Unearthing History At the Outer BAnks – Lisset Olvera Chan

So, I have been nothing but entrenched in the archives of The Outer Bank’s group Museum Resource Center in the past couple of weeks. Sifting through the archives, I go through folders and folders, looking for any mention of the Ocracoke ponies in notes and memos. However, my findings have been very successful. Not only I have found several folders that are dedicated to the history of the horses, I have also found many different documents, such as Natural Resource Management Plans that all mention the ponies. While a normal person would think of it as boring, these hidden finds are really a treasure for someone who is looking for the history of the Ponies at the park. Not a lot of people, even my own supervisor, knows very well about the history of these ponies. The history, how they arrived here and how the NPS managed them seems blurry. But now with these antique documents I found out (along with the help of the Cultural Resource Manager, Jami Lanier!), we can clear up the fog and tell a concrete story of these interesting animals.

An exclusive look in the Archives. There’s so much hidden history inside!

From what I have gathered so far, it seems that the history of the ponies is already a fascinating story! These “Banker Ponies” have been part of the Ocracoke island for a good while, with many sources saying that they might have arrived from the 15th or 16th century. Though, where they came from is still disputed. But since then, the ponies would live on this small, 15 mile stretch of land and there have claims of over 100 to 300 horses living there! But in the late 1950’s, Cape Hatteras NS began to acquire the island. With grazing animals not being able to graze on federal lands, the park initially considered removing the horses. However, there was a large public backlash against the National Seashore with many islanders writing strong letters to the NPS and asking to “Save the ponies”. Eventually, Cape Hatteras NS decided against removing the ponies, letting only 30 horses remain on the island as they are to be used as mounts for the Ocracoke boy scouts. But did this mean that the horses that were on the island that weren’t owned by the Boy scouts did unfortunately have to be removed from the island. This reduced the population of the Ponies from about 70 to 30. Already we can see that there’s many different aspects of the history of the ponies that are so interesting! From the mystery of their origin, to how the public were so passionate about these ponies that they demanded for them not to be removed once their island was acquired by the NPS. This also talks about how the public is important when tackling these issues. Even though the NPS does have it’s ideas and goals, in the end they still have to serve the public. In the next blog post, I will continue on with the history of the ponies and I will talk about the importance of access of information. Again, I cannot thank LHIP and Cape Hatteras NS enough for letting me take on this opportunity and learn something new!

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