Indigenous Cultural Landscapes

A view of Cat Point Creek, tributary to the Rappahannock River
Cat Point Creek, tributary to the Rappahannock River

NPS

Indigenous cultural landscapes demonstrate aspects of the natural and cultural resources that supported American Indian lifeways and settlements in the early 17th century. Considered trail-related resources to the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, these evocative places may be important to descendant communities today as well as to conservation strategies in the Chesapeake watershed. Ongoing research is helping to define and identify these large landscapes.

This concept grew from attempts to explain an indigenous perspective of large landscapes in response to the Chesapeake Bay Executive Order of 2009.This perspective demonstrates that American Indian places were not confined to the sites of houses, towns, or settlements, and that the American Indian view of one's homeland is holistic rather than compartmentalized into the discrete site elements typically used in our language today, such as "hunting grounds", "villages", or "sacred sites".

Read the paper that was used in the 2010 comprehensive management plan for the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, which includes the criteria posited by the initial advisory team. You can also view a video recorded in 2013 in which the concept is discussed, and the rack card developed for distribution at conferences.

The paper Examples of ICLs in Virginia, originally authored in 2011, describes examples of indigenous cultural landscapes along proposed segments of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail in Virginia;it was updated in 2015.Each example includes lists of which criteria apply and how the sites can be interpreted as indigenous cultural landscapes.

ICL research began in 2012, and by 2013 a team from the University of Maryland had completed a prototype methodology summary with recommendations for further research, and a pilot study of the Nanticoke River watershed using this prototype methodology.

Building on that methodology for documenting ICLs, researchers from St. Mary's College of Maryland completed a study of the Nanjemoy and Mattawoman Creek watersheds in November 2015. This study added the dimension of predictive modelling, which was field tested with excellent results.

Using similar predictive modelling on a larger scale, the same team of researchers also completed an ICL priorities report for the tidal Chesapeake Bay watershed in February 2016. This report was commissioned to help the National Park Service prioritize ICL research areas over the coming years.

Currently researchers are working on identifying the indigenous cultural landscapes on a segment of the Rappahannock River in Virginia. Information from the priorities report indicates that the York River (including the Mattaponi and Pamunkey rivers) and the James River (including the Nansemond and Chickahominy rivers) are likely candidates for future research. All research reports will be published by NPS here when they are final.

The NPS envisions indigenous cultural landscape research being informative and useful for future National Register of Historic Places eligibility determinations of historic districts that are part of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

410 Severn Avenue
Suite 314

Annapolis, MD 21403

Phone:

(410) 260-2488

Contact Us