Change in SC Agency's Policy No Longer Requires Archaeological Survey, Allows Destruction of Sites Because "No Archaeological Survey Was Performed"
Our site is one of many along the coast and throughout the state of South Carolina that have been forgotten for many years. Though Berkeley County and surrounding area has been the home to many events that shaped the early South Carolina colony and the country that became America, much of that history is not widely known or remembered. Sites that once were significant for people's lives and our understanding of history have been forgotten: slave cemeteries have been tilled into the earth to grow timber, and records have been left to moulder in attics. Historical preservation and protecting the past have not always been a priority when providing for a hungry family is the other choice. General poverty has persisted in this region, and too much of our cultural heritage has been lost to attractive offers of money that simply put bread on the table for a short time.
In 2011 the South Carolina offices in charge of reviewing developers' plans (DHEC-ORCM, SHPO) made a decision that is at best neglect, and at worst malfeasance. Before this policy change was in effect, required cultural resources surveys led to the discovery of slave settlements, ancient Native American sites, early colonial artifacts, and much more. They now claim that because a site, even a prehistoric one, is not "known" to be there, developers have no responsibility to find out what their actions will destroy and erase from the historic record. They are not even required to look at an old map to see where the cemetery was.
Claiming a site is "unknown" is not a reason to allow it to be destroyed forever. Because of economic necessity, many stakeholders have had to make decisions based on survival, and the change in policy exploits their sacrifice. The responsibility of these agencies is, by law [Section 48-39-150(A)(6)], to "determine... the extent to which the development could affect irreplaceable historic and archaeological sites of South Carolina's coastal zone." They are in breach of their sacred trust to protect our buried history, and they are being reckless and irresponsible with the interpretation of their duties. To claim only sites slated for the National Register of Historic Places should be protected is crass, especially knowing that the NRHP requirements are not fulfilled swiftly and cost thousands of dollars. Native American and slave cemeteries and sites are especially vulnerable as they have been the most historically disadvantaged to begin with and there is not a single slave cemetery in South Carolina on the NRHP on its own. The only time such sites would be discovered would be during a pre-development survey, and that exact scenario has occurred countless times in the past.
Is there another colonial Charleston? Is there another beginning of South Carolina? If the only sites that are saved are the ones already known, does that tell the whole story? Is there no more to discover about who we are and where we come from? No other place in America has this history. No other place can tell this story. Who benefits from this change in policy?
and tell them you want the Office of Coastal Resource Management within DHEC to reverse their recent policy change no longer requiring that cultural resources surveys be conducted along our SC coast.
This requirement also maintains and creates long-term local professional jobs in history and archaeology, not just short-term manual labor jobs with transient workers.
Historical integrity also preserves our state's biggest industry; tourists visit our region for its history, not its new housing.
Write the agency in charge of protecting our unrecorded past:
1362 McMillan Avenue, Suite 400
Charleston, SC 29405
and tell them you want them to reverse their policy and do their job on the front lines by protecting our buried treasures from being unknowingly destroyed.
Write the agency that advises DHEC-OCRM on this issue:
Rebekah Dobrasko, Supervisor of Compliance, Tax Incentive, and Survey Programs, SHPO
State Historic Preservation Office
8301 Parklane Road,
Columbia, SC 29223
and tell them you want them to advise OCRM that the only way to comply with the law is to require
cultural resource surveys to determine how sites will be affected by development, and the lack
of sufficient inquiry can not justify an opinion leading directly to permanent destruction of unknown sites.
For more information about this issue and to get ideas of what to include in your letter:
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