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New superintendent coming to two West Hawaii parks

April 24, 2013
 

By Erin Miller

West Hawaii Today

Two West Hawaii national parks will have a new superintendent starting in June.

Tammy Duchesne, currently the superintendent at Women’s Rights National Park in Seneca Falls, N.Y., brings a background that includes earning a master’s degree in Micronesian studies at the University of Guam and an affinity for Polynesian and other island cultural practices. She will be superintendent of Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historic Park and Kaloko-Honokohau National Historic Park.

“I’m really committed and passionate about native cultures,” Duchesne said Monday, adding that she spent a short amount of time at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

This will be her first park assignment that combines significant amounts of cultural and natural resources. Protecting those natural resources, particularly in light of federal budget cuts and a National Park Service hiring freeze, are two challenges she’ll face as she takes on the new assignment, she said.

“You can lose footholds without consistent monitoring and good resource management,” Duchesne said. “It’s a scary time for the West Hawaii parks — and all the parks.”

She said national parks need to be “creative” in sharing staff and resources, and noted the National Parks Service does have a long tradition of volunteers who support the parks. Those volunteers are active in West Hawaii, she added.

“We’re fortunate to be able to engage the community to be stewards,” she said, adding it is “wonderful” to be able to use volunteers in Hawaii to “tell their story in a culturally appropriate way.”

Duchesne has visited the parks in the past and, when she saw the job opening posted, knew she needed to apply.

“They’re just such sacred, beautiful, moving places,” she said. “It’s the parks that drew me back.”

Before her posting at Women’s Rights National Park, Duchesne was the management assistant to the National Park Service Northeast Regional Director, where she served as a liaison between 76 parks and the Regional Office. She was curator and chief of cultural resources for both War in the Pacific National Historical Park in Guam and American Memorial Park in Saipan for more than six years.

While working in Micronesia, Duchesne created a digital image exchange partnership with the Micronesian Seminar in Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, to help the organizations explain the impact of World War II on Pacific islanders, and worked with the anthropology faculty at the University of Hawaii to study World War II songs and chants capturing the war experience from a Micronesian perspective.

Duchesne replaces Kathy Billings, who was named the superintendent for Death Valley National Park.

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