Etched In Stone: Preservation Of Cemeteries and Cultural Identity

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 10:45 AM
Room: Booth 48
Oral Presentation
William LOVEKAMP , Sociology, Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL
Gary FOSTER , Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL
Steve DINASO , Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL
Vince GUTOWSKI , Eastern Illinois University, Charleston, IL
Cades Cove was a thriving Appalachian mountain community in the United States prior to the establishment of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The creation of the park effectively brought an end to this community. It now exists within the park as a tourist destination (approximately 2 million visitors per year) with a few remaining ‘primitive’ homesteads and cemeteries. Everyone knows what cemeteries are, but in that familiarity, there is dismissal, for few know that cemeteries are far more than what they know them to be, and in that regard, cemeteries are far more than sequestered repositories for the deceased. Cemeteries constitute libraries of stone and are proxies or microcosmic expressions of the communities they represent or represented and are an important element of community.

The first task of this research has been to conduct a sociological examination of Cades Cove and the associated cemeteries, archiving the socio-demographic data of the former communities and their residents. The second objective has been to collect precise GPS coordinates of all known stones & markers in the cemeteries of Cades Cove.

A major disaster can strike at any time, endangering precious cultural property. Our cultural preservation efforts of these cemeteries are an important component of disaster preparedness in Cades Cove and to members of the surrounding communities with direct familial ties. These cemeteries have tremendous religious and spiritual importance to the families with ancestors buried there and are a significant marker of their cultural identity. Without these preservation efforts, a major disaster could destroy these libraries of stone and they would be lost forever. This would potentially threaten the future continuity of the communities and their cultural identity, destroy the artifacts of their ancestors and their family histories, and hinder recovery efforts.