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ORAL HISTORIES

The VCHP team has completed many oral histories including working with Tribal elders, Hispanic community members, and farmers. The primary challenge in historic projects is to determine how oral histories can support the project and whether there are informants available to complete them. Oral histories can verify facts, provide additional depth, and result in stories that have not previously been told. The VCHP team is adept at locating interviewees and working with them to gather their stories and support the goals of the project.

CORPS OF ENGINEERS ACEQUIA PROJECT AND RIO GRANDE VALLEY DOCUMENTATION

The VCHP team worked with the Corps of Engineers and an advisory board (including members of various acequia associations, subject matter experts from the University of New Mexico and John Nichols) to identify issues with regard to historic acequias and their preservation. VCHP has also documented the Corps of Engineers and Middle Rio Grande Conservancy district construction along the Middle Rio Grande, including levees, the acequia systems and methods that were used to reduce waterlogging in the Rio Grande valley.

ANCESTRAL DOMAIN AND TRIBAL USE AREA STUDY AT COCHITI PUEBLO

The VCHP team worked with Cochiti Pueblo to identify their ancestral domain and Tribal use areas. This included gathering data from existing ethnographic reports, archaeological studies, Tribal songs and meeting with Tribal elders. The written data was confirmed by Tribal elders and all research contributed to the mapping of the ancestral and modern areas that are used for cultural purposes. The types of activities that were documented in the accompanying report and were mapped included hunting, gathering, and ceremonial events. The data was produced in GIS for Tribal use only.

TRIBAL HISTORIC PHOTO ARCHIVE

VCHP worked with Cochiti Pueblo to identify and collect historic photographs of the Pueblo and its people from archives located throughout the country. Our team conducted research at over 20 archives and was able to collect over 1200 images. The images were delivered to the Pueblo in both digital and archival paper formats, with an accompanying database that noted photographer, date of photo, archive and other pertinent data. Our team then worked with Pueblo elders to identify the tribal members that were in the photos. The significance of the project came to light through this process of elders finding images of themselves as children and their grandparents in photos they did not realize existed. The archive has become a vital source for Cochiti families.

HISTORIC LAND USE STUDY

The Kirtland Air Force Base Land Use study was completed to inform the installation of the various uses over time of land within their boundaries. The earliest use included trails and Hispanic shepherding activities, this was followed by homesteading, mining, soda water bottling at a natural spring, day trip recreation, small housing developments and a municipal airport prior to the establishment of a military installation. Afterwards there were test ranges, runways and a main cantonment. In the land use study the VCHP team not only documented the activities on the area that became the base, but also tied them to specific parcels of land. This has become useful for archaeologists to interpret historical remains and has provided baseline data for the hazardous waste team.

MILITARY ORAL HISTORY

VCHP completed a report on the history of the Strategic Air Command alert facility at Eglin Air Force Base. The work included archival research, fieldwork and a popular report about the area. The most rewarding portion of the project was working with the SAC airmen that were stationed at the facility during the Cold War. Many of the airmen were interviewed by the VCHP team to learn what life was like at the Eglin SAC alert area. The retirees donated photographs to the project and were presented with copies of the glossy popular report at a dinner event at Eglin Air Force Base. It was especially rewarding for our team to see the group receive the reports.

Understanding our history and cultural identity is a key component of historic preservation. By conserving the significant aspects of our culture in an ever-changing world, we can better understand the present and set goals for our future as a culture and a community. VCHP assists tribal and ethnic communities to explore their history and cultural identity by gathering historic photographs from museum archives and research institutions, conducting ethnographic studies, collecting oral histories, and carrying out historical research. We also train local community members to perform these activities themselves. We can provide support for tribal consultation required under federal historic preservation law, as well as help other communities navigate through often bureaucratic channels. We also assist tribes and communities in writing grants to fund this research, and developing community policy that supports the goals of heritage conservation.