who lived along the Potomac, began when Captain John Smith explored the area on a trip to map the region. Smith was probably the first European to meet these people whose village he called “Moyaone.” The precise location of Moyaone is unknown. At the time of Smith’s arrival, the tribal lands of the Piscataway included most of Maryland from the mouth of the Potomac to present-day Washington, DC. A controversial character, Smith helped to establish the British colony at Jamestown in 1607 and became leader of the group in 1608. His time in the New World was limited, however. Following his 1608 Potomac mapping trip, he suffered grave injuries in a gunpowder explosion in 1609 and returned that same year to England.

Even though Smith’s stay in present-day southern Maryland was brief, the effects of his voyage were long lasting. Later explorations by others up the Potomac were not peaceful and resulted in the burning of the village in the 1620s and 1630s. After the second fire, the Piscataway moved away from the immediate area. The Accokeek Creek site was vacant until another tribe, the Susquehannock, built a fort where the village had been. In general, little is known about the Susquehannock; the site at Piscataway Park leaves few clues as it was again abandoned in 1675 as colonists from Maryland and Virginia displaced the native peoples.

Piscataway Park also includes Marshall Hall and the National Colonial Farm. As the colonists from Europe expanded their settlements, they, like the various American Indian tribes before them, changed the surrounding landscape to meet their needs. Marshall Hall (built circa 1725 and destroyed by fire in 1981) is an example of colonial-era land use in the area. Before its destruction, Marshall Hall had been the home of the Marshall family. Beginning in 1650, the original property was combined with other, smaller sites, including a piece of land deeded to the family by the Piscataway. The property stayed in the Marshall family until they were forced to sell it after the Civil War. From the late 1800s until the 1970s, the estate was the site of a popular amusement park.

The National Colonial Farm is a living museum of colonial farming and also a modern day organic farm, which generates its own electricity using solar energy. The traditional farming methods of the colonial farm demonstrate the life of most tobacco-farming colonists. This life is in direct contrast to that of wealthier plantation owners like George Washington, who lived on the opposite bank of the Potomac. The Accokeek Foundation's efforts led to a public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the foundation to create and steward Piscataway Park to protect the area from urban expansion. The park encompasses approximately 5,000 acres and stretches for six miles from Piscataway Creek to Marshall Hall on the Potomac River. It shelters bald eagles, beaver, deer, fox, osprey, and other species and offers visitors a public fishing pier, two boardwalks over fresh water tidal wetlands, nature trails, meadows, and woodland areas.

Plan your visit

Piscataway Park is located at the end of Bryan Point Road in Accokeek, MD, just off State Route 210 (Indian Head Highway). The park is approximately 30 minutes south of Washington, DC. Piscataway Park, Marshall Hall, and the Accokeek Creek Site within the park have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Click here for National Register of Historic Places files for Piscataway Park (text and photos) and Marshall Hall (text and photos). The Accokeek Creek Site within Piscataway Park has been designated a National Historic Landmark.

The park contains three main areas: the National Colonial Farm, the remains of Marshall Hall, and Piscataway Park. There is a fee to visit the National Colonial Farm; other areas of the park are free. Park grounds are open from dawn to dusk, though the National Colonial Farm maintains seasonal hours. For more information, visit the National Park Service Piscataway Parkwebsite or call 301-763-4600. More information on the National Colonial Farm and its exhibits is available through the Accokeek Foundation website or by calling 301- 283-2113.

Boating, hiking, and birding are popular activities at Piscataway Park. Not all parts of Piscataway Park are public property; some are privately owned. Visitors should be aware and mindful that they are traveling through a landscape sacred to the Piscataway people.

Poverty Point National Monument (Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point), Louisiana

Poverty Point contains some of the largest prehistoric earthworks in North America that, like the pyramids of Egypt, were a massive building project involving the labor of many people. Located on more than 400 acres, the complex is a series of earthen mounds and ridges that overlook the Mississippi River flood plain in what is now northeastern Louisiana. A large, sophisticated society about which we know little constructed the impressive complex. Today, Poverty Point National Monument, operated by the State of Louisiana as a State park, records the technological and economic achievements of a bygone people.

Visitors have several options for exploring these mounds that people who lived in the area constructed from roughly 1650 to 700 BC. Poverty Point is a large mound complex—its builders manipulated approximately 1 million cubic yards of earth for the initial construction of the mounds. A guided tram tour through the site is offered at different times throughout the day. The tram tour provides the opportunity to visit one of the larger outer mounds of the complex, Mound A. Visitors may also explore the site on their own through self-guided tours. A museum offers an orientation and history of the site.

A hunter-gatherer society built Poverty Point, a massive network of artificially created ridges and mounds surrounding a plaza. Archeologists, including those at the on-site archeological laboratory at Poverty Point, continue to attempt to discover information about the society and the reason for the construction of the mound complex. Strategically located away from frequently flooded areas, Poverty Point is in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Here, the peoples of Poverty Point created not only the massive earthworks, but also an extensive trade network that stretched outwards for almost a thousand miles.

Relatively little is known about the Poverty Point society. Objects like clay cooking balls, spear points, and fishing tools found at the site give us some idea as to how the mound builders ate and lived. Because of the quality, diversity, and quantity of jewelry and other objects found at Poverty Point, some speculate that it may have been a capital for an entire ancient culture. The size of the complex and the number of objects are not what make Poverty Point remarkable, though. While research about the society that built Poverty Point continues, it is clear that those who moved the earth, basket by basket, were not sedentary peoples; it is unusual that a mobile society of hunter-gatherers could build the complex system of mounds at Poverty Point.

The hunter-gatherer group that constructed Poverty Point was always on the move, looking for plants and animals. Not cultivating crops for support in between hunts, hunter-gatherer groups had to move frequently to access new food sources; that a pre-agricultural society could perform such a building feat is remarkable. The construction of Poverty Point would have required work and residence in a fixed location. Given this, archeologists and anthropologists today continue to be puzzled over how such a loosely connected and constantly moving group of people could come together to fashion the complicated, planned mound complex at Poverty Point.

How long did they stay? How did they support themselves while building the mounds? Some of these questions have answers while others do not, as Poverty Point continues to be a mystery. Visitors can explore one of the most important mound complexes in North America, learn what is known, and ponder the mysteries and still unanswered questions about the site and the lives of the people responsible for Poverty Point.

Plan your visit

Poverty Point National Monument (Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point) is a World Heritage Site, National Monument, and National Historic Landmark located at 6859 Highway 577, Pioneer LA. Monumental Earthworks of Poverty Point is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day. For more information, visit the Louisiana State Parks Poverty Point World Heritage Site website or call 318-926-5492 or 1-888-926-5492, and also visit the National Park Service Poverty Point National Monument website.


In addition to guided tours, including a tram tour, the park offers visitors self-guided tours, a museum, and picnic areas. An online video, Poverty Point Earthworks: Evolutionary Milestones of the Americas is also available.

River Raisin National Battlefield Park, Michigan

“Remember the Raisin!” “Remember the River Raisin!” Some nine months after the battles of the River Raisin and echoing this famous rallying cry, the Americans defeated the British and their Indian allies at the Battle of the Thames. The earlier American defeats in the River Raisin battles around Frenchtown, now Monroe, Michigan, and the massacre of the survivors by the Indians allied with the British were disasters for the Americans. What happened at River Raisin had a significant effect on the War of 1812 Great Lakes campaign laying waste to Frenchtown and exposing the Ohio frontier to attacks by the British and their supporters, Tecumseh's alliance of American Indian tribes. The American defeat and those who died also inspired Americans to fight on to victory in the War of 1812, as they rallied with the battle cry "Remember the Raisin!"

In the summer of 1812, the River Raisin militia received an assignment to build a military road linking Ohio and Detroit. River Raisin is geographically almost directly in the middle, and local volunteers were crucial to the successful finishing of the road. Upon completion of the road, General William Hull marched several thousand Ohio volunteers up the road to Detroit with the intention of attacking Amherstburg in Ontario, Canada. After Indians unexpectedly took control of the road and cut off supplies to the Americans, General Hull launched three unsuccessful attempts to reopen the road. Trapped between hostile Indians blocking the road and a large British force descending on Detroit from Amherstburg, Hull surrendered. The River Raisin forces received word on August 17, 1812, to follow suit the day after Hull’s surrender. For a short time, the British occupied River Raisin but soon left, burning the fortified blockhouse in their wake.

In November, a small contingent of Canadian militiamen, allies of the British, returned to the site to monitor the advancement of an American force of Kentucky volunteers led by General James Winchester. Winchester’s army, severely weakened by the harsh winter and inadequate supplies, arrived at Maumee, Ohio on January 10, 1813. When messengers from Frenchtown, the home of the local River Raisin residents, pleaded for rescue from the British and Indians, Winchester sprang into action, deploying over 600 men to descend on River Raisin. On January 18, Winchester’s men reinforced by 100 locals drove 63 Canadian militiamen and 200 Potawatomi Indians northward and out of River Raisin, an action known as the First Battle of River Raisin. Winchester then withdrew into Frenchtown, the small town protected by a stockade and fortifications, on the River Raisin. Two days later, 250 men from the US 17th Infantry Regiment arrived and set up camp just outside the town reinforcing the Kentuckians’ position. With the locals, Kentuckians, and the 17th, the American force numbered just under 1000 men.

On January 22, 1813, the British retaliated, launching a counterattack known as the Second Battle of River Raisin. 525 British and Canadian soldiers, over 800 Indians, and 6 cannons advanced on the American forces. Taken by surprise, the 17th attempted a stand, but the Indians quickly decimated the unit. Only 33 men escaped death or capture. The protection of the stockade afforded the Kentuckians a better chance, but after heavy casualties, depletion of ammunition, and the capture of General Winchester, they surrendered to British troops. The British forced those not badly wounded to march to Canada as prisoners, a meager 150 men. The rest of the survivors and the severely wounded, totaling roughly 100 men, stayed in Frenchtown unable to make the trek. In the terms of surrender, the Americans asked for protection for their wounded from further attack by the Indians. Granting these terms, the British quickly moved back to Canada leaving behind a small contingent of British soldiers to guard the wounded. The next day the remaining British soldiers left. Exposed and unprotected, the wounded American troops became the targets of vengeful Indians who had sustained heavy losses of their own in the battle. Entering the Frenchtown stockade, the Indians killed at least 60 of the remaining soldiers and many others, including French townspeople, and set fire to several houses in use as hospitals. Quickly dubbed the “Massacre of River Raisin,” this event became a standard for Americans to rally behind for the remainder of the War of 1812.

The brutal killing of these men became more than a lost battle. Frenchtown was technically still under British control. Bones of the deceased at Frenchtown were left unburied for nearly eight months; some were still being found in underbrush as late as 1820. Eventually most of the dead were placed in mass and scattered individual graves, but archeological digs have shown that human remains were left in nearly every part of today’s River Raisin National Battlefield Park.

Recent excavations of the battleground have yielded military relics, human bones, and the original foundations and artifacts from burned down homes. Some of the artifacts, original weapons, miniature dioramas of the battle, artwork, full-size British and American soldier replicas, and a fiber-optic map presentation that geographically shows each side’s military maneuvers are available for viewing at the Battlefield Visitor Center. Visitors are offered guided tours or they can set out on their own using the 18 historic markers to guide their experience. Driving tours lead visitors through three different routes of River Raisin history. River Raisin Battlefield is also the site of several special events. In January on the Saturday closest to the anniversary of the battle (January 18-23), an annual memorial service honors the service of the Americans, Muskrat French, British, Canadians, and the diverse American Indian tribes who fought in the War of 1812. Locals and visitors to River Raisin participate in quarterly War of 1812 roundtable discussions (call for more details).

Despite the heavy casualties and the American defeat, the two battles and subsequent “Massacre of River Raisin” helped motivate and unify American troops. Shouts of “Remember the Raisin” paid homage to those who died and inspired Americans to win the War of 1812 to preserve their independence from the British. River Raisin National Battlefield Park’s significance transcends the losses the Americans incurred at the battles and speaks to the brutality of warfare and the dramatic heroism that occurred.

Plan your visit

River Raisin National Battlefield Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1403 East Elm Ave. in Monroe, MI. River Raisin Battlefield Visitor Center is open from 9:00am to 4:30pm 7 days a week but is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. The grounds remain open year round. Admission is free. For more information, visit the National Park ServiceRiver Raisin National Battlefield Park website or call 734-243-7136.

Russell Cave National Monument, Alabama

A relatively small cave in what is today northeastern Alabama, Russell Cave has been home to virtually every cultural group in the region. The cave, one of many archeological sites in the Russell Cave National Monument, provided shelter to various groups for approximately 12,000 years – from roughly 10,000 BC to 1650 AD. This staggering achievement makes Russell Cave one of the oldest rock shelters in the eastern United States. Archeological remains found beyond the mouth of the cave and in other surrounding areas provide additional evidence and markers of this long period of settlement.

The cave and associated burial sites and shelters are all the more remarkable, because the occupation and use of the area was regular, providing a chronological layering of artifacts from before recorded history to the modern era. Created when part of the cave collapsed, the shelter inside the cave is roughly 30 by 65 yards and has a streambed that forms part of the cave floor. Attracted by a year-round water source and the consistent temperature inside the cave, many American Indian groups regularly used Russell Cave as a seasonal dwelling place. The cave is located in a valley along the Tennessee River, which helped supply the cave occupants with shellfish and game. Given the location of the cave within the valley, it is probable that the entire area was a hunting ground even before the formation of the cave. As American Indian groups discovered the cave, and camped and lived in it, they found food and raw materials to develop tools on the land around it. They also used the surrounding land for religious ceremonies, including burial of the dead. More recently, this land was the possible site of a log cabin as well as two historic coalmines and associated structures.

Paleoindian peoples, the first humans in North America, were the first group to use Russell Cave. Artifacts from this period tend to be projectile points formed of stone quarried nearby and sharpened into points inside the cave. The majority of objects found at Russell Cave, though, come from three later archeological stages: the Archaic Stage (7000 to 500 BC), the Woodland Stage (500 BC to 1000 AD), and the Mississippian Stage (1000 to 1600 AD). While Archaic dwellers were sedentary hunters and gatherers with few social divisions, the material culture of the Woodland period indicates that larger populations supported the development of a social structure and widening trade networks. In general, people of the Mississippian Stage were very sedentary travelling less than previous groups and relying heavily on the cultivation of crops. They also had highly developed religious ceremonies and political structures. The artifacts recovered from Russell Cave reflect the technological and social changes typical for the Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian Stages.

Given the long history of settlement of Russell Cave, the archeological material provides a level of depth uncommon at other sites. In both the cave and surrounding areas, the continued presence of humans has resulted in a collection of artifacts that almost trace the complete development of some technologies. The cave has yielded projectile points, fishhooks (7500 to 5000 BC and 3500 to 500 BC), basketry (7500 to 5000 BC), and ceramics (7500 BC to 1540 AD). Pottery shards date from the earliest ceramic pieces to those of the early 19th century, and some of the fishhooks are of a type not seen anywhere else. Outside the cave, in some of the outlying archeological areas, seed evidence remains of the maize and other crops cultivated as early as 500 BC.

Residency in the cave and use of the adjacent areas in religious ceremonies declined after about 1000 AD as the local populations, who had formerly used the cave as temporary seasonal shelter, developed permanent year-round villages. Following the arrival of the Europeans in the early 1500s, the use of the Russell Cave area practically ceased, as new settlers replaced American Indian groups. Artifacts from after the mid-1500s indicate that the cave saw only sporadic use as a hunting camp before becoming private property in 1817. The Russell family owned the cave at one point, giving the cave its name. The cave site represents the development of early culture and society and provides important evidence of how American Indians of the region lived for thousands of years.

Despite its eventual decline as a shelter, Russell Cave National Monument offers a unique opportunity to view the past in the present. Although the natural setting has changed slightly since 10,000 BC, the site of the cave itself has remained relatively unaltered. Today, the visitor center and museum present artifacts and reproductions of objects found in and around the cave as well as films about the earliest settlers in the region. Ranger-led cave tours allow visitors to explore the cave itself; other tours conducted by the rangers demonstrate pre-contact weaponry and tools. A visit to Russell Cave is a journey through the early settled history of the Americas presented not only through artifacts, but also through a tour of the very site where people have lived for thousands of years.

Plan your visit

Russell Cave National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located just south of the Alabama-Tennessee border at 3729 County road 98 in Bridgeport, AL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day but is otherwise open 8:00 am to 4:30pm CST. No fee is charged to visit the park, although reservations are requested for groups of 20 or more. For more information, visit the National Park Service Russell Cave National Monument website or call 256-495-2672. Reservations may be made by calling the number above. Park Rangers offer tours of the cave and weaponry demonstrations. Other park activities include hiking and birding.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, New Mexico

Over 2,000 years ago, the ancestors of the Pueblo peoples, the Anasazi and Mogollon Indians, settled in the present day area of Mountainair in central New Mexico. Here the traditions of both cultures overlapped to develop the unique Tiwa and Tompiro speaking pueblos of Abó, Gran Quivira, and Quarai. The Anasazi and Mogollon borrowed from each other and adapted to the changes in their environment by creating new traditions that helped them survive. The adaptability of the Pueblo Indians proved useful centuries later when the Spanish entered their world.  Today, Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument preserves the history and heritage of the Pueblo societies and Spanish missions of Abó, Gran Quivira, and Quarai, which continue to stand as reminders of a time when the cultures of the American Indians and the Spanish converged.

Spanish explorers first learned of the existence of the Pueblo communities in 1540, when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition to New Mexico in search for the seven cities of gold. In his travels, he encountered a Plains Indian he called the Turk, who informed him of the existence of the wealthy city of Quivira. Coronado and his men followed the Indian to the city, but to their displeasure, the Spanish learned that the Turk had tricked them and that the city did not exist. After Coronado ordered the Plains Indian killed, the Spanish ended their expedition to find Cibola and returned to Mexico. Although they returned empty handed, Coronado’s expedition did not discourage other explorers from heading back to the region, and in 1598, Juan de Oñate led a party of Spanish missionaries and settlers back to New Mexico. In their travels, they discovered the resourceful Pueblo communities of Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira, where Oñate established a permanent colony for New Spain that he called Sal--the Spanish word for salt--which was abundant throughout the Salinas Valley.

When the Spanish reached New Mexico in the 16th century, the descendants of the Anasazi and Mogollon Indians had already evolved into one of the most advanced and economically powerful cultures in the American Southwest. The Pueblo Indians, who had perfected their craft making and agricultural and hunting techniques, commanded the Indian trade paths with their abundance of goods.  Because of their superior architectural skills, their impressive stone-and-adobe homes dominated the southwestern landscape. The Spanish found the Pueblo pottery, farming, and building techniques impressive, and recognizing the value of the American Indians’ skilled labor, they developed the encomienda system, which eventually led to the exploitation of the Pueblo peoples. Through the encomienda, the governor appointed ranking Spanish citizens to protect, educate, and civilize a group of Indians. In return, the Spanish collected tribute in the form of labor, food, and material goods. Eventually the Spanish began abusing the system, and tensions grew as Franciscan friars attempted to help the Pueblo peoples. The church was powerless against the government, and the lucrative system continued.

The encomienda was not the only system that created tension in the Salinas Valley; conflict also grew from the religious pressure that Franciscan friars placed on the American Indians. The clash of religions made it difficult for the missionaries to convert Pueblo peoples unwilling to give up sacred customs, which the Indians believed brought good fortune to their communities.  The most important of these customs was the Kachina dance that the Pueblo peoples performed to their gods in order to bring rain, health, and abundant crops. The Franciscans attempted to stop the Pueblo people from performing these customs by informing the Indians that their people’s salvation depended on their conversion to Christianity. The Franciscans also established three mission churches, one at each of the pueblos in the Salinas Valley, where they added to the existing adobe structures the Pueblo peoples built before the coming of the Spanish.

In 1621, Fray Francisco Fonte arrived in New Mexico and soon began establishing his mission in the Pueblo of Abó. Initially, Friar Fonte converted the adobe buildings of the Pueblo peoples into temporary convents where he slowly introduced the Indians to Christian traditions. Once the Pueblo residents trusted him, Fray Fonte began building the first mission church at Abó. By 1627, the Church of San Gregorio was finished, and around the same time, Fray Juan Gutierrez de la Chica, who headed the mission efforts in the Pueblo of Quarai, began building the church and convento of La Purísima Concepción de Quarai. Two years later, Fray Francisco Letrado arrived at his assignment in Gran Quivira, also known as Las Humanas, where he constructed the churches of San Isidro and San Buenaventura.

The missions at Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira proved successful until Spanish officials began dictating how church figures should convert the American Indians. They complained that the Pueblo peoples spent more time studying Christianity than providing labor and began pressuring the Franciscan Friars to accelerate the conversion process. Although the missionaries wished to influence the American Indians gradually to give up their old religious traditions, they were powerless against government forces. Eventually, this conflict between church and state led the Franciscan friars to destroy the Kachina masks and burn all kivas--sacred places where Pueblo peoples performed rituals and prayed to their gods. Ultimately, attempts to suppress the Pueblo peoples’ ancient religious beliefs failed.

Although the Pueblo Indians were an adaptable people who could withstand environmental and social changes, what the Spanish brought, especially disease, proved too strong for them. As drought, epidemics, and natural disasters began to decimate the population of the Salinas Valley, the Pueblo peoples felt they had insulted the spirits, and when the Christian God failed to help the community, they returned to their old beliefs. As each Salinas pueblo fell victim to epidemics, the surviving Pueblo peoples began to leave the region and seek refuge with their kinfolk in neighboring towns. By 1672, the once thriving community of 10,000 inhabitants was reduced to 500 people. By 1678, the Spanish and Pueblo peoples completely abandoned the Salinas Valley.

At Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, visitors can walk the interpretive trail to see the mission churches and the ruins of Abo, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. Tourists can also explore the museums at the park and picnic in designated areas at Abó, Quarai, and Gran Quivira. Camping is allowed in Cibola National Forest. 

Plan your visit

The visitor center of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 102 S. Ripley in Mountainair, NM. The visitor center is open daily, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The Monument's summer hours are from 9:00 am to 6:00pm, and during the winter, the site operates from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument website or call 505-847-2585.

Many components of Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including Church of San IsidroChurch of San Buenaventura, and Mission of San Gregorio de Abó. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, Texas

In the 16th century, Spanish missionaries and soldiers began moving north out of the Valley of Mexico to found missions and presidios. The Spanish empire extended its claim in the New World to the land along the San Antonio River, the site of the City of San Antonio. They converted American Indians to Christianity, acculturated them to the European lifestyle, and made them Spanish citizens. The Spanish Franciscans established the first mission in 1718 and built five missions along the San Antonio River within 13 years.

Eventually, as American Indians and the Spanish and later Hispanic settlers learned to live and work with each other, their traditions blended to create the distinct culture of the American Southwest. Today, San Antonio Missions National Historical Park preserves the history of Spanish Texas and the American Indians with whom the Spanish interacted when they arrived. The park includes four Catholic missions the Spanish erected along the San Antonio River-- Espada, Concepcion, San José, and San Juan.

Mission San Francisco de la Espada was the first mission the Spanish erected in Texas. The original Mission San Francisco de los Tejas was founded in 1690 and is partially in ruins today. In 1731, the Spanish moved the mission to the San Antonio River. At Espada, historical records offer great insight into the mission lifestyle, which resembled Spanish villages and culture and was sustained by the work of American Indians. The Spanish taught the Indians skills in farming, carpentry, and weaving to help feed and clothe the mission residents, and constructed mission buildings and aqueducts. The Spanish also taught the natives a specialized system of agriculture through an irrigation method using Espadas, aqueducts that are still in use today. The San Antonio community in Texas continues to use the Espada mission church and the aqueducts.

Dedicated in 1755 and completed in 1760, Mission Concepcion remains today, offering an image of colonial architecture during the period of Spanish occupation in Texas. Of the four San Antonio missions in the park, Concepcion is of great significance as the command center of the Father President, who was the chief proprietor of Texas’ Queretaran missions. The old stone church consists of two identical bell towers that mark the corners of the church’s entryway. Supporting the entrance door are two columns, with a stone cross above the doorway. The walls of the limestone building are four feet thick, and inside the church, painted on the walls’ plaster or stucco, are still visible colonial decorations or frescos. The overall design of Concepcion is in the shape of a crucifix. The still standing convent or convento influenced the design of most mission convents built throughout California.

Known as the “Queen of the Missions,” Mission San José, the largest of the San Antonio Missions, underwent extensive restoration supported by the Federal Government in the 1930s. The preservation of San José, which demonstrates the nation’s devotion to conserving the missions, is an example of the many social and economic programs of the Works Projects Administration during the Great Depression. The church, convent, mill, and granary the missionaries completed in 1782 have original stonework, frescos, and sculptures for visitors to view.

Mission San Juan de Capistrano was originally in east Texas but the Spanish moved the mission to San Antonio in 1731. San Juan de Capistrano’s church, friary, and granary on this second site date from 1756. The mission's historical records and archeological studies have provided great insight into understanding the development of the mission. San Juan is the only one of the San Antonio Missions to have arches in its structural design. Constructed around 1772, the arches continue to raise questions about the reasons why the missionaries decided to fill in the arches that were once open.

Mission San Juan de Capistrano also has two restored Indian quarters the pueblo Indians built within the mission compound. The Indian homes are jacales or huts made with adobe--a mixture of mud and straw baked together to make bricks. The San Juan de Capistrano missionaries benefited greatly from their American Indian neighbors, who provided the mission with food and game. Because a surplus of food was available to supply other missions and presidios, San Juan's economy began to thrive through a successful trade network that stretched from Mexico to Louisiana.

Visitors to San Antonio Missions National Historical Park can tour the four historic Spanish missions and enjoy the interpretive exhibits in the visitor center at Mission San José. The grist mill and aqueduct at Mission San José are other attractions. The four mission churches within the park are active Catholic parishes that hold regular services.

Plan your visit

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is composed of four missions located in separae locations in San Antonio, TX. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Mission San José and the visitor center are located at 6701 San José Dr. Mission Concepcion is located at 807 Mission Rd.; Mission San Juan is located at 9101 Graf Rd., and Mission Espada is located at 10040 Espada Rd. All sites at the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park are open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day and during special services such as weddings and funerals. There are no admission fees. For more information, visit the National Park Service San Antonio Missions National Historical Park website or call 210-932-1001.

Mission Espada and Mission Concepcion have been designated as National Historic Landmarks. Many components of the National Historical Park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey, including theSan Antonio Missions National Historical Park Site PlanMission EspadaMission San JoséMission Concepcion, and Mission San Juan. The San Antonio Missions are also featured in the National Park Service South and West Texas Travel Itinerary. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is also the subject of the online lesson plan, San Antonio Missions: Spanish Influence in Texas. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, Colorado

On November 29, 1864, roughly 700 federal troops attacked a village of 500 Cheyenne and Arapaho on Sand Creek in Colorado. An unprovoked attack on men, women, and children, the massacre at Sand Creek marked a turning point in the relationship between American Indian tribes and the Federal Government. From the day of the attack, US Army actions at Sand Creek have been controversial, because the Cheyenne and Arapaho thought they were at peace with the government and innocent people died. The distrust that grew from what occurred at Sand Creek led to later conflicts at Little Big Horn, Wounded Knee, and Washita. Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site tells the story of that fatal attack and its repercussions.

In the 1800s, life on the Plains was changing. The attack at Sand Creek was part of a series of conflicts between Plains Indian tribes with newly arrived settlers from the East and federal troops.  Against the backdrop of the Civil War that divided the country as a whole, Indian tribes of the Great Plains and settlers from the east struggled for land and resources. To provide safe travel and opportunities for settlers spreading west, the Federal Government signed treaties with many of the Plains tribes. but these did not stem the conflict.  Leaders of some tribes advocated for peace, including those of the Cheyenne and Arapaho on the lands around Denver.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho arrived in the area at the beginning of the 1800s. Not long after, treaties between the United States government and the tribes began to limit Indian territory. The 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie reduced Cheyenne and Arapaho land but promised annual payments to the tribes in exchange for guaranteed passage of settlers through tribal land. The discovery of gold in Colorado in 1858 brought a greater influx of people coming in search of gold. Though some tribes fought with the growing number of settlers, the Cheyenne and Arapaho were largely tolerant of the settlers’ movement onto their land. Designed to encourage the adoption of settled farming, a new treaty in 1861 dramatically reduced the amount of land available to the Cheyenne and Arapaho.

During the Civil War, gold in Colorado was an important financial resource. The governor of the Territory of Colorado, John Evans, wanted to limit the presence of Indians on the land to protect the gold and encourage further settlement in the territory. He felt that white settlers were in danger of attack and that the Indians could disrupt the establishment of white communities in the territory. In addtion, he believed the tribes were an obstacle to routing the transcontinental railroad through Colorado. Further, fears of the spread of Confederate sympathies created a highly charged situation.

In the fall of 1864, Governor Evans ordered all Indians who sought peace to relocate near military posts. Those who didn’t would be considered at war with the government. Under the leadership of Chief Black Kettle, the Cheyenne and Arapaho registered with the military that they were not hostile to the government. The Indians thought they were at peace, having followed the governor’s instructions. Both the governor and Colonel Chivington, leader of the Third Colorado Cavalry, were vague as to where the Cheyenne and Arapaho under Chief Black Kettle stood, however.

Governor Evans issued a proclamation that reversed his previous decision. He had obtained authority from the Federal Government to create the Third Colorado Cavalry of 100-day volunteer soldiers. Having created a force to fight Indians, Evans and Chivington needed some to fight. Even though the Indians under Black Kettle made clear their peaceful intentions, Evans and Chivington were intent on an attack.

On November 20, 1864, Chivington and his troops left Denver for the area around Sand Creek and a little more than a week later attacked the village. Led by Chief Black Kettle, the Indian villagers fled for their lives as federal troops descended upon them. The troops captured the villagers' horses to prevent an easy escape, surrounded the village and began raining howitzer shells and bullets down on the men, women, and children. Most of the Indians fled to the nearby creek bed where they quickly dug trenches and pits to hide in as the troops continued to shoot at them. After finishing the massacre in the creek bed, the troops hunted for anyone who had escaped, then scalped and mutilated the bodies of the dead Indians, and destroyed the village. In all, roughly 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho died in the massacre.

The citizens of nearby Denver welcomed the troops when they returned as having helped to rid the Plains of hostile Indians, but Chivington’s actions were controversial almost immediately. Some of his own men refused to participate in the massacre. Later, three federal investigations examined the actions at Sand Creek and found that Chivington and his men fabricated a reason for the attack. By then, Chivington and his men were no longer in the military. Despite the lack of a judicial punishment for Chivington, the impact of the massacre was great. The destruction of the village and the death of many leaders fragmented the culture of the Cheyenne and Arapaho. Public outcry at the massacre led eventually to more humane policies relating to Indian tribes following the Civil War.

Visitors to Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site can see the massacre site and learn about the attack along a half-mile walk with wayside exhibits. During the park’s regular season between April and November, rangers lead daily tours. A picnic area and overlook with shelter are located in the park. Much of the rest of the park is a sacred site, preserved as an open landscape with few facilities. Some parts of the park are open only to tribal members. The Sand Creek Spiritual Healing Run is held annually around Thanksgiving. The run follows the route of the Cheyenne and Arapaho to Denver, passing through Eads.

Plan your visit

Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located near Eads, CO. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. The park entrance is approximately 30 miles north and east of Eads, along County Road W a mile east of County Road 54 or several miles west of County Road 59. There is no fee to visit the site which is open daily April to November. The park closes in the winter, but may still be visited between December 1 and March 31 by appointment. For more information, visit the National Park Service Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site website or call 719-438-5916.

Shiloh National Military Park, Tennessee

Shiloh National Military Park not only interprets the battlefield’s historic role during the Civil War, but it is also the site of the pre-Columbian remains left by American Indians who once inhabited the Tennessee Valley. Today, the park’s seven Indian mounds and a dozen houses allow visitors to learn about the history of America’s aboriginal inhabitants and their way of life before European contact changed their world. Shiloh’s Indian mounds survived western colonization and the destruction of the Civil War to remind visitors of the role of the earliest peoples in the nation's history and their continuous influence on American culture.

A pre-Columbian village occupied the eastern edge of Shiloh hill for over 800 years.  Archeologists characterize Shiloh’s American Indians as belonging to a “Chiefdom” society. Within this structure, the Indian community considered the chief the most influential political and religious leader, followed by the council elders and the chief’s family. Villagers not in the council of elders or part of the nobility were mostly farmers who harvested corn, squash, and sunflowers. The people also ate fish and hunted deer, raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels. Other sources of nutrition included wild plant foods, such as hickory nuts and acorns.

Archeological evidence demonstrates that there were other mounds and neighboring chiefdoms near the Shiloh site in present day Alabama, Tennessee, and Mississippi.  Studies of these chiefdoms indicate that although some neighbors were hostile toward the Shiloh society, other chiefdoms exchanged “prestige goods” with it to legitimize political alliances between chiefs. Since 1899, archeological excavations of Shiloh’s Indian mounds have found a number of “prestige goods” or tokens of friendship, among them a significant large stone pipe in the shape of a kneeling man that archeologists believe the Cahokia chiefdom of St. Louis gave to the Shiloh society.

A 1934 excavation uncovered a dozen houses, which visitors can see today at Shiloh. The evidence demonstrates the advanced lifestyle of this pre-Columbian society, whose people had adobe fireplaces in their homes. Shiloh National Military Park is one of the few sites in the United States with visible remnants of pre-Columbian homes. The park honors and interprets these early American Indians while preserving what remains to illustrate their way of life.

In February 1862, to protect rail communications along the crossroads of the Memphis & Charleston and the Mobile & Ohio railroads after the Union army’s Tennessee victory at Forts Henry and Donelson, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston moved to northeast Mississippi and stationed his troops around the small town of Corinth. The following month -- about 22 miles northeast of Corinth -- Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant disembarked with his Army of 40,000 men at Pittsburg Landing, where they established a base of operations on Shiloh Hill.  Grant’s Army of the Tennessee had instructions from Major General Henry W. Halleck to wait for the reinforcements of Major General Don Carlos Buell’s Army of Ohio before leading an attack against the Confederates stationed at Corinth.

On April 3, having learned of the Federal plans to attack Corinth with the combined forces of Grant and Buell’s armies, General Johnston gathered his troops and advanced toward Pittsburg Landing with hopes of obliterating Grant’s forces before the Army of the Ohio arrived. On the morning of April 6, after heavy rain delayed their advancement to Pittsburg Landing, Johnston and his 44,000 men stormed out of the woods and surrounded the Union camps posted around Shiloh Hill. Surprised by the attack, Grant rallied his troops and soon engaged his Army of the Tennessee in a bitter battle with the Army of the Mississippi. Although the Confederate army made successful advancements during the morning attack, Grant’s troops eventually managed to confine Johnston’s brigades around Shiloh Church.

By mid-afternoon, after Johnston bled to death from a bullet that struck his right leg, General P.G.T. Beauregard assumed command of the Confederate army. At nightfall, the first day of fighting ended as the Union army managed to deter Confederate forces when Grant repositioned his men at a stronger defensive stand west of Pittsburg Landing. At daybreak on April 7, after Buell’s Army of the Ohio arrived the previous night with reinforcements, the combined Union armies attacked Beauregard and forced the Army of the Mississippi back to Shiloh Church. Outnumbered by the Union’s 54,500 troops, Beauregard withdrew his forces and returned to Corinth. When the Federal forces did not follow, the battle of Pittsburg Landing, otherwise known as the battle of Shiloh, had finally ended.

The Battle of Shiloh resulted in a huge number of casualties -- 23,746 men.  The numbers would continue to rise when Halleck, recognizing the strategic significance of Corinth for the control of the railroad crossroads, captured the small town and forced Beauregard and Major General Earl Van Dorn’s armies to abandon the site. Van Dorn would return in the summer and lead an unsuccessful attack against the Union camps stationed at Corinth. After a two-day battle, the Union forces defeated Van Dorn, and weakened the last Confederate army in the Mississippi Valley. The Confederate failure to reclaim Corinth allowed the Union to recover the Mississippi River after Grant captured the “fortress city” of Vicksburg.

Shiloh National Military Park preserves the sites of the significant battles of Pittsburg Landing and Corinth, where visitors can watch battle reenactments, explore the battlefield, and tour the remaining historic structures and monuments. Visitors can view over 180 monuments and historic structures, including Shiloh’s National Cemetery, the War Cabin, the Sunken Road, Earthworks, and the Indian mounds.

Plan your visit

Shiloh National Military Park, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1055 Pittsburg Landing Road in Shiloh, TN.   Click here for the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Shiloh National Military Park has also been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The park is open to the public daily from dawn until dusk, except on Christmas Day. There is an admission fee. The visitor center and park bookstore are open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. There is no admission fee for the Civil War Interpretive Center, which opens daily from 8:30am to 4:30pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Shiloh National Military Park website or call 731-689-5275.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, Florida

Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have an opportunity to explore thousands of years of history in the wetlands along Florida’s Atlantic coast. In addition to places and stories of the Timucua Indians and European colonists, the park includes sites related to cotton plantations, segregation in the South, and Florida’s ecosystems. These places reveal the natural and cultural history of this diverse region that has been the home of many peoples.

Long before the arrival of ships from Europe, America’s first peoples lived in present-day Florida, some of them in what is today the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Although the European colonists called them by one name, the Timucua, several groups of loosely related bands who shared a common language inhabited the region. The Timucua generally lived in large, fortified villages where they grew crops such as maize, squash, and beans. They also hunted and fished. A chief led groups of villages related by family ties. The Timucua had a highly stratified caste society, where heredity determined a person’s role in the larger group.

Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve can learn about the Timucua at Fort Caroline and the Ribault Club. A good place to begin is at the visitor center at Fort Caroline, which features artifacts and exhibits about Timucuan culture. Near Fort Caroline, a modern reconstruction of a Timucuan hut and shell mound interpret how the people lived. The reconstructed hut would have been one of many huts that made up a village. Tall wooden poles would have surrounded a group of huts. The center of the village often held a ceremonial space. The shell mounds are piles of discarded oyster shells and clamshells. A complex society, the Timucua encountered all of the early colonial powers in Florida.

Successive waves of explorers from Europe had an impact on Timucua lifeways after Ponce de León named and claimed Florida for Spain in 1513. Over the next several hundred years, control of the area swung from Spain to France to Great Britain and, finally, to a fledgling United States in 1821. Armed conflict regularly brought soldiers through the area. Participation in fights either with or against colonists killed some Timucua. Though the first contact between the colonists and the Timucua people was peaceful, they were involved in some colonial battles that had roots far across the ocean. The park interprets the struggle of empires in Florida at Fort Caroline, which is included separately in this travel itinerary.

Missionaries also came to Florida. One of the longest enduring missions was on Fort George Island. In the late 1500s, Franciscan monks attempted to convert the Timucuan to Catholicism eroding Timucuan culture as tribal customs and practices changed to adopt European influences. Much of what we know today about the Timucua language is based on missionaries' work to translate religious texts from Spanish into Timucua. Father Francisco Pareja was an especially gifted linguist who created parallel Spanish and Timucua catechisms, a dictionary, and a description of Timucua grammar between 1612 and 1627. Within a century, missionary zeal died out as other concerns, like fighting with the British, took over.

As their culture changed through contact with Europeans, war, and European diseases, the number of Timucua decreased. By the late 1600s, only about 550 Timucua lived in Florida, and none are known to remain today.

Kingsley Plantation was the home of Zephaniah Kingsley. The home site and remains of many slave cabins and other outbuildings tell the story of 18th and 19th century Florida. Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna Madgigne Jai, a former slave from Senegal, moved to the island in 1814. Though they were not the first to live here, the island got its name from them. The Kingsleys were successful planters whose holdings gradually expanded to include tens of thousands of acres, several other plantations in Florida, and hundreds of slaves. Visitors can take self-guided walking tours of the plantation, including the slave quarters and barn. Rangers also lead guided tours.

A group of slave cabins is arranged in a semi-circle a short distance from the plantation house. Made of tabby--a mixture of lime, sand, water, and shells (usually oyster shells discarded long ago by the Timucua), these cabins housed the slaves who worked in the Kingsley fields. A demonstration garden features crops grown on the plantation such as long staple Sea Island cotton prized for its softness, indigo, okra, squash, and beans. Slaves on the island worked under the so-called task system where each slave received a fixed amount each day. After finishing their work, the slaves had free time to do as they chose. Until the end of the Civil War, agriculture dominated life on Fort George Island. After the war, following several failed attempts to turn a profit from growing grapes and oranges, the Rollins family began to use the island for recreation and as a tourist destination, which lead to the construction of hotels and country clubs.

Visitors can drive or take a ferry to Fort George Island where the visitor center at the Ribault Club highlights the island’s long history. Built in 1928, the clubhouse for the Ribault Club is a remnant of “Roaring Twenties” society life. Created as a social club for the wealthy, the club had as members men and women from major east coast cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Wilmington, and Pittsburgh. The visitor center interprets Timucua life on and around Fort George Island, particularly along the St. Johns River. A video recounts the history of the club. Segway tours and a CD tour to play on a car stereo are also available. The Theodore Roosevelt Area preserves a landscape very similar to that of “Old Florida” during the time of the Timucua. This area highlights the ecological diversity of Florida and provides opportunities for hiking and bird watching, as does the Cedar Point part of the park.

Outdoor exhibits at American Beach tell the story of African American life in segregated Florida during the early 1900s. With most beaches closed to African Americans, wealthy insurance company president A. L. Lewis bought and divided land on Amelia Island for his employees and the black general public in 1935. Following World War II, the beach community he created exploded in popularity until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in public spaces and opened formerly closed areas to African Americans. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the importance of American Beach declined. The National Park Service preserves one of the defining sand dunes of the area—an important natural feature among the beach houses of this historically black vacation community. Visitors can see the dune and learn about the social and cultural history of American Beach through outdoor interpretive signs.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve protects cultural and natural resources that reflect the stories of the people who settled this part of Florida. From the Timucua to the Jim Crow South, the Preserve records the culturally diverse history of the coastal wetlands of Florida’s Atlantic coast from before Europeans arrived until well into the 20th century.

Plan your visit

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, includes several sites around Jacksonville, FL such as Fort Caroline, the Kingsley PlantationTheodore Roosevelt AreaCedar Point, and American Beach. The main visitor center is located at 12713 Fort Caroline Rd. in Jacksonville, FL. Visitors interested in learning more about the Timucua should also visit the Ribault Club, located at 11676 Palmetto Ave. in Jacksonville. Click here for National Register of Historic Places files for Fort Caroline (text and photos). There is no fee to visit any part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. The visitor center at Fort Caroline is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information visit the National Park Service Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve website or call 904-641-7155.

Sites within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Record.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

 

Tonto National Monument, Arizona

Tonto National Monument preserves two of what were once many pueblos in Arizona’s Tonto Basin. In this basin, many cultures mixed, coming because of their attraction to the wide variety of wildlife and plants found there. Beginning about 100AD and continuing for roughly 500 more years, hunter-gatherer communities in the Tonto Basin gradually transitioned to more settled groups that actively cultivated crops using water from the Salt River and Tonto Creek. Around 600 AD, humans may have left the Tonto Basin not to return to live there again until 750. In the 1100s, Hohokam groups from the west came and joined others already settled on the valley floor. They successfully hunted and farmed, just as previous communities had, and established trade networks that stretched from what is today Colorado to the Sea of Cortez, far to the southwest. The cultures in the Tonto Basin mixed to form the Salado culture, one that combined elements of previous groups and developed distinct traditions.

The Salado occupation of the basin floor and later the upper caves lasted from roughly 1100 to 1450. The dwellings at Tonto National Monument represent the end of the Salado presence in the Tonto Basin. While conditions in the basin before 1300 favored the sedentary agriculture practiced by the Salado and others, a change in the climate around 1330 caused the area to become drier. The drought destroyed the irrigation canals the Salado had long used to help water their crops. The community was unable to support itself because the drought depleted the resources in the basin faster than it was possible to replace them. Some chose to stay on the basin floor, while others moved up out of the valley floor and built the cliff dwellings at Tonto National Monument. The cliffs would only shelter the Salado for roughly 100 years. They abandoned the area around 1450.

Today, Tonto National Monument preserves two main ruins in the park: an upper ruin and a lower ruin, both constructed around 1300. Salado pueblos generally are divided into living spaces, storage spaces, and space for grinding corn. In most cases, the doorways leading between these spaces are t-shaped. This is a feature common in the Southwest that may have helped keep the temperature in rooms constant by minimizing heat loss, although the shape may have had other purposes.

The lower ruin is a pueblo that had 20 rooms, some of which were two stories tall. The pueblo was built of rocks taken from hills in the area, along with saguaro cactus ribs and other materials that were used as beams to support the roof. Similar to other pueblos in the Southwest, the roofs of many rooms were used in the preparation of food and as spaces for recreation. A parapet running around the edge of the roof may have helped contain rooftop activity or served as a spot from which to defend the pueblo if attacked. Settled into a v-shaped notch in the rock, a ladder leading up to a ledge was the only means of access to the pueblo. Inhabitants could easily pull up this ladder to help prevent attackers from getting too close. Unlike others in the region, the Salado people seem to have mostly used inside fire pits dug out of the floor. Smoke stains from fires of the 1300s are still visible on the walls of the lower ruin. In addition to sleeping and storage spaces, the pueblo had communal spaces. A large open room is suspected to have served as a meeting spot for those in the community, as well as for trade, preparing harvested food, and religious ceremonies.

The larger cave in which the upper cliff dwelling was built allowed for a pueblo with twice as many rooms as the lower one. The larger upper pueblo had features not found in the lower one, including a cistern in one of the bigger shared rooms. This cistern collected rainwater seeping into the cave or may have been filled by hand during the dry years. The upper pueblo also contains the same types of rooms for living and storage as the lower dwelling. In the ceiling of one of the newer rooms in the upper cliff dwelling, reeds are used in place of the saguaro ribs and other materials commonly found in older parts of the same pueblo. Perhaps this is a clue that the Salado community had depleted the surrounding area of saguaro cactus and, like others before them, the community was also growing too large for the basin’s resources to support it. While the upper and lower pueblos are the most prominent Salado dwellings at Tonto, the Salado also built other structures there, including smaller, one-room shelters detached from the larger pueblos that may have served as temporary residences. The Salado also built field houses to store tools associated with irrigating and tending crops.

Although much about the Salado is still a mystery, they left many artifacts that help answer some questions. Visitors to Tonto National Monument can see pottery, cotton textiles, woven yucca items, bows, and arrows the Salado produced. Adolph Bandelier’s 1883 archeological survey in the Tonto Basin recorded both the upper and lower pueblo ruins. His scientific study and recording of these and other sites helped bring attention to the country’s archeological treasures but also piqued the interest of relic hunters who looted some of the sites. Some of the rooms in both of the pueblos at Tonto National Monument suffered damage by these early and later treasure hunters.

Plan your visit

Tonto National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located 110 miles east of Phoenix, AZ off either Arizona Route 188 or Arizona Route 88. Route 88 (the Apache Trail) has unpaved portions and includes some rough terrain. There is a fee to visit the park, which is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except for Christmas Day. Ranger-led tours of the upper ruin are offered seasonally. This tour is not recommended for inexperienced hikers. Reservations are required and may be made by calling 928-467-2241. The lower ruin is easier to navigate and can be visited without a guide. A third trail, the Cactus Patch Trail, teaches about desert landscape. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tonto National Monument website or call the number above.

Trail of Tears National Historic Trail Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee

Guided by policies favored by President Andrew Jackson, who led the country from 1828 to 1837, the Trail of Tears (1837 to 1839) was the forced westward migration of American Indian tribes from the South and Southeast. Land grabs threatened tribes throughout the South and Southeast in the early 1800s. Across the United States, the Federal Government consolidated and relocated tribes to reservations forcing them to surrender their lands in pieces by negotiating one treaty after another with the tribes. The Indian Removal Act of 1830, the impetus for the Trail of Tears, targeted particularly the Five Civilized Tribes in the Southeast. As authorized by the Indian Removal Act, the Federal Government negotiated treaties aimed at clearing Indian-occupied land for white settlers. The Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Chickasaw, and Seminole were among the resettled tribes. The National Park Service Trail of Tears National Historic Trail interprets the Trail of Tears primarily as it relates to the Cherokee.

Following the Indian Removal Act, a treaty determined the fate of the Cherokee in the eastern United States. Named after the capital of the Cherokee Nation in New Echota, Georgia, the Treaty of New Echota (1835) gave tribal lands east of the Mississippi River to the Federal Government in exchange for $5,000,000. This agreement preserved the Cherokee Nation but at a great cost. Conceived as a land swap, the Treaty of New Echota was a trade of Cherokee land in the East for land in the West. This arrangement relied on the assumption that most would be willing to abandon an established life in the East for a long journey to an unknown life further west. Not all Cherokee walked the Trail of Tears; some remained in North Carolina where they today form the Eastern Band of the Cherokee.

Negotiations between the government and the Cherokee occurred not with official tribal representatives but instead with a group of four men. Major Ridge, John Ridge, Elias Boudinot (also named Buck Watie), and Andrew Ross spoke for the tribe. As soon as word of the actions by this unauthorized group spread, petitions were organized and more than 14,000 signatures were obtained against the treaty. Nevertheless, President Jackson signed the treaty in 1836, and the State of Georgia began to limit the rights of Cherokee. Removal began in 1836 with the first group of Cherokee leaving in 1837 and the majority traveling in 1838. Many went west with little warning, when federal troops drove them from their homes giving them no time to prepare for a long journey. In 1839, most of the group of men who signed the treaty were murdered for signing away Cherokee lands in the East.

The Trail of Tears records the Cherokees’ journey from its beginning, routes along the way, campsites, and the gravesites and disbandment sites that mark the end of the journey. From a “beginning,” soldiers took the Cherokee to forts, emigration depots, or other areas to form them into larger groups (detachments) for the march west. Next, traveling a series of routes, both overland and by water, the Cherokee made the difficult journey. Campsites help document the Cherokee on their journey. Gravesites and disbandment sites are reminders of the hardships the Cherokee experienced not only while going to the Indian Territory in the West, but also in their new lives that began at end of the trail. Rather than one Trail of Tears, several routes with different origins and destinations in more than a half-dozen States tell the story. This description of the Trail of Tears is able to highlight only a handful of the interesting sites for visitors to see on the Trail of Tears.

Beginnings

The removal of the Cherokee began in 1838 under the leadership of General Winfield Scott who, with 7,000 soldiers and members of various State militias, escorted the Cherokee and other Indians west. At the time of removal, the Cherokee were primarily in Georgia, though tribal lands extended into Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, and other States. At New Echota, Georgia, the pro-treaty faction of the Cherokee signed away Cherokee lands in Appalachia and began the removal process. Negotiations for the treaty--despite a petition and vote to reject the terms--took place at nearby Red Clay Council Ground, approximately 13 miles south of Cleveland. Visitors to Red Clay Council Ground can see where the meeting occurred and view exhibits on the Cherokee. Five miles northeast of Cleveland is Rattlesnake Springs, an assembly site and location of the last council of the Cherokee before their westward removal. Here, the Cherokee resolved, despite relocation, to carry on Cherokee culture, language, and traditions in the new land. For many, the long walk west began in earnest from Rattlesnake Springs. Perhaps as many as 13,000 Cherokee left from here, though not all would reach Indian Territory. In all, 4,000 Cherokee died on the way to present-day Oklahoma.

Before leaving, the Cherokee were an established people. The partially reconstructed Cherokee capital at New Echota is accessible for visitors to tour the home and school of Samuel Worcester, a print shop (from which pro-treaty faction member Elias Boudinot edited the English and Cherokee-language Cherokee Phoenix), the tribal Supreme Court Building, and a relocated tavern. As the tribal capital for 13 years (1825-1838), New Echota was the legislative, judicial, and literary center of Cherokee culture. In addition to constructing government buildings at New Echota, some Cherokee built substantial homes. The Georgia residences of two major Cherokee leaders, Chief John Ross and Major Ridge, remain and are open for tours. The Ross House is in Rossville, Georgia and the plantation home of Major Ridge is in Rome, Georgia. Built by a wealthy Cherokee family, the Vann Home (1804), at Spring Place, Georgia also is still standing and open to the public. Most other evidence of Cherokee settlement is gone.

From these homes and other buildings that no longer remain, the Cherokee were driven to cramped, unhealthy assembly centers in each State which served as temporary holding locations from which larger groups would then go to one of three emigration depots. Though the Trail of Tears began with the forcing of individuals from their homes, the National Park Service interprets the trail as primarily having three trailheads--the emigration depots at Fort Cass (near Charleston, Tennessee), Ross’s Landing (near Chattanooga, Tennessee) and near Fort Payne (Alabama). While changed from its days as a ferry landing and starting point for many of the Cherokee, Ross’s Landing has an outdoor Trail of Tears exhibit. From these starting points, thousands of Cherokee traveled an average of 1,000 miles to the lands they had received in the Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma.

Routes

Most of the displaced Cherokee walked west on the roads, although some went by boat. Rounded up into assembly centers, sent to emigration depots, and then herded west, most Cherokee followed the overland route of Lieutenant B.B. Cannon. Cannon led a group of Cherokee who voluntarily relocated west in 1837. Armed soldiers flushed the Cherokee out of their homes and stripped them of valuable possessions. Tightly packed in holding centers, they found that food and water were scarce and disease and death were common. From those assembled at Rattlesnake Springs, for example, 13 organized detachments made the journey west. While most walked, the infirm and mothers with young children traveled in wagons. Space was limited because food, blankets, and other supplies occupied most of the room. Those who were still alive five months later found themselves in Indian Territory.

Of the 17 total detachments of Cherokee that traveled along the Trail of Tears, the majority went by foot. Those who walked to present-day Oklahoma left mostly between August and November 1838, following a variety of overland routes. As tens of thousands of feet stepped west and wagon train after wagon train followed, the travelers wore down both new paths and old. The Springfield to Fayetteville road segment near Elkhorn Tavern close to Pea Ridge was the supply link between Springfield, Missouri and Fort Smith Arkansas before the Civil War. In 1838, it carried more than mail and goods, as thousands of Cherokee were marched along the road. Today, visitors to Pea Ridge can see part of the path the Cherokee took and learn more about the march west on the park’s auto tour route. Some Cherokee who traveled west on the Trail of Tears returned to fight at Pea Ridge during the Civil War. Other trail locations feature portions of the Memphis to Little Rock Road, along which the Cherokee traveled. Some intact segments are visible today at Village Creek State Park, near Newcastle, Arkansas, or on Henard Cemetery Road, near Zent, Arkansas.

Campsites

The long march took the Cherokee and their military escorts several months. At campsites, the travelers spent a few nights resting between stages of the trip or waiting for weather conditions to improve so they could continue west. Locations like Mantle Rock, today part of Mantle Rock Nature Preserve near Smithland in Livingston County, Kentucky, contain part of the roadbed used by the Cherokee and a Cherokee campsite. A large natural sandstone arch, Mantle Rock, offered a good shelter for the Cherokee. Not all campsites were in ideal locations. Continuing from Mantle Rock, the 11 of 13 overland detachments of Cherokee that passed through the area next crossed the Ohio River by ferry from Kentucky to Illinois. The ferry could only transport a limited number at any one time, forcing the Cherokee camped at Mantle Rock to wait. An unusually cold winter froze both the Ohio and Mississippi rivers halting the last detachment at Mantle Rock. This waiting in cramped, often unhealthy, conditions meant that some of the Cherokee died at Mantle Rock.

Gravesites and Disbandment Sites

Burial sites of Cherokee who died while at Mantle Rock are largely unknown. Other gravesites along the trial have markers. Whitepath and Fly Smith, two Cherokee elders, traveled in the second detachment and died near Hopkinsville, Kentucky in October of 1838 along the highway from Nashville to Hopkinsville. Honored as elders and defenders of Cherokee traditions and culture, they lie in well-marked graves within the local Trail of Tears Park. Visitors to the park can see their graves and learn more about Cherokee culture at a heritage center.

The Cherokee who successfully made the trip west “exited” the Trail of Tears at disbandment sites like Fort Gibson, Oklahoma. Today, the fort and surrounding land are open to visitors. Other groups simply began to spread out upon reaching the Indian Territory. At the time of its construction in 1824, Fort Gibson was on the southwestern edge of “settled” land and was the main presence of the Federal Government on the western frontier.

Having endured the long removal process west, the Cherokee in the Indian Territory began building a new life in Tahlequah, the new tribal capital. The Indian Territory combined with the Oklahoma Territory in 1907 to form the State of Oklahoma. Some families, like the Murrells, rebuilt successful lives in Oklahoma despite the removal process. Visitors can tour the Murrell Home and grounds in Park Hill just outside Tahlequah, Oklahoma.

A people with a strong commitment to maintaining their cultural identity, the Cherokee survived the Trail of Tears. Amid great personal loss and circumstances difficult to imagine today, individual Cherokees emerged as protectors of the people and culture. One of these leaders, Chief John Ross, who was influential before removal and a source of constancy amid change, lies buried near Tahlequah at Ross Cemetery in Park Hill, Oklahoma. The area around this cemetery was one of the first places the Cherokee established themselves after coming west. The cemetery is open to visitors who can see the grave of John Ross as well as other family members. Beginning a new life in a new land was not easy, and the graveyard documents both the life of Chief John Ross and the difficulties faced by settlers in the Indian Territory.

The Trail of Tears is a story of conquest, but it is also a story of victory. The Cherokee still speak their language today and tribal traditions endure--testaments to the strength of a people, resolute in their desire to preserve their culture and heritage on their way for hundreds of miles to life in a new land.

Plan your visit

The Trail of Tears National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park System, stretches across Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Tennessee. For more information, visit the National Park ServiceTrail of Tears National Historic Trail website or call 505-988-6098. To assist with planning your visit, view trail-related sites listed by State at Places to Go and a list of trail-related sites managed by the Federal Government on Nearby Attractions. Other locations along the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail listed in the National Register may be found here. Not all of these sites are open to the public and some may be on private land. A list of certified trail locations that specifically encourage public access is also available on the trail’s website.

Rattlesnake Springs, the John Ross house, and the Major Ridge house are also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Trail of Tears and the Forced Relocation of the Cherokee Nation. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

• Red Clay Council Ground is part of Red Clay State Park
• New Echota Historic Site; a National Historic Landmark
• John Ross House; a National Historic Landmark
• Major Ridge Plantation Home; a National Historic Landmark
• Vann HomeHistoric American Buildings Survey
• Ross’s Landing
• Springfield to Fayetteville Road - Elkhorn Tavern Segment, Pea Ridge National Military Park
• Memphis to Little Rock Road - Village Creek Segment, Village Creek State Park
• Mantle Rock Nature Preserve; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos.
• Whitepath and Fly Smith Gravesite in Trail of Tears Commemorative Park; National Register of Historic Places file: text andphotos
• Fort Gibson; a National Historic LandmarkHistoric American Buildings Survey.
• Murrell Home; a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photosHistoric American Buildings Survey.
• Ross Cemetery (located near the Murrell Home in Park Hill, OK); National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos

Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

Tumacácori National Historical Park in Southern Arizona protects the ruins of three missions founded during the Spanish colonial era. Two of the missions, Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi and San José de Tumacácori, were among the twenty-four founded by Jesuit Father Eusebio Franciso Kino in the region the Spanish called the “Pimería Álta,” meaning “land of the upper Pimas.” The third, San Cayetano de Calabazas, was founded later by Jesuit father Francisco Pauer. From the establishment of these missions in 1691 and 1756 until the final departure of the residents from Tumacácori, the last remaining mission of the three, in 1848, Kino and the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who followed baptized thousands of native people and settlers. Tumacácori National Historical Park preserves the history and tells the stories of these Spanish missions and their influence on the American Indian communities of the Pimería Álta and on the continuing culture of the American southwest.

The native people who lived in the vicinity of Tumacácori called themselves “O’odham,” meaning “people” in their language. The Spanish called the O’odham that they found living along rivers “Pima,” and those that they found living in the desert, “Papago.” Their homeland included the area that is now southern Arizona and the northern part of the Mexican state of Sonora. A peaceful people unless the need arose to defend themselves, the O’odham were farmers, raising corn, beans and squash using flood irrigation. The people called “Papago” by the Spanish are known today as the Tohono O’odham, or “desert people.” Their famous basketry – once necessary for gathering and storing food – is made today using the same material-gathering and weaving techniques as were used by their ancestors.

Founded by Kino in January, 1691, mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori was the first mission to be located in what is now Arizona. Originally located on the east side of the Santa Cruz River, the mission moved – following a nearby rebellion in 1751 – to its present location on the west side of the river, where it was rechristened San José de Tumacácori. By 1757, the community had built a small adobe church. Beginning around 1800 – by this time under the administration of Franciscan missionaries – the community began construction of a larger church. Although in use by the early 1820s, the structure was never entirely completed. The last residents left Tumacácori in 1848. 

The ruins of the larger church remains, a landmark in the Santa Cruz Valley. Also still visible are the remains of the priest’s residence and community area known as the convento, the granary where food was stored, the lime kiln where lime was heated to make mortar and plaster, and parts of the orchard and acequia, or irrigation ditch. Behind the church are the ruins of a cemetery and a mortuary chapel. A reproduction of a ki, or traditional O’odham house, is also on the site.

The Calabazas and Guevavi mission churches are in a more degraded state than Tumacácori, and are not open to the public. Visitors can tour these sites as part of reserved tours during winter months, and can learn about their history and stories at the Tumacácori museum. Founded a day after Tumacácori, Guevavi was designated the cabecera, or headquarters mission for the area. The name Guevavi was derived from the O’odham name for the community, Gu waihe, or “big well.” Like Tumacácori, the Guevavi mission church is an adobe structure. The newly arrived Franciscan missionaries moved their headquarters to Tumacácori in 1768, and within a few years the Guevavi mission was abandoned. The ruins of the 15 by 50 foot church built in 1751 are all that remains of the mission today. 

Father Pauer founded mission San Cayetano de Calabazas, a few miles north of Guevavi, in 1756. By 1786, primarily due to the continuous danger of attack by Apaches, the mission was abandoned, its residents moving to Tumacácori. It became a ranching outpost for the Tumacácori mission.

Visitors enter Tumacácori National Historical Park through the Tumacácori visitor center. The visitor center offers a 15 minute video, an excellent museum, and a bookstore. A self-guided interpretive tour booklet, “In the Footprints of the Past,” is available for loan or purchase in the bookstore.  Guided tours are available at 11:00 and 2:00 January through March, and may be available at other times and seasons. Special tours, such as guided walks to the Santa Cruz River, may also be available. The park website describes tours currently available (nps.gov/tuma).

Tumacácori National Historical Park hosts La Fiesta de Tumacácori each year on the first full weekend in December. This event celebrates the many cultures that have historically been associated with the Santa Cruz Valley with traditional foods, crafts, music, and dance. A mass is held inside the mission church in October in conjunction with Tubac Presidio State Historic Park’s annual Anza Day event. The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail passes through the park, providing opportunities for walkers, bird watchers, and equestrians.

Plan your visit

Tumacacori National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located 45 miles south of Tucson, AZ off exit 29 on I-19. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Tumacácori National Historical Park is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tumacácori National Historical Park website or call 520-398-2341.

Tuzigoot National Monument, Arizona

In the Verde Valley of Arizona, Tuzigoot National Monument features a Southern Sinagua pueblo and the Tavasci Marsh, a natural area along the Verde River. While the valley was more recently the site of several large copper mines, it has a deep history that goes back thousands of years. This history is just as connected to the natural resources of the Verde Valley as the mining operations of the 19th and 20th centuries.

Though much of the surrounding area is more desert-like, the Verde Valley has a permanent source of water that provided moisture for a variety of plant and animal resources for early settlers. For hundreds of years, both the river and marsh supported a number of communities in the valley, making it difficult to tell who first settled there. Possibly either the Hohokam or the Southern Sinagua were the first to live in the valley. Successful management and use of natural resources helped to grow these communities from smaller, more solitary groups to larger ones that moved from pithouses on the valley floor to pueblos along the ridgelines.

The Southern Sinagua built one such ridge-top pueblo at Tuzigoot around 1100 AD and continued to add new rooms until the 1400s. This pueblo housed about 50 people. The Sinagua would often use a large pueblo as a dwelling and community center, surrounded by additional smaller dwellings and outbuildings connected to agriculture. While the region has a mostly arid climate, the marsh and river provided a source of fresh water, wild game, fish, and turtles to the Sinagua. Although summers are hot, a very long growing season allowed for the organized cultivation of crops as a supplement to food taken from the marsh and the river. The mountains around the Tuzigoot site are rich in minerals that were mined into the 20th century. With ample water, a variety of food sources, and mineral resources, the Verde Valley around Tuzigoot was attractive for settlement.

At one time, the Sinagua lived throughout the Verde Valley. At nearby Montezuma Castle National Memorial, another group of Southern Sinagua built into the cliff, allowing them to overlook their surroundings while taking advantage of the shelter and protection offered by the stone walls of the cliff. The Sinagua at Tuzigoot, however, constructed a much more exposed pueblo along a ridge using the stone from the ridge. The pueblo visible today is really a collection of rooms grown over 400 years with new rooms built on top of older ones so that the pueblo is not of a uniform age, but has older and newer parts combined. Access to these rooms would have been primarily through holes in the roof, perhaps to minimize heat loss and gain while also providing light. The rooms mostly served as spaces for sleeping and eating by single-family groups, as the Sinagua used the roof as an additional area for living and working. On the roof, it is thought that they would perform many daily tasks such as food preparation, making stone tools, or keeping a lookout. The Southern Sinagua were particularly well known for their stone tools, including manos and metates to grind the corn that was a large part of their diet.

In addition to these stone tools, the Sinagua also created clothing and baskets they traded as part of an extensive network that reached to Mexico and the Gulf of California. This trade network provided needed supplies that supplemented the tools and objects the Sinagua constructed for themselves. Even though they lived in a setting with a range of food resources, crops, and minerals, the Sinagua acquired some goods only by trade. While other groups traded with the Sinagua for salt, copper, or argillite, the Sinagua themselves seem to have sought the decorated pottery of the Anasazi or Hopi (among other goods).

Despite the comfortable natural setting, the Sinagua left the pueblo at Tuzigoot for unknown reasons around the year 1450. Possibly the valley became overcrowded and the Southern Sinagua moved to different locations or were absorbed by other tribes. When the Sinagua abandoned Tuzigoot, they left behind many artifacts, some of which are on display in the visitor center. Today, much of the ruin at Tuzigoot has been reconstructed to provide a safe and stable environment for visitors; however, the main tower is mostly original and is open to the public. The pueblo is accessible as part of a short loop trail. An additional trail leads out to a viewing area overlooking the marsh that was so important to the Sinagua.

Plan your visit


Tuzigoot National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located 50 miles south of Flagstaff, AZ off of US Alt. 89. There is a fee to visit Tuzigoot National Monument; a discounted pass for both Tuzigoot and nearby Montezuma Castle is also available. Tuzigoot National Monument is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm Labor Day through Memorial Day, and 8:00am through 6:00pm Memorial Day through Labor Day. The park is closed on Christmas Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tuzigoot National Monument website or call 928-634-5564. The park is also featured in the National Park ServiceAmerican Southwest travel itinerary.

 

Walnut Canyon National Monument, Arizona

The rugged terrain in the Flagstaff, Arizona area was home to the Ancestral Puebloans from whom the present day Hopi are descended. Known by their descendants as Hisatsinom, meaning people of long ago, the Hopi ancestors lived in this region for more than 800 years. Although they were not the first to inhabit the Flagstaff area, the Hopi ancestors were the first residents to establish permanent dwellings in a 20-miles long, 400-feet deep, and ¼-mile wide canyon.  Walnut Canyon National Monument preserves these cliffside homes, which tell the story of the Ancestral Puebloans of Flagstaff and their influence on Hopi culture today.

Believed to have lived in the Flagstaff area from 600 until 1400 AD, the Hopi ancestors were an innovative people who managed to sustain their community in an arid region. Archeologists named this group of Ancestral Puebloans the Sinagua, meaning without water, to embody their lifestyle and stand as a testament to the culture’s exemplary agricultural skills.  Like many Pueblo communities of the American Southwest, the Sinagua employed dry-farming techniques to harvest corn, squash, and beans in volcanic terrain.  Otherwise known as the “three sisters,” these crops were drought-resistant and ideal for dry farming, since corn can tolerate the sun and shade its lower growing sister crops, squash and beans, which do not require direct sunlight in order to thrive.

To irrigate these crops in the semi-arid climate, the Sinagua built terraces and small rock check dams that allowed them to conserve rainwater. They also collected water from Walnut Creek, but this source of water was not reliable since the creek did not flow all year. Although the crops grown on the canyon rims provided most of their food, the Sinagua also took advantage of the region’s wild life and natural resources. To add protein to their diet, the Sinagua hunted deer, bighorn sheep, and several smaller animals that lived within and around Walnut Canyon. They also ate wild grapes, berries, yucca, and the Arizona black walnut. Other plants used for food and medicinal purposes grew on the canyon rims, where they cultivated their crops and established the first Sinagua homes.

When the Ancestral Puebloans first settled the region in about 600 AD, the Sinagua people around Flagstaff lived in pithouses and freestanding pueblos scattered along the canyon rims. Eventually, as the community expanded, Sinagua pithouse architecture changed. By the 1100s, the Sinagua were living in alcoves below the canyon rim, where the women constructed unique cliff dwellings still visible throughout the canyon today. Using limestone rocks cemented with golden colored clay, the women formed walls around the eroded limestone caves and reinforced their doorways with wooden beams. Traditionally, they located most of their dwellings in the southern and eastern parts of Walnut Canyon to take advantage of the sunlight, but some were also on the north and west sides for use during warmer periods.

Although the Sinagua only lived in these alcoves for approximately 125 years, the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings are the most visible ruins of the National Monument’s 232 prehistoric sites. When the Sinagua moved to nearby villages in 1250, they left behind over 80 dwellings with three to four rooms each. Together, the six meters long by three-meter deep enclosures house up to 300 rooms, but only 25 of these cliff dwellings are visible to tourists traveling along the canyon footpaths, since pothunters in the 1880s dynamited the cliff dwellings in search of Sinagua possessions. This resulted in the loss of some Sinagua artifacts, but the surviving cliff dwellings, pithouses, and finds from archeological excavations throughout Flagstaff offer great insight into the Sinagua farming community’s life in Walnut Canyon.

Visitors may begin their tour of Walnut Canyon National Monument at the visitor center, where native artifacts and museum exhibits are on display. The bookstore is also at the visitor center, and in the lobby, visitors can enjoy the panoramic views of the canyon and distant mountains. To tour the canyon, visitors can follow the Island and Rim trails, two paved footpaths that begin at the visitor center. The Island Trail is a mile long loop to the Sinagua cliff dwellings, and the Rim Trail is a self-guided tour that takes visitors on a half hour trip along the canyon’s perimeter and through the Ponderosa forest. On the Rim Trail, visitors will also see two canyon overlooks, a pithouse, and other pueblo ruins.

Walnut Canyon National Monument also offers two ranger-guided hikes, which require reservations. The Ledge Hike lasts four hours, and the Ranger Cabin Walk is a two-hour hike.  Visitors can also picnic in designated areas, but no camping is available in the park. Information on nearby lodging and campgrounds, including the Bonito Campground at Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, is available on the Walnut Canyon National Monument website.

                                                                                                                            
Plan your visit

Walnut Canyon National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located 7.5 miles east of Flagstaff, AZ off exit 204 on I-40. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Walnut Canyon park grounds and visitor center are open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm during the winter (November-April) and from 8:00am to 5:00pm in the summer (May-October). Park trails close an hour before the park grounds and visitor center. Walnut Canyon National Monument is closed on Christmas Day. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Walnut Canyon National Monument website or call 928-526-1157.

Walnut Canyon National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service’s American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, Oklahoma

As the nation expanded, the world the American Indians knew changed. Although some tribes accepted the changes, others took up armed resistance against the United States, whose government continuously broke its promise to protect American Indian territory. As the Indians fought to protect their land and way of life, the United States armed forces under the command of Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer sought to end Indian raids by weakening their arsenal and destroying their morale at the Battle of Washita. Today, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site protects and interprets the setting along the Washita River where Lt. Colonel George A. Custer led the 7th U.S. Cavalry on a surprise dawn attack against the Southern Cheyenne village of Peace Chief Black Kettle on November 27, 1868. The attack played a significant role in the Indian Wars, a tragic clash of cultures that is part of the American story.

The United States government established a permanent Indian frontier that reserved the land west of the Mississippi for America’s aboriginal peoples. The reservations, officials hoped, would not only keep white settlers from intruding into the American Indians' territory, but would also provide a home for displaced eastern tribes. Although congress believed this effort would please the Indians and bring peace to the region, only a few Plains tribes accepted life on the reservations, while others became hostile and resisted as the situation forced their people to share what little land they had left with tribes that were not indigenous to the area.

The differences in the cultural traditions between the eastern and western tribes were not the only factors to cause friction in the region. By the 1860s, the notion of Manifest Destiny and the Gold Rush swept the nation, forcing western tribes to not only share their lands with displaced tribes, but also with land-hungry and gold-seeking settlers who believed they were destined to expand across the Indian frontier. Aggravated by the white encroachment, numerous bands of American Indians--including the Arapaho and Cheyenne of the Arkansas territory--began attacking white settlers as they traveled west on wagon trains and stagecoaches. As a result, the Federal Government began negotiating peace treaties with tribal leaders, hoping to restore order in the region and end the American Indian raids.

On November 29, 1864, as Chief Black Kettle was pursuing a policy of peace with American officials, Colonel J.M. Chivington and his troops attacked and destroyed the chief’s village that was allegedly under the protection of the US Army. Although the village at Sand Creek flew an American flag along with a white flag to demonstrate that the people were at peace with the United States, the troops killed and horribly mutilated 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho men, women and children. Known as the Sand Creek Massacre, the attack on Black Kettle’s village resulted in several retaliatory raids led by Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Lakota warriors, who along with Black Kettle had survived the dreadful and unwarranted attack.

In an attempt to make peace with the raiding tribesmen, congress established a federal peace commission to end the raids and assign each of the Plains Indians to reservations in present day Oklahoma. The peace commission and the Cheyenne, Arapaho, and other tribes signed the Treaty of Little Arkansas on October 17, 1865, and the Treaty of Medicine Lodge on October 1867. According to the terms of the treaties, by ending the raids, the Plains Indians would receive permanent homes, weapons, food, blankets, clothing and other goods.

Because congress failed to ratify the treaties quickly and many of the annual supplies for the reservations did not arrive, some tribesmen became hostile and encouraged others to resist life on the reservation. By the summer of 1868, operating with bands of 50 and 100 warriors, the Plains Indians were officially at war, killing and destroying the camps of all who invaded their lands. Unable to control these warriors, Major General Philip H. Sheridan developed a strategy to deal with the Plains warriors, whose warfare tactics made them difficult to defeat.

Recognizing that the seasons set the pattern of war for the Arapaho, Cheyenne, and Kiowa warriors, Sheridan initiated a winter campaign to attack the Plains Indians when they were most vulnerable. As avid horsemen, the Plains warriors relied greatly on their horses during war, often fighting in the spring and summer when war ponies were stronger from eating grass. Since horses had minimal food during the winter and blizzards forced the Plains Indians to seek refuge near river valleys, Sheridan wisely attacked the Indians during the winter when they least expected it. If his men succeeded, Sheridan hoped the winter campaign would destroy the morale of the Plains Indians who believed the winter months protected their people from enemy attacks.

To lead the campaign, Sheridan chose Lt. Colonel George Armstrong Custer’s 7th US Cavalry, who on November 23, 1868 set out from Camp Supply to the Washita River valley where 6,000 Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa had set up camp for the winter. After journeying through the snow, Custer and his men reached the Washita Valley shortly after midnight on November 27 and silently positioned four battalions around the sleeping Cheyenne camp that coincidentally belonged to Chief Black Kettle. At daybreak, Custer led his battalion straight into Black Kettle’s village, while Major Elliott, Captain Thompson, and Captain Myers attacked from the northeast and southwest. As the troops charged in from all directions, few Cheyenne managed to seek refuge and return fire.

The army destroyed the village and more than 100 Indians in the village died, including Chief Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman Later.  Of those who survived the attack, a few escaped, but most became prisoners.  Black Kettle, a respected Cheyenne leader, had sought peace and protection from the US Army and had signed the Little Arkansas Treaty in 1865 and the Medicine Lodge Treaty in 1867.  Sheridan’s campaign and Custer’s victory shattered the Plains Indians' security and morale, and after recognizing that winter could no longer shield their people from enemy attacks, the tribes began to accept reservation life bringing to an end their armed resistance.

Today, at Washita Battlefield National Historic Site visitors can see where the battle occurred and explore the visitor center at the Black Kettle National Grassland District Office. In the Cheyenne communities, visitors may camp, fish, and hike trails.

Plan your visit

Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located approximately 30 miles north of I-40 on Highway 283 in Cheyenne, OK. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Washita is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and on New Year’s Day. Admission is free. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Washita Battlefield National Historic Site website or call 580-497-2442.

Whitman Mission National Historic Site, Washington

A rest stop along the historic Oregon Trail, the Whitman Mission was the site of the 1847 massacre that played a key role in America’s westward expansion. What was initially a mission to Christianize American Indians soon became the center of a bloody clash of cultures between white settlers and American Indian tribes. Located in Walla Walla, Washington, Whitman Mission National Historic Site preserves the site and tells the story of the events that took place on the Columbia Plateau from the moment the Whitmans established their mission in 1836, up to 1848, when after the massacre, Oregon became an official territory of the United States.

Born September 4, 1802, in Rushville, New York, Marcus Whitman spent most of his childhood learning how to prepare wool for spinning, but he left behind his textile laboring days in 1809, when he moved to Massachusetts after his father’s death.  Around this time he lived with his uncle, and while receiving his education in Plainfield, the teenage Whitman first became interested in the religious revivalism during the Second Great Awakening. When he reached adulthood, Whitman left his uncle’s place in Massachusetts and returned to New York with aspirations of becoming a minister. Instead, upon learning of his family’s hesitation toward his chosen vocation, Whitman pursued and obtained his degree in medicine becoming a doctor in 1831. Despite his new profession, Whitman continued to follow his religious aspirations, and in 1832, he moved to Wheeler, NY where he became a prominent member of the town’s Presbyterian Church.

By 1834, Whitman’s active membership in the church community captured the attention of Boston’s American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions (ABCFM), and in 1835, the board appointed him as a missionary doctor. The same year, the board sent him with Reverend Samuel Parker to the Oregon country to determine if prospects were good for their missions. The board’s initial interest in Oregon stemmed from a fictional article published in 1833, which told the story of western American Indians who traveled to St. Louis in search of educators who would teach them about the white man’s “Book of Heaven,” or the Bible. After meeting some Indians on their journey, Whitman and Parker were convinced their missions would succeed, and while Parker stayed to explore the area, Whitman returned to New York to recruit workers and other missionaries, including his wife Narcissa.

In September 1836, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman reached the Columbia River, along with Reverend Henry Spalding and his wife Eliza. The Whitmans opened their mission in Waiilatpu to work with the Cayuse, and the Spaldings established their mission among the Nez Perce people of Lapwai. Once settled, the missionaries learned the native tongue, and by 1839, Spalding published his book in the Nez Perce language. While the Whitman and Spalding missions expanded gradually, other missionaries reached the complex and established new stations. During this time, three properties were erected, the blacksmith shop, gristmill, and a main large adobe house or mission house. Both missions establish large complexes; however, Whitman’s site was not as successful as Spalding’s mission.

Although the two mission sites were within close proximity, the cultural differences between the two American Indian tribes and the white settlers caused great friction. Whitman’s Cayuse Indians were not as receptive to the white man’s religion as Spalding's Nez Perce converts. By 1842, having heard of the growing dissension between the Cayuse and Whitman’s mission, the Board ordered the closing of both the Waiilatpu and Lapwai stations. Whitman, convinced his mission would succeed if provided more time, traveled to St. Louis, New York, Washington, DC, and Boston to make his case and save his mission. In 1843, moved by his statement, the American Board of Foreign Missions offered the Whitman and Spalding missions a second chance and withdrew the original orders to close the missions. On his final return to Oregon during the Great Migration of 1843, Whitman led the first wagon train to the Columbia River on what would later become the historic Oregon Trail.

Although the mission sites of Waiilatpu and Lapwai were not directly on the Oregon Trail, numerous westward migrating groups stopped and sought shelter at these missions during times of illness and destitution. In 1844, the Whitmans adopted the seven Sager children who reached the mission after losing their parents during their journey west. Although at the time the children were fortunate, their future seemed bleak as tensions between the Whitman mission and the Indians continued to grow. Cultural differences had already led to great misunderstandings, and when a measles epidemic spread throughout the Waiilatpu mission site -- killing a greater number of Cayuse Indians than white settlers --a tragedy occurred.

On November 29, 1847, after seeing that Whitman’s medicine only helped the settler’s children and not their own, the Cayuse attacked the Waiilatpu mission and killed Marcus Whitman, his wife, and the Sager children who had not died from the measles. The Cayuse then captured some of the remaining survivors and held them hostage, while others managed to escape. A month later, the Cayuse released the hostages after Peter Skene Ogden of the Hudson’s Bay Company offered a ransom. The hostages, including the Spaldings, reached Fort Walla Walla on January 8, 1848, and in the same year, survivor Joseph Meek traveled to Washington, DC to inform congress of the attacks. On behalf of the settlers, he petitioned the Federal Government to create the Territory of Oregon, and on August 14, 1848, President Polk--who was cousin by marriage of Joseph Meek--signed the bill making Oregon a legal territory of the United States.

The Whitman Mission was the first Christian mission established in the Pacific Northwest. Although the mission failed in establishing a positive relationship with the Indians, the Whitman Mission tragedy opened the door for the United States to claim Oregon officially. The Whitman Mission is also significant in American history for being the first to publish a book in the Pacific Northwest. In another first, the women of the mission, Narcissa Whitman and Eliza Spalding, were the first white women to travel across the continent to Oregon.

Today, at Whitman Mission National Historic Site, visitors can begin their journey to the past at the visitor center and learn about the mission by walking on the self-guided trails to the Mission House, the Great Grave, the Whitman Memorial, and the reconstructed Oregon Trail Ruts.

Plan your visit

Whitman Mission National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 328 Whitman Mission Rd. in Walla Walla, WA. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Whitman Mission Visitor Center operates daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm and from 8:00am to 6:00pm in the summer. The visitor center is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. The park grounds are open every day from dawn until dusk. There is an admission fee for adults over 16 years of age. The ticket is valid for seven days and Golden Passes are honored. For more information, visit the National Park Service Whitman Mission National Historic Site website or call 509-522-6360. 

Wupatki National Monument, Arizona

Over 900 years ago, the eruption of Sunset Crater Volcano in Arizona forced the people living in the region of present day Flagstaff to evacuate their homes and the lands they had cultivated for 400 years. Although the community near Sunset Crater had enough warning to vacate the area, the lava and cinder debris burned and covered the Ancestral Puebloan pithouses. The eruption not only destroyed homes, but it also changed the land, making it difficult for the Sunset Crater community to grow crops. The farmers relocated to nearby lands in northeast Flagstaff, where less ash and cinder had fallen. Wupatki National Monument protects one of five Ancestral Puebloan ruins on the outskirts of Sunset Crater.

Although the soil in their new homeland contained small traces of ash, residents of Wupatki and nearby pueblos realized that their agricultural community could benefit from the unique volcanic terrain. Until the eruption of Sunset Crater, the land in Flagstaff was a relatively dry region with minimal water. To sustain their community in the arid climate, the Ancestral Puebloans employed dry farming techniques that allowed them to harvest corn, squash, and beans in the region’s nutrient poor soil. Archeologists named these people the Sinagua, for their ability to sustain their community and farmland “without water.”

Despite the occasional presence of moisture in the air, the amount of rain from tantalizing thunderstorms was minimal.  To conserve the little rainwater that fell, the Sinagua built terraces and small rock check dams. Following the Sunset Crater eruption, farming in Flagstaff became less of a challenge for the Sinagua people, because they discovered that the small layers of cinder and ash blanketing the northeastern lands helped keep the soil moist. As a result, a new agricultural community spread in the northeastern part of the region, where the people built larger multi-level pueblos--instead of smaller scattered pithouses as had been their tradition before the volcanic eruption.

Established in the 1100s, Wupatki was the tallest and largest of these newly formed pueblos. Its homes ranged from one-story single-family structures to multi-level 100 room dwellings. Although most of these rooms served as residences, some were for storage and others were for processing food. The Wupatki design demonstrates that the people recognized the need to store food in case of droughts and crop failure. Despite the volcanic moisture in the terrain, unreliable weather remained an important factor and the pueblo Indians often performed religious ceremonies to ask the spirits to bring rain and good fortune to their lands.

The circular ruin at Wupatki resembles a great kiva—a subterranean structure where Puebloans gathered and performed their religious ceremonies. The kiva is the lowest structure in Wupatki. The tallest dwelling at the site stands three stories high, with double walls measuring up to six feet tall. To fill in these double walls, the Wupatki pueblo people used rubble, and to build their masonry dwellings, they used sandstone slabs, limestone blocks, and chunks of basalt cemented with a clay-based mortar. The Wupatki residents also designed a ventilation system that allowed them to build fires within their homes.

To support these structures, the people at Wupatki placed wooden beams and covered the ceilings with timber. Today, although the roofs no longer exist, and despite the effects of weathering, many components of the sturdy Wupatki dwellings remain intact. The ruins illustrate the lifestyle of the different peoples who inhabited and visited Wupatki. Despite the benefits brought to the land by the Sunset Crater eruption, trading with others was vital for the peoples of Wupatki and nearby pueblos since unpredictable weather often determined if crops survived.

Until its abandonment in 1250, Wupatki was a meeting place where different cultures exchanged ideas in the ceremonial ball court and traded goods to meet their needs. Tribes from the Hohokam tradition who were living in the southern region brought shells, salt, and cotton, and the communities of the Ancestral Puebloan tradition traded copper and turquoise. Among those who traded at Wupatki were the Sinagua Indians from nearby pueblos, Navajo families, and other ancestral Puebloans whose descendants still live nearby. Today, the ruins of Wupatki, and the nearby pueblos of Wukoki, Citadel, Nalakihu, and Lomaki continue to be sacred to the Hopi, Zuni, and Navajo people.

Visitors can begin exploring Wupatki National Monument at the visitor center, where museum exhibits feature the stories of the people who lived in Wupatki and surrounding pueblos. Behind the visitor center, the Wupatki Pueblo Trail takes visitors on a 30-minute self-guided tour of the largest of five pueblos located within the boundaries of the Wupatki and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monuments. Other trails include the .5-mile long Lomaki Pueblo Trail to the Box Canyon Pueblos; the Doney Mountain Trail, another .5-mile long trail from the picnic area to the top of the cinder cone; and several .2 mile long trails to the Wukoki, Citadel, and Nalakihu Pueblos. Touring all five pueblos takes approximately two hours.

Tourists are also encouraged to visit nearby Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument, where the visitor center displays exhibits on volcanoes. Here, visitors can learn about Sunset Crater and its impact on the pueblo communities while taking the one-mile Lava Flow Trail. Although there is no camping at Sunset Crater Volcano, campsites are available at the Bonito Campground across from the Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument visitor center.

Plan your visit

Wupatki National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 6400 N. Highway 89 in Flagstaff, AZ. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Christmas Day. The scenic drive, trails, and pueblos are open year-round from sunrise to sunset. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Wupatki Volcano National Monument website or call 928-679-2365.

Many components of the Wupatki National Monument have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey including: the Wupatki RuinsWukoki RuinsCitadel Ruins, and Ball Court. The Wupatki National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

 

Yosemite National Park California

As one of the most beloved parks in the National Park System, Yosemite National Park is a popular destination to explore the California wilderness through outdoor activities like camping, hiking, climbing, riding, fishing, birding, and skiing. The park also has many stories to tell about the diverse peoples who played a role in the history of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Yosemite was the home for some of America’s first peoples for thousands of years before becoming a tourist destination. Seven contemporary American Indian tribes trace their roots to the lands of Yosemite. Today, visitors to the park can explore the natural and cultural history of the Sierra Nevada Mountains at a number of locations. Yosemite Valley Visitor Center provides an orientation to the park, a movie, and brochures to guide visitors through the Yosemite Cemetery, the final resting place of a number of people involved with the park. Next door to the visitor center, the Yosemite Museum offers visitors the opportunity to learn about the cultural history of the park, particularly about the Miwok and Paiute tribes.

The ancestors of today’s tribes arrived in the area roughly 3,000 to 4,000 years ago. Here, they hunted, fished, and gathered plants, moving seasonally throughout the area, but also setting up permanent camps. The Ahwahneechees were another tribe that lived in the parklands, but very few were still alive by the mid-1800s. The Indian Village and Museum behind the Yosemite Museum offers exhibits and cultural demonstrations of Indian life and a short trail through a reconstructed Miwok-Paiute village. An art gallery displays selections from the museum’s art collection. LeConte Memorial Lodge, a National Historic Landmark, seasonally presents environmental programs for adults and children. The lodge was the first park visitor center; today, it is run by the Sierra Club.

Following the discovery of gold in California in the late 1840s, many settlers came west into the area. Hikers in the park can visit a well-preserved silver mine active from 1879 to 1890, called Golden Crown, near Bloody Canyon. The first tourists arrived around 1855. Early visitors included soldiers, artists, writers, and sightseers. Early settlers helped as guides and protected the park, as did soldiers. Between 1891 and 1913, approximately 500 African American soldiers helped guard the park and improve access to it. These “Buffalo Soldiers” played an important role in the story of the American West. The park continued to have military connections, as many of its tourist facilities hosted recovering soldiers during World War II. The Ahwahnee Hotel served as a naval hospital.

A few of the early visitors to Yosemite also became some of this country’s greatest advocates for conservation. In the Tuolumne Meadows section of the park, visitors can hike to what might be called the “birthplace” of the park. A one-mile hike from either the Lembert Dome parking area or the Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center leads to the spot John Muir and Robert Underwood Johnson, a magazine editor, hatched the idea of creating the park. Visitors can learn more about Muir through summertime live performances by a costumed interpreter at the Yosemite Valley auditorium. The Tuolumne Meadows Visitor Center provides additional information on the area and John Muir. While in Tuolumne Meadows, explore the Parsons Memorial Lodge or Soda Springs to learn about the cultural and natural history of the area.

At Wawona and near the Mariposa Grove, visitors can continue to discover the people and places that shaped Yosemite. At the Wawona Visitor Center, visitors can see artwork showing the park during the 19th century and receive information about the area. Nearby is the Pioneer Yosemite History Center, a collection of buildings and materials showing life in the park from roughly 1800 to 1900. Near the giant sequoias at Mariposa Gove is the Mariposa Grove Museum, housed in a replica of an early settler’s cabin. The museum has information about the trees.

From Hetch Hetchy to the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias, Yosemite is a spectacular place that offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore a varied geography and to learn more about indigenous Americans and the other peoples who are part of the Yosemite story.

Plan your visit

Yosemite National Park, a unit of the National Park System and a World Heritage Site , includes more than 1,000 square miles in California. The main visitor center is located just north of California State Route 140 in the Yosemite Valley, CA. Additional visitor centers are located in Big Oak Flat, Tuolumne Meadows, and Wawona. Some of these are seasonal. Five historic places within the park have been designated National Historic Landmarks: LeConte Memorial LodgeParsons Memorial Lodge, theRangers’ Clubthe Ahwahnee, and the Wawona Hotel and Thomas Hill Studio. Click here to explore the more than 30 sites within Yosemite National Park listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There is a fee to visit the park, which is open all day, 365 days a year. For more information, visit the National Park Service Yosemite National Park website or call 209-372-0200.

Scores of sites within the park have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey or Historic American Engineering Record. Click to see sites for Mariposa County or Tuolumne County.


Yucca House National Monument, Mesa Verde, Colorado

Yucca House National Monument on the lower eastern slopes of the Sleeping Ute Mountains protects one of the largest archeological sites in Southwest Colorado, which dates from the Great Pueblo Period. Here, from 1150 to 1300 A.D., the Ancestral Puebloan people of Southwest Colorado established an important community center. The preservation of Yucca House ensures that visitors can learn about and archeologists will be able to continue to study this unexcavated site. The site has the potential to yield important information about the Ancestral Puebloan society of Mesa Verde that will contribute to understanding this culture’s history, religion, sociopolitical structure, why the people left the area in the late 1200s, and their overall impact on the present day Pueblo peoples.

The first written account was by Professor William Holmes, who surveyed the region in 1878 and designated this site as the “Aztec Springs.” Archeologists renamed this Ancestral Puebloan site to clarify that the Aztec Indians did not build the community there. Named for its location at the base of the Sleeping Ute Mountains, which the Ute Indians and other tribes refer to as the “mountain with lots of yucca growing on it,” Yucca House National Monument consists of two major sagebrush-covered mounds and several smaller Pueblo Indian ruins clustered throughout the monument grounds.

The largest of these Pueblo mounds is at the base of Ute Mountain, on the western side of the complex. Approximately 80 by 100 feet wide, this rectangular shaped mound with rooms on all four sides is the largest Pueblo ruin at Yucca House National Monument and the tallest of all the Pueblo mounds. Generally referred to as the “Upper House” because of its high elevation, this large Pueblo mound measures between 15 to 20 feet high. At the center of this rectangular site are three depressions that are believed to contain the ruins of two to three small kivas.

Approximately 600 feet to the east of the Upper House is the second major Pueblo mound of Yucca House. Known as the “Lower House,” and sometimes referred to as the East Ruin, this structure is an L-shaped pueblo with at least eight rooms located along the northern wall. Together, these rooms measure more than 50 feet long and between eight to ten feet high, making the northern side the highest portion of this mound. A rock wall surrounds a main plaza within the Lower House mound. Enclosed in this wall is a large circular depression with a 50-foot diameter, which may have been the site of a Great Kiva or a ceremonial dance platform.

North of the Lower House and surrounding the Upper House are smaller Pueblo mounds or houses that together form the National Monument’s West Complex. Although these rubble mounds do not offer a clear delineation of the number of structures surrounding the Upper House, studies estimate that up to 600 rooms and over 100 small kivas were in the West Complex. At the highest elevation of this complex is evidence of a Great Kiva, which archeologists believe may have served the entire pueblo community living at Yucca House. Also located within the West Complex is the active spring that presently runs between the Great Kiva and Upper House.

It is not known whether the spring flowed at Yucca House during the time of the Great Pueblo period, but the Ancestral Puebloans characteristically established their villages near a reliable water source. As an agriculturally based society, the ancestral Puebloans required water to sustain their community. The spring allowed the community to irrigate their crops and helped attract the native wildlife. The Ancestral Puebloan diet consisted not only of corn, beans, squash, and yucca, but also of deer and smaller animals that the people hunted. The people of the Great Pueblo period also used water to mix mud mortar, which the Ancestral Puebloans needed to make their elaborate black pottery and to cement the limestone structures throughout the monument.

Although the Pueblo community of Yucca House built most of these structures with limestone blocks, some of these ruins—particularly those in the Upper House—have traces of adobe. Despite this being a characteristic of southwestern Pueblo architecture, the use of adobe was unusual for structures dating before the 1200s. The adobe in the Upper House ruins might suggest that other cultural groups traded and interacted with the ancestral Puebloan community of Yucca House. Questions still remain concerning the architectural influences and association between the Chacoan culture of the neighboring Mesa Verde pueblos and the Yucca House community, but the ruins at Yucca House National Monument offer great insight into the Ancestral Puebloans of the American Southwest.

Yucca House is surrounded by private land and only accessible by gravel or dirt road. People who wish to visit the monument should contact the staff at Mesa Verde National Park for directions and advice on planning a visit. Please be courteous toward the private landowners and close all gates behind you as you enter to prevent livestock from escaping. Presently there are no visitor facilities or services at the national monument, and the closest gasoline station, food vendors, restrooms, and lodging facilities are located in Cortez, Colorado.

Plan your visit

Yucca House National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located off MC County Road B accessible at the intersection of Hwy. 160 and Hwy. 491 in Mesa Verde, CO. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photo. The monument is open year-round. There is no admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Yucca House National Monument website or call 970-529-4465 for directions.

 

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, Arizona

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is a cultural crossroads offering visitors a diverse and intriguing history. The first National Heritage Area west of the Mississippi covers 21-square miles encompassing the town of Yuma, Arizona, near the Californian and Mexican borders. The history emphasizes three major cultural groups—American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo-American. The crossing point attracted many over the centuries because of the natural narrowing and calming of the Colorado River. Although bridges now span the river, it is still possible to view the granite outcroppings and significant historic buildings and sites throughout the heritage area. Yuma Crossing was an important transportation and communication gateway between New Spain and Alta California during the Spanish colonial period and between the American Southwest and California during the time of the American westward movement.

As it is today, the Colorado River was the lifeblood of the entire region, yet the rushing water so vital for life made it nearly impossible to cross the river safely. Pre-contact American Indian tribes were the first to discover the natural granite outcroppings that settled the mighty Colorado enough to make crossing feasible. Many peoples, including the ancestors of the modern day Quechan and Cocopah tribes, settled near the river.

The first Europeans to arrive at the crossing were Spanish explorers led by Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz. In 1540, the expeditions navigated up the Colorado from the Sea of Cortez and found thriving communities along the riverbanks near the crossing. These Spanish explorers coined the name Yuma. Noticing how the Native Americans’ cooking fires filled the valley with smoke, the Spanish called the Indians the Yumas, stemming from the Spanish word for smoke, humo.

After the first Spanish explorers came, others continued to travel the region. Father Eusebio Kino’s interest was in building missions and converting the native peoples to Christianity around the middle of the 17th century. Then in 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza traversed the crossing in search of a practical overland route from Mexico to northern California for New Spain. He arrived at Yuma in January and established friendly relations with the Quechans, who controlled the crossing, allowing future Spanish settlers safe passage across the river. Anza’s trail and the Yuma crossing opened the route for further Spanish settlement in Alta (or upper) California. As use of the crossing increased, the Spanish felt it necessary to control the crossing, although this strained the Quechan relations leading to a rebellion in 1781. After the Quechans destroyed the Spanish settlement at the crossing, the Spanish never again tried to control the Quechans or the Yuma Crossing.

The Mexican-American War of the late 1840s forced Mexico to cede most of what is now the American Southwest to the United States, although it was not until the ratification of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 that the area south of the Gila River of Arizona, including Yuma, officially became part of the United States. The area became popular with Anglo-Americans during the Gold Rush of the mid 1800s. At the time named Colorado City, the town saw over 60,000 travelers in one year crossing the Colorado by rope ferry in pursuit of Californian gold.

With the increase in traffic, the US Army took notice of the importance of the site and in 1852, established Fort Yuma on Indian Hill, overlooking the crossing. In the 1860s, the US Army created the Quartermaster Depot to supply the new American Southwest outposts and shipped freight and supplies by sea and up the Colorado River by steamships to reach the depot. At any one time, the warehouse held a six-month supply of food, clothing, ammunition and other necessities for forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.

With the coming of the railroad in 1877, which eventually became part of Southern Pacific Railroad running coast to coast, the need for the Depot faded and the Army closed it in 1883. The site then served a variety of purposes, including housing the first office of the US Reclamation Services, now the Bureau of Reclamation. The US Army Quartermaster Depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is now the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park displaying five of Arizona’s oldest and best-preserved buildings dating from the beginning of the Depot. Exhibits describe the amazing engineering feats of the Bureau of Reclamation’s irrigation project.

As more people learned of Arizona City, renamed after a flood that destroyed Colorado City in 1862, the town grew becoming one of the busiest and wildest of the Wild West. After the Civil War, Main Street became a 100-foot right of way to accommodate the heavy wagon traffic. Officially incorporated in 1871 as Arizona City, the town had its named changed once again in 1873, this time to Yuma. Shortly thereafter in 1876, the first prisoners chiseled the first seven cells for the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison out of the granite hillside.

Yuma Territorial Prison operated until 1909 when overcrowding forced its closure, but soon after the prison closed the local high school burned and the old prison buildings provided classroom space for area students from 1910 to 1914. The 1920s rerouting of the railroad caused the destruction of half of the original prison. Distressed families and hobos took refuge in the abandoned buildings during the Great Depression. Local volunteers finally saved the prison from deteriorating by creating a city museum, which then became the main attraction of Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. The park is open year round so visitors can experience the prison, which gained considerable fame after it was a feature in the 1957 film and more recent remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Like the Depot, the prison is part of the part of Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites National Historic Landmark. 

At the turn of the 20th century, Yuma’s focus changed from the Wild West to taming the wild Colorado River. The newly formed US Reclamation Services, now the Bureau of Reclamation, took on an irrigation project, called the Yuma Project. Construction of Laguna Dam, which is just 13 miles northeast of Yuma, began in 1905. A massive tunnel was also part of the project. The Yuma Siphon pulled water from the California side of the river into the town of Yuma. An exhibit in the Corral House of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park provides information about the construction of the Laguna Dam and Yuma Project.

Yuma National Heritage Area includes a number of districts and individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Yuma’s historic downtown, with its Yuma Main Street Historic District and Brinley Avenue Historic District, is an important center for the community. As gold rushers ran for the California hills, Main Street funneled thousands of travelers to the rope ferry crossing the Colorado River. Close proximity to the river caused many floods, sweeping away the town on more than one occasion. The last big flood occurred in 1916, so most of the buildings on Main Street date from the 1920s. Madison Avenue, included in the Brinley Avenue Historic District, was more sheltered from floods, so visitors can see buildings dating from the 1860s there. The buildings range from adobe residential buildings to commercial blocks.

Just out of historic downtown is the Yuma Century Heights Conservancy Residential Historic District, the first suburban development in the area. Developed at the beginning of the 20th century, the neighborhood is an eclectic mix of Victorian architecture. During World War II, the Yuma area teamed with activity. Yuma Army Air Base opened and became one of the busiest flight schools in the nation. Once the war ended, development and growth moved out of the historic downtown, but in the last ten years, the community has been working hard to revitalize the downtown.

Recently, Yuma opened the Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, an outdoor exhibit area at the exact site where the first railroad entered Yuma in 1877. The exhibit area explains the historic importance of the natural crossing at Yuma. This park preserves the original concrete pivot on which the rail bridge would turn to allow boats to pass. The city is also striving to restore the riverfront. The East Wetlands, an area of 1,400 acres, has been set aside as a nature preserve. Confined by levees for flood control, a buildup of silt and non-native vegetation had clogged the riverbank. So far, the city has restored 400 acres to its natural habitat. A 3-mile hiking trail within the East Wetlands is now open. The West Wetlands is a 110-acre river front park the public can enjoy. The Quechan Indian tribe plays a pivotal role in the heritage area, particularly in relation to the Yuma East Wetlands restoration.

Plan your visit

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located just off Interstate 8, halfway between San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Click here for National Historic Landmark file: Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites: text and photos. There are many sites of interest within the heritage area. Yuma Quartermasters Depot State Historic Park is located on North 4th Ave and has free admission. It is open 9am to 5pm daily from Oct. 1 – May 31 and closed on Mondays June 1 – Sept. 30. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is located at Giss Parkway and Prison Hill Rd. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm Oct.1 – May 31. During the summer, June 1 – Sept 30, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pivot Point Interpretive Park is located where Madison Avenue meets the river. It is a city park and open from 6am to 11pm daily. The East and West Wetlands, located near the Colorado River, also offer outdoor recreation activities.

Golden Spike National Historic Site, Brigham City, Utah

On May 10, 1869, Andrew J. Russell captured one of the more captivating images of America’s history in the photograph most commonly known as the “Champagne Photo.” Shot during a railroad ceremony in Promontory Summit, Utah, the image highlights the emotions and sense of fulfillment that the workers and engineers of the nation’s first transcontinental railway felt when they drove the last spike at the joining point of the tracks of the Central Pacific Railroad of California and the Union Pacific Railroad. Otherwise known as the Golden Spike Ceremony, this historic event not only celebrates the completion of the first transcontinental railroad, named the Pacific Railroad, but it also recognizes the significance of the immigrant workforce that helped the nation accomplish what many believed was impossible.

Today, Golden Spike National Historic Site continues to commemorate the joining of the western and eastern tracks at Promontory Summit and the history of the workers who built the first transcontinental railroad. Constructed between 1863 and 1869, the first transcontinental railroad created a revolutionary transcontinental transportation network and became one of the technological feats of the 19th century with the driving of the last spike at Promontory Summit that opened it to traffic on May 10, 1869.

An article published by The Emigrant in 1832 was the first to sound the call for the construction of a railroad to the Pacific, however, the United States government did not officially begin contemplating the idea until the 1850s. By this time, major cities around the nation had begun hosting conventions to promote the idea of a transcontinental railroad. As a result, public officials from both political parties began voicing their support. Among them were John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, and Stephen A. Douglas, who with other prominent politicians began including the transcontinental railroad in their political platforms.

The failure to agree on whether the Pacific Railroad would follow a southern or northern route and the imminent threat of the Civil War delayed the construction of the nation’s first transcontinental railway. Despite these concerns, Theodore D. Judah, the chief engineer of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, and a group of railroad advocates from California continued to lobby Congress to fund the transcontinental railway. After numerous visits to the nation’s capital, and since there was no southern opposition during the Civil War to vote against a northern route, Judah garnered enough support to obtain passage of the Railroad Act of 1862.

Once President Lincoln signed the bill into law, construction began the following year with the groundbreaking ceremonies of the Central Pacific in Sacramento, California on January 8, 1863, and the Union Pacific in Omaha, Nebraska on December 2, 1863. The Civil War greatly affected the progress of the Pacific Railroad, since labor was scarce and the price of materials continued to rise. Unable to finance the construction of the northern railway, representatives of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific Railroads requested that Congress provide further financial aid, which resulted in the enactment of the Railroad Act of 1864. This law increased the Union and Central Pacific’s resources and doubled each of the railroad corporations’ land grants.

Although the Railroad Act of 1864 solved the financial problem, labor shortages during the Civil War continued to delay the construction of the transcontinental railway. Fortunately, with the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, the Union Pacific was able to employ veterans of the Union Army, many of them Irish immigrants. For the Central Pacific in California, the situation was different, since California failed to attract the eastern veterans. As a result, the Central Pacific recruited over 11,000 workers from China. Without their hard labor, according to the Central Pacific president Governor Leland Stanford, “it would have been impossible to complete the western portion of this great National highway.”

Even though the workforce increased, the progress for each railroad company varied as each encountered difficult terrain and learned to deal with the harsh winters. Despite these conditions, the Central Pacific and Union Pacific railroads managed to lay the last rail at the Golden Spike Ceremony on May 10, 1869. Held in Promontory Summit, the ceremony began with the presentation of the four special spikes-- the Nevada Silver Spike, Arizona’s Golden and Silver Spikes, and the Last or Golden Spike. Receiving these ceremonial spikes were Governor Stanford of the Central Pacific, who received the two Golden Spikes; and Thomas Durant of the Union Pacific, to whom Stanford presented the two silver spikes. At the conclusion of the ceremony, Stanford, Durant, and a regular rail worker drove the last spike where the plaque signaling the completion of the transcontinental railway still stands today.

At Golden Gate Spike National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the visitor center, where they can see the replica No. 119 and Jupiter steam locomotives that, at the conclusion of the Golden Spike Ceremony, rolled in from the east and west tracks until they nearly touched. Tourists can also learn about the history of the transcontinental railroad by watching any or all of the five short films: Golden Spike, Andrew J. Russell, The Great Train Robbery, Jupiter and No. 119, and for the children, This is America, Charlie Brown.

Beyond the visitor center, tourists can hike the mile and a half long Big Fill Loop Trail to see the site of the Union Pacific’s trestle and walk through the cuts and drill marks made by the workers who blasted the rock formations to make way for the transcontinental railway. Visitors can also follow the West and East auto tours along the Central and Union Pacific Grades to see evidence of the construction methods used to build the railroad and the spot in the Central Pacific Grade where workers laid 10 miles of track in one day. Other activities at Golden Spike National Historic Site include guided tours of the Engine House and reenactments of the Last Spike Ceremony during the summer season.

Plan your visit
Golden Spike National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System, is located on Hwy. 83, 32 miles west of Brigham City, UT. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The visitor center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Outside attractions are open during daylight hours. The Engine House Tours are available 10:00am to 4:00pm. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Golden Spike National Historic Site website or call 435-471-2209.

Many components of the Golden Spike National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey, including: Golden Spike MonumentVisitor CenterPromontory Route Railroad, and Southern Pacific Mole & Pier.


Manzanar National Historic Site
, Independence, California

Because of the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the United States’ subsequent declaration of war against Japan, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 on February 19, 1942. This order authorized the Secretary of War to move American citizens and aliens who were of Japanese ancestry and who were living in the western part of the United States to internment camps because they were believed to be a threat to America’s national security. As a result, the army relocated 120,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry to ten internment camps located in the remote deserts and plains of seven States. Manzanar in Owens Valley, California was the first of these relocation centers. Today, Manzanar National Historic Site preserves the stories of the internment of Japanese American citiz