The Reservation

My long suffering Mother has had to go away for a week to look after her poor sisters, Darlene and Ida, who are unfortunate because they have to live in California. Although at 84 she is the oldest by several years, having lived in the South she is in much better shape to travel. This is because she is a Steel Magnolia and knows how to put up with anything, but mainly with Big Daddy, with whom she has put up for more than fifty years. This means that I have had to move back onto the Reservation while she is gone because he can no longer be left on his own.

I had better explain, because people who are not from the South generally hold prejudiced notions about how we handle relations between our ethnic communities down here.

Plantation house on the site of the Reservation

The Reservation was established before the first world war as a safe haven for Nashville’s White Affluent Peoples (WAPs). Sensitively sited on land comprising a former plantation, the Reservation is still going from strength to strength a century later. Confinement on the Reservation allows the WAPs to preserve their traditional culture and way of life, which has changed remarkably little since Our Recent Unpleasantness. Indeed, although I want to stress that while living on the Reservation is strictly voluntary, there are many WAPs in Nashville who rarely leave its borders.

I grew up out here on the Reservation but like a large number of our young people of WAP descent, I was given the opportunity to move away for my college education. Significantly, although I am an example of a WAP who has been pretty much absorbed into modern American culture, there are many WAPs of my generation who have either made the decision to return to the Reservation to raise their families in the traditional environment of their ancestors, or who have never left the Reservation at all.

According to the most recent official data, there are 3,518 people living on the Reservation, of whom 97.1% or 3,297 are WAPs. My understanding is that 1.2% or 42 are African American, of whom 41 are here in disguise as domestic workers but who are actually anthropologists who live in garage apartments provided with money from the federal government, and are here to observe the WAPs in their native environment as part of a long-term academic study (the remaining 1 African American is, I believe, a professional football player, but he might have moved away). Improbably, .2% or 7 residents list themselves as Native American. Subsequent analysis of the data, however, has revealed that this was because there were 7 residents who thought that ‘Native American’ meant that your ancestors arrived on the Mayflower.


Nashville's Federal WAP Administration Headquarters (FWAPA, or in WAP dialect, 'the Club')

I am not going to try to deny that there are some social problems and controversies on the Reservation. In common with similar tribal areas in other parts of North America, alcoholism has tragically affected many local families, although this is being dealt with primarily through local churches and the dedicated team of local FWAPA employees.

Nashville has largely welcomed President Obama’s rumored decision that the Reservation will become the United State’s 59th National Park in 2014. This news is expected to help regenerate the local economy, providing many much-needed jobs in an area that has long been blighted by unemployment. This should help the significant minority of WAPs living on the Reservation who have never experienced paid work. But of equal importance, by boosting tourism to the area, it will encourage a broader public understanding of the customs and way of life of this largely neglected community.


Traditional WAP monogrammed hand towels, ca.1956

© Copyright 2011, Southern Dysfunction



Filed under Family

5 responses to “The Reservation

  1. How DID I miss this one?! Agree–one of your most entertaining! (Although WR may have a point re the bear.) How will you report on all the excitement in Nashville from London?

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