The Friends of Virgin Islands National Park have published “Here, St. John,” an oral history about Virgin Islands National Park and St. John that serves to give voice to the heritage, culture and natural history as told by born St. Johnians and resident scientists.
These stories recall historical details of the people and the natural life of the island that shape this place, according to a press release announcing the project. The stories of “Here, St. John” can be found here.
“On St. John much of the cultural heritage practices, traditions, and arts are deeply connected with the natural resources including the use of local plants and animals and the physical spaces now defined by the park,” said Tonia Lovejoy, executive director of the Friends. “By better understanding what the impacts on culture are when the relationship with nature and native land is changed, we may begin to better preserve cultural heritage on St. John and forge a healthier partnership between the Virgin Islands National Park and the local community.“
The many voices and stories in “Here, St. John” include tales of growing up in Cruz Bay and Sieben and childhood stories from the 1930s through the 1990s by Eulita Jacobs, Faye Fredricks, Dr. Hadiya Sewer, Paul Thomas, and Elroy Sprauve.
A history of Queen Brefu and the Slave Revolution, including its repercussions across the Caribbean, is told by Kurt Marsh Jr. Jacobs talks about bush medicine, the main medicinal plants of St. John, and recalls life as a local herbalist over the past many decades.
Eleanor Gibney tells of her journey to becoming a St. John naturalist and discusses St. John trees like the Bay Rum. Resident scientists Jeff Miller, Dr. Caroline Rogers, Adren Anderson and Willow Melamet give voice to coral reefs, mangroves, and turtles.
“Here, St. John” was made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and was produced by Outer Voices, which specializes in creating audio documentaries.
“St. John is a place that is much beloved by thousands of people from around the world. However, it is not common to hear about the place from the perspective of the people who are from here. In creating Here, St. John we hope to take a small step towards changing that,” said Stephanie Guyer-Stevens, Outer Voices executive producer.
Friends of Virgin Islands National Park is the official philanthropic partner of Virgin Islands National Park. Friends supports the National Park Service in assuring the park’s unique terrestrial and marine resources are protected, the Virgin Islands’ cultural treasures in the park are preserved, and visitors and community are connected to the park through volunteerism, education, and advocacy. For more information visit their website.