Aired: May 3, 2014

Evicted from the Mountains

Courtesy Library of Congress
Courtesy Library of Congress

When Shenandoah National Park was built, hundreds of families were forced off their land. Margaret Marangione (Blue Ridge Community College) says new information has emerged suggesting that some of those displaced people were sent to state colonies and sterilized. Plus: Veterans of the Revolutionary War collected the nation’s first pensions for wounded soldiers. But Benjamin Irvin (Virginia Foundation for the Humanities) says claiming a pension was difficult and threatened the pride of many veterans. And: Aging baby boomers are beginning to influence the funeral industry. Rhonda Pleasants (John Tyler Community College) says more are now opting for “green” burials and there is a trend toward more personalized funerals that reflect the hobbies and passions of the person who died.

Later in the show: Too many young people imagine old age as a time when we become no longer useful or interested in the world around us. But Terry Lee (Christopher Newport University) has been challenging these kinds of ageist stereotypes. He’s spent hours behind a camera, documenting the lives of elders and their caregivers. And he says older people have an important job to do. Also featured: As we age, we all experience changes in our brains that make our memories less sharp than they used to be. But some older people actually have a condition called Mild Cognitive Impairment, or MCI, which is different from Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Rosemary Blieszner (Virginia Tech) was instrumental in a study that looked at how patients and their family members cope with MCI.


5 Comments on “Evicted from the Mountains”

  1. Audrey Irvine

    A common mistake people make is to apply today’s morals to yesterday’s world. It is enlightening to see what was considered acceptable in those days but we cannot judge. To be consistent we would have to judge ourselves by the morals of 150 years in our future. Let’s take the environment. Why are we so foolishly driving cars, burning coal, fracking??? We know better but it is our growing edge and very few people change their lives to slow climate change, even our most respected leaders. Yes we should remind ourselves of why we choose a different way now but we shouldn’t judge what people did then in their own context. We need to be more aware of the beam in our eye. My comment is not meant to disparage your show, which I enjoy. Thank you

  2. Sarah

    I couldn’t agree with you more Audrey. It’s easy to see the error when it’s someone else or farther back in history. I appreciate your comment.

  3. mark perreault

    There is a cult of resentment that has been going on since the 20’s over the creation of the beautiful Shenandoah National Park on land that had been abused, stripped of trees, with all the fauna gone and otherwise degraded. The people living there, when they actually owned the land (many were illegal squatters), were paid the fair market value of the land, contrary to propaganda to the contrary (a lot of it was not worth that much on the market).

    Many people have been involuntarily displaced over the years to build highways, ports, railroads, military bases, and other public improvements. Why not cry bitter tears over them?

    People cannot live in any numbers in a great national park (get real!). Imagine Yellowstone with a bunch of private homes, driveways, etc. at Yellowstone Falls or next to Old Faithful, or a strip of McMansions along the Grand Canyon rim, or a subdivision on the Gettysburg battlefield..

    Being forced to move for the public good is no doubt painful but in the order of outrages in the world (consider what is happening in Nigeria) it is relatively minor. Plus it was more than 80 years ago!

    Forced sterilization had nothing to do with land acquisition and you should have pointed this out.

    I am sorry you have decided to contribute to the continuation of this dated cult of victimhood, rather than celebrate a great and ecologically revitalized national park which would never have existed without displacement of the residents. I hope you have the pleasure of visiting Shenandoah National Park, if you have not already.

  4. Johnson

    Mr. Perreault, I hope you come to embrace a larger perspective.

    There is, indeed, deep pleasure to be had in visiting Shenandoah National Park. It is very similar to the way I feel when visiting one of my other favorite places, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park (whose earlier citizens were also evicted from the lands of their ancestors).

    I am so grateful for these exquisite places. Yet their creations were enormously expensive in terms of human cost. Please don’t ever forget that. Enlarged perspectives have nothing at all to do with ‘victimhood.’

    Thanks for listening.

  5. marty taylor

    Sad but this land most all national parks that families were forced from no longer belongs to the American people. In a move in 1972 control of our parks was given to the UN. Many are no longer fully accessible to the public. Some have new signs stating they are now part of the International Biosphere Reserve. Check it out.

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