Monday, November 28, 2011

Etiquette, Inquiry and Proper Practice around rock piles

Reader Jeff in RI writes:

In just the past month or so (since I opened my eyes) I've come upon at least 150 cairns and constructions that are definitely not of colonial origin. If you ever find yourself nearby, I'd gladly show some to you. These are all over the place here in RI. Would it be possible to start a thread of conversation on RockPiles concerning etiquette, inquiry and proper practice around these very important relics? Is it safe or proper removing debris? Before/After photos? Sharing or not revealing locations? Are there registries for these? Or possibly starting one. Because I myself have found so many (and I'm a newbie at this) I can't imagine how many have been ruined by disregard and development. Here in RI there is building/logging in Canonchet and Exeter. It is important that these be protected. RockPiles is a good first step for that advocacy. If you're interested, hopefully this LINK will connect you to my Cairn Collection on flickr. Thanx.

These are good questions and a good opportunity to review and re-discuss these topics. I'll lead off. Comments are strongly encouraged - I know people do not agree with me on all of this.

PWAX Comment: First it should be remembered that these sites are relics of specific expressions of people now gone. You don't want to walk on the rock piles (or at least not carelessly) and you do not want to use them in combination with your own religious and artistic expressions. Cleaning piles occasionally is OK if you do not move stones, and limit the cleaning to piles that are not next to paths. Use restraint, do not clear off all piles, and be respectful.

The discoverer of a rock pile site has the original right to decide who they are going to tell. I tried to capture some guidelines I follow in "To Publish or not to Publish?". The general arguments are:
Vandalism is brought about by publishing.
Heedless destruction is brought about by failure to publish.

I have seen vandalism but the vandals found the site on their own, not from reading about it. I have seen quite a lot more site destruction by careless logging and housing developments. So I am firmly in the camp of wanting to publish as often as possible unless a site is fragile or if I think it a reasonably recent burial ground. I do keep some places to myself. I have heard Tribal Historic Preservation Officers say that publicizing sites is the proper thing to do, today.

Note: NEARA keeps a registry of sites that they do not publicize. Various efforts have been made to use Google Maps to create a common repository of public sites. If you want to maintain it, good luck! This blog has no decent Index; which I am sorry about and hope to remedy someday. Also, I would like to put all my maps online. I have no fear of vandals because even enthusiasts rarely track down any of the places I do publish. I have to drag you guys out there by the ear! [see NEARA field trips, Dec 11]

Update: I believe some readers think it should be up to the Indians to decide what is public.


Jeff in RI said...

One thing about the cairns, you have to learn how to see them. They're a lot like mushrooms, once you see one they're everywhere!! But more importantly, they are a very powerful reminder that history didn't start here in 1620. They stand as a testaments to a very intense and rich culture; in many ways much, much more sophisticated than the self destructive consumer driven train wreck of asociety we call our own. OK, I'm off the soap box. NEXT!

pwax said...

Minor point: it did not END here in 1620 either.