Research and Transparency: struggles in early dialogues with officials in Shenandoah National Park
As a researcher, I assumed I could call the archives at Shenandoah National Park and park officials and simply conduct research on the displacement. In the 1990s, the park was still very guarded on this subject for many reasons. Certainly, one of them was the disturbing way the removals were carried out, people maligned, and families displaced. Because of this, many of the local residents and ancestors of the families held hostilities towards the park. In fact, numerous descendants, many of whom I met, still went on the park to hunt or gather ginseng on their “family’s land”. Additionally, the park still sold Hollow Folk in its book store and simply swept the displacement under the rug.
I encountered numerous difficulties and was put off by various park officials. Interestingly, I found the article of another researcher who, encountering difficulties, sued the park under the Freedom of Information Act. He lost.
One day, while reading the Page News and Courier, I came across a notice that the SNP was looking for volunteers to take care of their birds of prey, which they used in demonstrations. I jumped at the chance, hoping this would get me in the door. It did. I met a sympathetic SNP ranger and even volunteered in the archives, which seem perpetually closed due to “staffing”. I finally even conducted an interview and was told that, “There was no culture up here. Mountain people are just mountain people.” I will not name the official since she still works at the park.
In recent years, the park has begun to approach and mention the displacement in its displays and has taken Hollow Folk off the shelves.