National Park Service Organic Act of 1916

Enactment of the National Park Service Organic Act, 16 USC 1, in 1916 follows the intent of the Antiquities Act by establishing the National Park Service. The act created an agency with the mission to protect, conserve, and preserve both natural and cultural resources on public lands for future generations (King 1998:13). Establishing the National Park Service allowed for the regulation of designated areas as national parks, monuments, and reservations. According to the Act, the main purpose of the National Park Service is to “conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such mans as well leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations (United States Congress 1916:1). As cultural resource managers, archaeologists, and/or concerned citizens, it is our duty to ensure that the National Park Service, and the Department of the Interior as a whole, keep to this promise of keeping our parks and national monuments protected and preserved for future generations.

King, Thomas F.

2000 Federal Planning and Historic Places: The Section 106 Process. Altamira Press, New York.

United States Congress

1916 The National Park Service Organic Act: 16 USC 1, 2, 3, 4, August 25, 1916. Washington, D.C. U.S. Government Printing Office.

A (Very Brief) History Leading Up to Current CRM Legislation

Interest in academic archaeology in service of the government and public in the United States can be traced to Thomas Jefferson in 1799 (Schroeder 2009:169). While president of the American Philosophical Society, Jefferson asked the organization to record antiquities before such artifacts were lost to future generations. Examples of both government and civic preservation include the protection of ancient earthen mounds throughout the Midwest (Schroeder 2009:172). The Ohio Company designated ancient mounds and earthworks in Ohio as important public places for preservation. However, unlike modern legislation in cultural resource management, government intervention was minimal until the 19th century and the pressure placed on the government by the concerned public over destroyed historic and prehistoric ruins. As Schroeder (2009:172), “most of the earliest efforts at preservation were accomplished by communities, civic groups, and other organizations exerting efforts to assure the protection of ancient monuments.”

During the 19th century, with the growing popularity of antiquities collections, European museums tended to focus on craft demonstration in order to generate a greater interest in antique material than the cultural aspect of material culture. However, American museums and preservation societies focused on material culture as opposed to artifact demonstrations, especially with historic houses (Anderson 1982:292). By the mid-19th century, Americans were keen on historic preservation efforts. This effort was rooted in the need to preserve what civic leaders and middle-class professionals considered to be traditional American beliefs and cultural values. Groups like Sons of the American Revolution and Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities hoped to create a sort of shrine to the past, idealizing of the nation’s founding fathers and influential sites from the American Revolution (Durel 1986:230). Historic houses, such as George Washington’s home of Mt. Vernon, provided tangible access to the past, demonstrating a need for continued preservation of historic places and presenting history to the public.

Three major exhibitions brought Indian antiquities to the forefront: the Columbian Historical Exposition of 1892 in Madrid, Spain, and the 1904 World’s Columbian Exposition of in Chicago and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, Missouri (Thompson 2000:210). The exhibitions displayed the material remains of recently excavated regions of the American Southwest. The display of Indian antiquities romanticized the American west and generated a demand for Indian antiquities and art. Growing interest in archaeological materials led to looting of ancient ruins in the American southwest with the discovery of monumental ruins such as the Mesa Verde Cliff dwellings in Colorado (Hutt et al. 1992:19). Railroad construction during the mid to late 19th century, “facilitated long-distance shipping of goods, including large, fragile collections of archaeological materials, which previously had been transported in wagons” (Hutt et al. 1992:19).

Public concern with the destruction of antiquities and the growing professionalization of anthropology provided a role for the government in preservation and archaeology. For example, Casa Grande in southern Arizona was the first federally preserved prehistoric archaeological site in 1892, due to petitions to Congress by supporters of preservation (Schroeder 2009:172). The need for federal legislation was brought to the forefront by archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett. Knowing key members of Congress and professional societies, Hewett was appointed a member of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to work towards creating antiquities legislation (Thompson 2000:236). Hewett’s work the AAA helped establish the language of the Antiquities Act of 1906 and the groundwork for future cultural resource management legislation. And the rest is history.

Important Cultural Resource Legislation in the United States

  • Antiquities of 1906
  • Organic Act of 1916
  • Historic Sites, Buildings, and Antiquities Act of 1935
  • Reservoir Salvage Act of 1960
  • National Historic Preservation Act of 1966
  • National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
  • Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979
  • Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990

References Cited

Anderson, Jay

1984 Time Machines: The World of Living History. The American Association for State and Local History, Nashville.

Durel, John W.

1986 The Past: A Thing to Study, a Place to Go. In Public History: An Introduction, edited by Barbara J. Howe and Emory L. Kemp. Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company, Malabar.

Hutt, Sherry, Elwood W. Jones, and Martin E. McAllister

1992 Archaeological Resource Protection. The Preservation Press, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C.

Schroeder, Sissel

2009 Thinking About a Public and Multidisciplinary Archaeology. Reviews in Anthropology 38: 166-194.

Thompson, Raymond Harris

2000 The Antiquities Act of 1906 by Ronald Freeman Lee. Journal of the Southwest 42(2): 197-269.

A Quick Visit to Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

 

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in Ganado, Arizona is a fun stop, a great place to get out of your car, stretch your legs, grab a soda, and learn a little bit about the history of the area. The trading post has a long history and it is still going strong as a trading business! In fact, it is the oldest operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. John Lorenzo Hubbell bought the trading post in 1878 and supplied the Navajo people once they were allowed to return home; the Navajo had been brutally exiled from their homeland by the U.S. Government up until 10 years before Hubbell’s purchase. Hubbell built a trading empire with Navajo goods, such as woven rugs and silver items, providing a variety of supplies to the Navajo in return. The Hubbell family operated the trading post until 1967, when it was sold to the National Park Service.  It is now both an interpretive site, museum, and store.  The museum has a wonderful exhibit on Navajo weaving.

Links:

https://www.nps.gov/hutr/index.htm

http://www.hubbelltradingpost.org/

A Brief History of the Antiquities Act of 1906

Click Here to listen to the ARCH365 episode on this topic through the Archaeology Podcast Network. You can also download the episode from iTunes.

There’s quite a bit of history that led up to the creation and implementation of the Antiquities Act, starting with the general interest of the American people in the past. While president of the American Philosophical Society, Thomas Jefferson asked the organization to record antiquities before such artifacts were lost to future generations. Examples of both government and civic preservation include the protection of ancient earthen mounds throughout the Midwest (Schroeder 2009:172). The Ohio Company designated ancient mounds and earthworks in Ohio as important public places for preservation. However, unlike modern legislation in cultural resource management, government intervention was minimal until the 19th century, when pressure was placed on the government by the concerned public over destroyed historic and prehistoric ruins.

By the mid-19th century, Americans were keen on historic preservation efforts. This effort was rooted in the need to preserve what civic leaders and middle-class professionals considered to be traditional American beliefs and cultural values. Groups like Sons of the American Revolution and Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities hoped to create a sort of shrine to the past, idealizing of the nation’s founding fathers and influential sites from the American Revolution (Durel 1986:230). Historic houses, such as George Washington’s home of Mt. Vernon, provided a window into the past, demonstrating a need for continued preservation of historic places and a place presenting history to the public.

Three major exhibitions brought Native American antiquities to the forefront: the Columbian Historical Exposition of 1892 in Madrid, Spain, the World’s Columbian Exposition, also known as the Chicago World’s fair, of 1893 in Chicago and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition, also known as the St. Lous Worlds Fair, in St. Louis, Missouri. These exhibitions displayed the material remains of recently excavated regions of the American Southwest. The display of Indian antiquities romanticized the American west and generated a demand for Indian antiquities and art. Growing interest in archaeological materials led to looting of major sites in the American southwest such as the Mesa Verde Cliff dwellings in Colorado (Hutt et al. 1992:19). Railroad construction during the mid to late 19th century, allowed for the long-distance shipping of large fragile collections of archaeological remains—making it easier to send hundreds of thousands of artifacts across the united states.

Public concern with the destruction of antiquities and the growing professionalization of anthropology created a role for the government to step into. For example, in 1892, supporters of preservation sent congress petitions to protect and preserve Casa Grande, a prehistoric structure in southern Arizona. It became the first site to be protected by the feds. The need for federal legislation was brought to the forefront by archaeologist Edgar Lee Hewett. Knowing key members of Congress and professional societies, Hewett was appointed a member of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to work towards creating antiquities legislation (Thompson 2000:236). Hewett’s work the AAA helped establish the language of the Antiquities of 1906 and the groundwork for future cultural resource management legislation.

President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Antiquities Act, on June 8, 1906, establishing a basic federal policy to protect and preserve cultural resources on public lands (Green 1998:123). The Antiquities Act created criminal sanctions to prosecute looters, the act allows the president to create historic scientific and national monuments, and the act established a permit system to examine and excavate archaeological sites on federal lands, meaning no work can be undertaken without a permit (Hutt et al. 1992:21). Consequently, the Antiquities Act protects “any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States” (United States Congress 1906:1).

Without the antiquities act, archaeologists wouldn’t have the current legislation that backs-up our work and the public wouldn’t have the amazing national monuments like Bears Ears in Utah. The antiquities act is a crucial piece of cultural resource legislation in the United States, which shouldn’t be overlooked, overshadowed by economic incentives, or overturned by those who do not understand the importance or preserving and protecting the past for future generations.

Links:

-If you are interested in my cited sources, you can find the associated book on Google. Feel free to message me if you would like the full reference or suggestions on further reading.

-NPS: https://www.nps.gov/archeology/tools/laws/antact.htm

-Legislation: https://www.nps.gov/history/local-law/anti1906.htm

 

Tin Cans and More

I think historic archaeological sites and artifacts sometimes get a bad rap for not being as interesting or fun for archaeologists to record and it can be difficult to explain to non-archaeologists the importance of protecting a pile of tin cans. I’m not talking about the large-scale heritage sites like Mount Vernon or a wooden fort, but piles of tin cans and other historic rubbish piles. While surveying, I have been guilty of being like, “ugh, another hole-in-top can. Break out gps.” At times, I have to remind myself the importance of recording the past, no matter the date. Where I’ve done most of my work in the southwest, isolated artifacts and dumps can tell us so much about how people lived during the 19th and 20th centuries. And there is so much more than just tin cans—there are beautiful amethyst and aqua glass, fragments of leather shoes, and so on, to discover. In different parts of the United States, amazing historic artifacts have been recovered from the 16th and 17th centuries, such as metal fragments of armor along the Santa Fe Trail. And, then there are all of the unique post-contact artifacts of various Native American groups, such as metal projectile points. So, in a nutshell, historic archaeology can be pretty fascinating.

Please note: it is both unethical and illegal to remove any kind of artifact—prehistoric or historic—from archaeological sites on public lands. It doesn’t matter how nice you think that historic bottle would look on your desk. Leave it!

For type guides on historic artifacts, visit:

-The Society for Historical Archaeology: https://sha.org/resources/20th-century-artifacts/