Jul 25, 2023 4 min read

See the Past Differently, See the Place Differently - Week 3

Looking up at blue sky seen through very tall trees at Congaree National Park
Looking up at blue sky seen through very tall trees at Congaree National Park

Welcome to Week 3 of the Inclusive Community Outdoor Challenge!  View the full challenge here where you can view past weeks and navigate via the table of contents. You'll also be able to find transcripts for all the weeks' audio at this page.


Select a public outdoor place, preferably somewhere in your community or close by, your closest National Park, a local park, or any public space. Visit if possible. Learn more about the place and its history. This challenge is based on the premise that if you see the past differently, you’ll see the place differently.

History cannot give us a program for the future, but it can give us a fuller understanding of ourselves, and of our common humanity, so that we can better face the future.  -Robert Penn Warren


  • Who was first in this place? Who might have been displaced and by whom? Open yourself to alternative narratives of history and of place when you find them. Imagine being one of the oldest trees in that location. What might that tree have seen over its lifetime?
  • Look at how this place is represented today, its name, its markers, plaques, commemorations, trail names, and names of geographic features. Are there presentations, videos, websites, and brochures? Whose story do they represent, whose voice do you hear?
  • How does what you uncovered and learned about the past match what is currently presented about this place? What and who is included? What and who is missing?
  • What does this place mean to you, and what might it have meant to others in the past? What could it mean in the future? How could you imagine this place contributing to a more inclusive world?

-My Experience

It is a lesson in intentionality, discovery, and humility to go to a place you've been before and choose to see it anew. To explore its past, not just consume what is presented, and then to be open to what you see and what the place and its history have to teach you.

Meeting a few of Congaree's champion trees and learning more about what those trees may have seen in their lifespan, has changed forever how I think about Congaree and about my home state. Like a double exposure or layered image, my thoughts of Congaree now will always carry images of what I've learned, of the bloody Yemassee Wars, of the Maroon Communities, and of those who have loved this forest for generations.

If Congaree intrigues you, let me recommend the park's beautiful 19 min video of Congaree National Park. About 6:30 you'll get to meet John Cely.

If you have kids along for these challenges, you'll really love this Junior Ranger Brochure for Congaree National Park. It has a great timeline of the history of Congaree. You could help them create a timeline like this for their favorite place.

Learn more about Congaree National Park.

Learn more about the champion trees of Congaree with This article.

Friends of Congaree Swamp and John Cely's Journal.

A few of the resources I reviewed in learning about the history of the area:

If you enjoy this outdoor challenge, learning about place, and national parks you're really going to love a podcast I've been listening to called Field Trip.

The Washington Post’s Lillian Cunningham journeys through the messy past and uncertain future of America’s national parks. In trips through five iconic landscapes, she ventures off the marked trail and beyond the parks’ borders to better understand the most urgent stories playing out in these places today. Along the way, she meets the people fighting to help these parks evolve – and survive.

Thanks for reading. If you're interested in building a more inclusive community and world, I'm sure you know others who are too. Please share this newsletter with a colleague or friend.

This newsletter is a publication from State of Inclusion.

Ame Sanders
Founder of State of Inclusion. A seasoned leader & change-maker, she is focused on positive change within communities.
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