It Takes a Village to Build a Trail

by Jennifer McKinnon

When I think back on the experience of building a maritime heritage trail, probably much like others who have worked on public or community projects, I get nostalgic about all of the friends and colleagues I met during the process. The old adage about it taking a village to raise a child also rings true for community projects such as heritage trails – it really does “take a village to build a trail.”

Community projects by their very nature are incredibly complicated, but can be infinitely rewarding. In a community as diverse as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), any project leader must understand that there are multiple voices to be heard and incorporated. This can be learned the hard way or the hard way. What I mean by the hard way is that no amount of research can prepare one for the diversity in meaning and importance of heritage to a community; one member has a completely different understanding of a shared bit of heritage from the next member. And it is important to incorporate as many of those voices as possible.

First training in underwater archaeology held in the CNMI.

This is the task that I set about doing six years ago when I stood in front of a crowd in a smoky little restaurant that consisted of both divers (there to see my presentation on heritage trails) and an angry group of fishers (there to see a second presentation about a national monument which was set to restrict their access to fishing and thus their livelihood). What I found that night was a community so passionate about their right/heritage of fishing and opposed to more official colonial platitudes and restrictions. What I learned that night was two things: first, that no matter how well-funded, presented or shiny an idea is, if a community isn’t behind it, it has no worth; and second, the CNMI community was one with a long history of struggling with outsiders and outside ideas, and if progress was to be made, the idea should be locally generated. To this day these two lessons have held true to form and earned friendships and collegial relationships that will last a lifetime, not to mention some great research projects.

The idea for developing a heritage trail was conceived by staff at the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) and shared with me when I first visited the island in 2007.  Though originally aiming to build a Spanish colonial research agenda, I was quickly taken by the incredibly diverse and intact heritage related to the WWII Battle of Saipan. With a little friendly persuasion from the HPO, I found myself in conversations about mapping, preserving and interpreting submerged WWII sites which included planes, tanks, shipwrecks and assault vehicles of both Japanese and US forces. The idea to apply for a National Park Service Battlefield Protection Grant launched a one year grant awarded to Ships of Exploration and Discovery Research, which eventually turned into a four year project (and has now moved inland). After holding several public meetings and discussing the trail with various stakeholders (dive shops, boat operators, government agencies, humanities groups, visitor’s authority, etc.) the trail began to take shape. Sites were chosen based on stakeholder and public interest, the history and archaeology was researched with an inclusive approach (including Chamorro, Carolinian, US, Japanese, and Korean groups) and products were carefully researched so as to reach the widest audience possible (all ages and divers and non-divers alike). In addition, since a focus on sustainability was key, the project included both heritage awareness trainings for end users and a conservation survey and management plan (funded by a second Battlefield Grant) that collected baseline data for the HPO.

The interpretive products that make up the trail include nine waterproof dive guides and four double-sided posters in both English and Japanese; a 2D and 3D interpretive film for the National Parks on Guam and Saipan (produced in conjunction with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution Advanced Imaging and Visualization Lab, National Park Service’s Submerged Resources Center, and Windward Media); and a website which includes information about the Battle and submerged heritage sites.

Poster from the WWII Battle of Saipan Maritime Heritage Trail.

But let me come back to the idea of it taking a village…the entire project from concept to completion would not have been possible if it were not for the interest of the local community. At every step of the way agencies and volunteers were not just included, but critical to the work. HPO conceived of the idea and several staff members assisted with recording the sites and conducting historical research; they also participated in training, first as trainees (Underwater Archaeology Training) and then trainers (Heritage Awareness Diving Seminar). Coastal Resources Management (CRM) provided in-kind support through the use of boats, fuel and the assistance of staff (i.e. captains, enforcement officers and biologists), as well as participating in and providing instruction during the training sessions. In fact, one CRM employee was so devoted to the project, he took vacation days so that he could participate in the field work! CRM also initiated a program to place moorings on the trail sites in order to minimize impact by visitors. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) provided in-kind support by offering boats, captains and expertise. CNMI Council for the Humanities promoted the project to the public by sponsoring public lectures and radio programs. NPS American Memorial Park hosted events such as public lectures, trainings and film viewings. Marianas Visitors Authority provided useful visitor and diving statistics in the planning process. In addition to the government agencies, private individuals hosted barbeques, provided in-kind support for hiring vessels, volunteered to conduct field work and historical research, provided translation services, gave local tours, set up interviews with family members, lent vehicles, and generally treated us as family.

CRM employee David Benavente working underwater.

From 2007 to the present I’ve had the privilege (and I do mean privilege) of working with the community/village of Saipan to record and research their maritime history from their colonization of the island some 3500 years ago to the more recent and tragic conflict of WWII. But I suspect there will be many, many years to come because like a snowball rolling down hill, interest builds momentum and once a village gets excited, who knows what may come of it…

So what are your experiences with creating trails or working with a village (community)? In what ways was the success of your project the immediate result of community input and assistance? Do you think the rewards of working with a community outweigh the complexity of the process?

#sha2014, Getting Ready for Quebec: Advice for Session Chairs


Here is the link to the conference website where you can find the final program: http://www.conferium.com/OLM/Prg_Present.lasso?showevent=361

Thank you again for organizing and chairing a session at the 2014 SHA meetings. As the conference draws near, we ask you to assist with final preparations.

Before your session starts:
– Know the a.v. requirements of your presenters. PowerPoint projectors and laptops are provided for all sessions. Please coordinate with session presenters to ensure that their presentations are loaded and working. SHA volunteers can help you with this if needed.
– All presenters should bring a flash drive containing the relevant file so that it can be uploaded to the computer before the session begins. Session chairs should check for compatibility issues between pc and mac versions of PowerPoint and for compatibility issues before the session begins.

During your session:
– Begin papers on time as scheduled in the program, remember they are 15 minute papers! If an author does not show up, wait for the next scheduled paper and encourage discussion. Please do not change the order of presentation or the scheduled start times for papers. Be prepared to facilitate the discussion period if there is a 15 min. break in your session.
– Have a watch or clock—Use it! Let your presenters know when they have 3 minutes, or that time is up. As time runs out, diplomatically inform the speaker that his or her time has expired, and request that the speaker conclude the presentation. Volunteers will provide you with prepared cue cards for 3 minutes and PLEASE CONCLUDE!

If you have any questions at all, please let us know ahead of time and we will provide what assistance we can. Thanks for working with us to make the meetings a success! Good luck with your session and we look forward to seeing you in Quebec City.

Programme Committee
SHA 2014

At a Glance: Student-focused Activities at the SHA 2014 Conference

SHA student members will participate actively in this year’s annual conference. In addition to the familiar, the APTC Student Subcommittee (SSC) is hosting new events. Students in Quebec City will find focused events occurring every day of the conference. Here is a brief guide and links for more details.

A SHA tradition, the Past Presidents’ Student Reception will be held this year on January 9th starting at 4:30. The SHA likes to support its students and this is how the past presidents’ show it. Senior members of the organization, including SHA past and current Presidents, join in the mix. This mixer is an opportunity to chat with them as well as to meet other students.

Earlier on January 9th the SSC will host, in collaboration with the SHA’s Ethics Committee, its first ever Ethics Bowl. Come support competing teams engaged in ethical debates of import to all practicing archaeologists. If you missed out on this year’s competition don’t worry the SSC will be signing up teams for next year.

Don’t know what a Pecha Kucha is? Join us on Friday for this fast paced fun new session format. Suggested by our new friends from University of Laval, each presentation will show twenty slides for twenty seconds and be followed by a brief discussion.

Next up is the SSC RAP Session. This informal session encourages dialogue directed by students. Panelists join students in small groups or talk one-on-one about career goals, research issues or simply negotiating coarse work. Pop in and meet some SHA members who have made themselves available directly to students for this unique session.

The Conference Committee has been incredibly generous to the SSC this year. Most committee meetings take place very, very, very, early in the morning. This year, however, the SSC meeting has the most favorable slot- lunchtime on January 11th. So grab a sandwich and come join the Student Subcommittee. It is the best way to make new connections, participate in the SHA and gain leadership experience.

Traditionally the SSC and ACUA co-sponsor a special forum for students. This year’s topic, “Reaching Out: Public Archaeology for Students and New Graduates,” will address issues ranging from the practical to the ethical. This dynamic group of panelists should not be missed.

If you’re in the bookroom, stop by and say hello! SSC members will periodically be available at the SHA table. If we’re not there, please snag a flyer, which includes information about how you can participate in the SHA’s only student-run committee.

Finally, if you want to contribute to discussion or follow student-related goings on at SHA, you can search and follow social media tagged with #SHA2014, #SSC, and/or #students.

Here is a quick summary of sessions. Double check event rooms as they may change.

Schedule at a glance:

Jan 9
PAN3-8 Ethics Bowl 301B 1:30-3

Jan 10
PAN-92 Powered by Pecha Kucha Session 207 1:30-3
PAN-106 RAP session 207 3:30-5
Student Awards 200C 5-6

Jan 11
MTG-24 Student Subcommittee Meeting See Prog. 12-1:30 ALL WELCOME
PAN-149 Forum 207 1:30-5