Cane River Creole National Historical Park Boundary Modification Act
STATEMENT OF JOY BEASLEY, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR FOR CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, CONCERNING S. 2438, A BILL TO MODIFY THE BOUNDARY OF THE CANE RIVER CREOLE NATIONAL HISTORICAL PARK IN THE STATE OF LOUISIANA, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
OCTOBER 6, 2021
Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, and members of the Subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior's views on S. 2438, a bill to modify the boundary of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park in the State of Louisiana, and for other purposes.
The Department supports S. 2438 with technical amendments.
S. 2438 would expand the legislative boundary of the Magnolia Plantation Unit of Cane River Creole National Historical Park in Louisiana by approximately 46.1 acres. The land that would be added to the boundary is part of the historic Magnolia Plantation, which is a National Historic Landmark and is currently owned by the descendants of the original plantation owners. The property includes the main house, seven outbuildings, and several cultural landscape features and archeological sites. At present, the National Park Service owns a smaller portion of Magnolia Plantation, maintaining 18-acres with approximately 20 historic structures.
Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established by Public Law 103-499 in order to “recognize the importance of the Cane River Creole culture as a nationally significance element of the cultural heritage of the United States” and to commemorate the blending of Native American, French, Spanish, and African cultures in the Cane River region that occurred from 1714 to present. Today, Cane River Creole National Historical Park protects two of the most intact Creole cotton plantations in the United States—Oakland Plantation and portions of Magnolia Plantation. Magnolia Plantation was the largest plantation in Natchitoches Parish in the mid-1800s, both in terms of land and in terms of enslaved peoples. It has direct ties to African American history from the late 1700s to 1970s, from the period of enslavement, to the Civil War, Reconstruction, sharecropping and tenant farming of the mid-20th century. The plantation is also a recognized Bicentennial Farm, owned by descendants of the same family for over 200 years.
When Cane River Creole National Historical Park was established in 1994, the Magnolia Plantation core was divided in half: half was acquired by the National Park Service, and the other half remained in private ownership. However, at the time it was noted that important plantation resources existed outside the current 18-acre park boundary. This legislation would allow the National Park Service to acquire and preserve the privately-owned half of the historic plantation core, fulfilling the park’s mission to protect Magnolia Plantation in its entirety. Doing so would allow the National Park Service to tell the complete story of all people, of French and African descent, free and enslaved, at Magnolia Plantation. Enlargement of the park to include the entire Magnolia Plantation core is welcomed as an opportunity to present this important place as a whole. This change in land administration is supported locally among city, county, and state officials, as well as the landowners and family descendants.
While the Department supports S. 2438, we recommend amending the legislation to include a revised legislative map. We would be pleased to provide a legislative map and recommended amendments for these purposes.
Chairman King, Ranking Member Daines, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you today. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other Members may have.