Ever-Present Past

As a Cheyenne, I have often contemplated the meaning of “historic preservation” from a Native-American point of view. I have also pondered the longer-range implications for the historic preservation movement in the context of Native American life and culture. In the course of my ruminations, I recalled a statement once made by an elder from the Fort Mohave Reservation in California. When we think of historical preservation, I suppose you think of something that is old, something that has happened in the past and that you want to put away on a shelf and bring it out and look at [it] every now and then…. I was so puzzled by the whole thing that I looked up 'historical' and it said “a significant past event”… In our way of thinking, everything is a significant event, and the past is as real to us as being here right now. We are all connected to the things that happened at the beginning of our existence. And those things live on as they are handed down to us. I would like to offer two points for your consideration. The first is that if the purpose of historic preservation in the United States is, as I believe, to protect sites that tell the story of America’s complex and diverse cultural heritage, then we have focused far too little, and understand not nearly enough about contributions made by Native Americans

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