Administrative History
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The first years of the Great Depression of the 1930s hurt the Park Service. There was little money for Federal agencies, travel decreased across the nation, and the agency was closely tied to the failing Hoover administration. The crash of the stock market and subsequent bank closures put pressure on the Federal budget, precluding expenditures for land acquisition by the agency. Small-town America was in desperate straits. Mustering the support necessary among local residents to establish new park areas was very difficult in a time when many did not know where their next meal was coming from. With powerful USFS opposition still extant and local economies in the West disproportionately dependent on that agency, Albright wisely put aside many of his plans and waited for a more favorable situation.

Many in the Park Service still regarded the transfer of the monument as a step on the road to eventual park status. The most obvious way to make the area more important in the overall scheme of the agency was to include the Puye ruins in a new national monument. If a new national monument was established at Puye in spite of adverse economic conditions, Albright would have a logical reason to continue to press for a national park that would encompass Puye, the detached Otowi Section, and the main portion of the monument. In this context, consolidation of the site by expansion became an efficient maneuver.

Although Frank Pinkley's report in 1927 undermined the Cliff Cities proposal, it also raised the question of the administration of Puye. Pinkley believed that Puye should be administered by the NPS. On this point, he and Albright agreed. After Roger Toll, Jesse Nusbaum and M. R. Tillotson recommended that the NPS accept the offer of the national monument transfer, Albright set his sights on Puye.

Albright's interest in Puye predated the 1930s. He first visited the area in 1919 and advocated the earliest agency efforts in the area. While still Mather's assistant in the late 1920s, Albright began to lobby for a Puye National Monument as way to get a Pajarito Plateau National Park. In 1928, he envisioned an "'L' shaped [park], which would give [the NPS] all of the canyons, with their hundreds of ruins that lie between Puye and the Bandelier main section." [1] The "monument-first, then-the-park" strategy was not new; William B. Douglass and the Santa Fe Chamber of Commerce advocated a similar idea in 1916. Throughout the 1920s, the Park Service used similar methods elsewhere in the Southwest. After he became director of the agency in 1929, Albright aggressively pursued the acquisition of Puye. By early 1931, a side issue to the Forest Service transfer of the existing Bandelier National Monument developed. At Albright's instigation, the Park Service pursued the acquisition of Puye.

The Santa Clara Indians were firmly entrenched at Puye and to avoid acrimony within the Department of the Interior, the Park Service needed a legitimate reason to propose the transfer. In March 1931, Dr. Harold C. Bryant, who headed the Educational Division of the Park Service, spoke with Dr. Bates of Cornell University, who assisted the rebuilding of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Bates made an extensive investigation of conditions at Puye, and determined that the ruins were in disgraceful condition. He advocated NPS administration of Puye if the Santa Clara Pueblo was allowed to keep the proceeds from the entry fee that visitors paid. [2]

This was precisely the kind of ammunition the agency needed. According to an expert, the site required the professional care that the Park Service could offer. NPS officials moved quickly. Associate Director Arthur E. Demaray, the Park Service liaison to the Congressional Appropriations Committee and an early advocate of the proposal, was put in charge of the attempts to create the Puye National Monument.

As liaison officer, Demaray pressed for a reevaluation of the status of the Puye ruins. He arranged for a group from the Congressional Appropriations Committee to make a trip to the Santa Fe area. They visited Puye, where Demaray reviewed the attempts to make a national park of the region. Although the committee was not favorably impressed with the idea of a national park, conditions at Puye convinced the congressmen that the NPS should administer Puye. Bowing to the realities of the situation, Demaray pushed the Puye National Monument idea. "Our principle stumbling block in the past has been our desire for a large national park," Demaray wrote Albright on June 8, 1931. "If we concentrate our efforts to better preserve and protect the prehistoric ruins under national monument administration, we can really get somewhere." [3]

Demaray's perspective shaped the Park Service view of its responsibilities in northern New Mexico. While he did not discount the value of a national park in the Pajarito region, Demaray was eternally a pragmatist. He believed that the Park Service ought to acquire Puye for the value of those ruins, not as leverage to create a national park. If a national park was the eventual result, it would be to the advantage of the NPS. If not, at least the safety of the Puye ruins would be guaranteed. Other opportunities for the Park Service would follow.

Jesse Nusbaum supported Demaray's position on the Puye issue. Prior to the Bandelier transfer, he began to explore the possibility of acquiring Puye. While working with Toll and Tillotson in 1930, Nusbaum approached Bureau of Indian Affairs Commissioner Hagerman and found him favorable to the concept of a Puye National Monument. Nusbaum informed his superiors and together they planned acquisition strategy.

In January 1932, after Demaray refocused agency policy, Albright wrote the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to follow up on Nusbaum's work. Charles S. Rhoades, the new commissioner, referred the matter to the Superintendent of the Santa Fe Indian School, Chester Faris. Nusbaum immediately went to Faris's office and discussed the matter with him. With a tentative commitment from the prior commissioner, the position of the Park Service looked strong. Its proposal was designed not to threaten the Santa Claras. As Bates suggested, the agency would only assume responsibility for the administration of the ruins. The Santa Clara Pueblo would continue to receive the revenue collected at the site and its council would retain veto power over potential excavations.

The resistance of the tribe to Government interference in their lives quickly dashed Nusbaum's hopes. On February 11, 1932, the Santa Clara Pueblo voted unanimously against turning Puye over to the National Park Service. As a result, Rhoades withdrew the support of the BIA, and Park Service attempts to add Puye to the system ended. There were, however, unanswered questions. For more than a decade, the Santa Clara Pueblo had been divided into a number of factions. Yet in the face of NPS acquisition attempts, the pueblo united. There was clearly more to the story than the vote itself revealed. Puzzled but undaunted, Nusbaum retrenched.

At a dinner party in March 1932, Jesse Nusbaum found out what had happened to his hopes for Puye. Ed Lowrie, a Washington D.C. newspaperman working for the Brookings Institute, had been studying the problem of law and order in the pueblos. Lowrie and Nusbaum had become friends, and Lowrie often made use of Nusbaum's knowledge and contacts. Lowrie saw the factionalization of the Santa Claras as the greatest obstacle to the future development of the Pueblo, and he decided that the best way to get them to put aside their differences was to find a common adversary for them. Unfortunately for the NPS, the first opportunity that arose involved Puye. Nusbaum, now at the Laboratory of Anthropology, was not visibly involved with Park Service efforts to acquire Puye, nor had he informed Lowrie of his role in the project. At the dinner party, Lowrie boasted that his efforts were responsible for stopping the NPS. Nusbaum then explained his interest in the project. Lowrie, who was quite beholden to Nusbaum, was stunned. "It was a terrible blow [to Lowrie]," Nusbaum wrote afterward, "and I thought he would pass out completely." After coming to, Lowrie apologized profusely and professed his loyalty to Nusbaum. But the damage was done, and Nusbaum told Faris to put the project aside. Faris, whom Nusbaum believed approached the project half-heartedly, was glad to oblige.

Nusbaum counselled patience and suggested that the NPS let the issue drop until Lowrie returned to Washington. The Park Service had to "out-wait" the opposition. "We have just to match the patience of the Indian if we are to achieve success," Nusbaum wrote Albright. Then after the uproar died down, Nusbaum hoped the Park Service would begin new attempts to acquire Puye. [4]

But NPS enthusiasm for Puye waned as the reorganization of 1933 became imminent. The acquisition of the remaining national monuments of the Forest Service and War Department, as well as a broad array of other park areas, precluded Park Service interest in Puye. Horace Albright resigned to enter private business, and Arno B. Cammerer became director. Agency morale suffered; Cammerer was noticeably less aggressive than Albright and he faced an entirely different set of management issues. The reorganization of the Federal Government in 1933, which transferred a variety of park-like areas to the Park Service, forced changes in procedure and created confusion. With new responsibilities and an important role in implementing Federal emergency relief programs, NPS emphasis shifted away from acquiring more land in places like the Pajarito Plateau.

The failure to acquire Puye signaled the end of Park Service conceptions of an archeological national park on the Pajarito Plateau. All the proposals between 1900 and 1930 were predicated on the fact that the establishment of a park would affect a small number of people. Most of the land recommended for inclusion in the park belonged to Federal agencies. Before 1930, interagency cooperation could have established a national park on the Pajarito Plateau. By the 1930s, private citizens had a sizable stake in the region. Park proposals now affected the livelihood of more than a few remote settlers. Private landowners became a powerful force that agency planners had to address.

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Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006