Canyon de Chelly
Administrative History
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Pursuant to a suggestion made by Dr. Clark Wissler, a Committee on Canyon de Chelly was organized to consider future plans for land development in the national monument. The meeting was held at the Laboratory of Anthropology library in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on September 5, 1931. Members of the committee were Neil M. Judd, A. V. Kidder, Clark Wissler, and Earl H. Morris, with Jesse L. Nusbaum serving as chairman. Frank Pinkley was also to serve on this committee, but he became ill and was unable to attend. [1]

The first item of business was a discussion of the scientific development within Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Morris stated that the monument "offered opportunities for the development of an educational and scientific exhibit that would be distinctive and unique." [2] Furthermore, he believed:

There is nowhere else an opportunity of so thoroughly exemplifying conditions early culturally and of displaying in a restricted locality a very long cycle in the gradual ascent of a primitive people toward civilization. These canons have been a nucleus not only of the old Pueblo domain, but more recently of the Navajo. They were occupied, I believe, continuously from the time that man first appears in the Southwest, barring possibly the Folsom Quarry-Gypsum Cave horizon, that is, from Basket Maker II, to the close of Pueblo III, insofar as the latter relates to the San Juan drainage. The late masonry Cliff House phase is amply exemplified elsewhere, notably in the Mesa Verde National Park. In contrast the Canon de Chelly National Monument is particularly rich in remains that date from the beginning rather than the end of the culture cycle. The greatest number of remains represent Basket Maker III. I could not say definitely, at this moment, how prevalent Pueblo I remains may be, but there are good chances that Pueblo I type sites exist in some of the caves.

In a number of pueblos that stand at the level of the valley floors, particularly in Canon de Chelly, Pueblo III remains are plentifully represented, and it is to be expected that careful search for them would bring to light characteristic Pueblo II sites. Perhaps by careful analysis of Mummy Cave it would be possible in this one shelter to develop certain features of the intermediate phases between Basket Maker III and Pueblo III. The probable criticism of the detailed plans for the development of the de Chelly Monument which have shaped themselves in my mind would be that they are too far-flown and too ideal to be possible of realization because of the expenditure that their materialization would entail. [3]

The members agreed that some type of chronological display should show this development in situ, and Judd suggested a small local museum could be helpful.

Kidder and Morris thought that Mummy Cave might be used to exemplify this sequence, although because of the activities of later occupants, Basket Maker II was almost non-existent. Wissler suggested that "the first objective is to present a chronological sequence in one place, then select a site elsewhere that best presents each phase." [4] The costs of developing such exhibits in situ would be expensive, according to Morris. Mummy Cave needed a wall "to hold back the area where the Cliff House stands, in order that the talus could be dissected. . . ." Morris also believed that repair work was essential for other aboveground structures, as well as for Antelope Cave. [5]

Morris stressed that because a Basket Maker II site was not accessible anywhere in the Southwest, he would like to see a site prepared for the public. He believed such a place was available near Antelope House and the cost would not be prohibitive. [6]

In the ensuing discussion, Wissler stated that National Park Service Director Albright

advised him that the Government should provide all excessive work and maintenance incident to the scientific development of educational features in such areas. He further stated that since this area is under the guardianship of the Government, rangers must be provided for its protection and for the purpose of conducting visitors to and through archaeological features thereof, and to tell the story connected there with. He further recommended that it would be advisable for the Government to have some qualified person there constantly seven days a week to work with such scientific agencies as might cooperate with the Government in developing the educational program contemplated, in order that he might be in a position to pass on to the public the full fruits of the campaign. [7]

Discussion then turned to the development of archeological resources within Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The committee unanimously agreed that a qualified institution that would be willing "to cooperate with the National Park Service in the development of this educational program" should be invited to work in this area. When asked if the Carnegie Institute would be interested in participating, Kidder replied "it would depend upon two points: Whether there are problems of sufficient scientific interest within this region to require a period of years to work them out, and, secondly, whether Carnegie Institution would care to obligate its Southwestern activities to that area over a period of years." [8]

Morris offered his services to work on the scientific development of the monument until the culture sequence could be worked out, which he estimated would take 5 years. Morris said that it would be expedient to develop sites representative of each major period. He wanted to give attention first to Basket Maker II and III and then work through to Pueblo I, II, and III, the latter best exemplified by Mummy Cave Cliff House. He believed most "finds" should be left in situ and all should receive necessary repairs. He advised that provisions should be made to protect the in situ finds from destruction by visitors. [9]

In evaluating the expenses of this project, Morris believed that they "would not necessarily be enormous." He stated that nothing should be done until the Government declared its degree of supervision and attention. "Each particular site," opined Morris, "would have to be watched just as carefully as a city museum is guarded. It would mean somebody present at the site all of the time." [10]

In regard to roads and access routes to the monument, Morris preferred that nothing be done at present in order "to avoid overrunning by too many visitors at the commencement of work." He said that the present condition of the roads afforded access to only the "better class" of visitors. By this he meant visitors who were interested in the area and who would not interfere with work being done. In addition Morris believed that the Navajos should continue to occupy the canyon and were "part of the picture." The committee unanimously concurred with Morris's suggestions. [11]

Further discussion centered upon the minimum amount of excavation needed "to satisfy all immediate demands from an educational point of view." A few sites were agreed upon for thorough examination from a scientific standpoint, and the committee believed "that an extensive program was justified since this monument promised a longer and more continuous sequence than any other areas under Park Service jurisdiction." [12] Kidder posed the question of unforeseen difficulties that might arise over funds secured through the Park Service by a non-Governmental employee. Nusbaum assured him that if such a situation arose, a non-Governmental employee "could be empowered to expend funds so secured, or could be appointed a representative of the National Park Service at a nominal salary in qualifying as the disbursing agent for government funds." [13]

Because the American Museum of National History had previously carried out archeological work in the area, Wissler was asked if they would be opposed to the Carnegie Institute excavating there. Wissler replied that the museum would not be opposed and that having the Carnegie Institute handle it "might be the most advantageous way to accomplish it, since the American Museum has committed itself to development work in the Dinosaur National Monument." [14]

Discussion then turned to the selection of a superintendent or custodian for the area. Wissler wondered if an "outstanding archaeologist" would be the best man for the job. "There is a great deal of business in handling a monument of this type that is not scientific, and it seems advisable to separate the purely administrative and maintenance activities from the scientific and educational activities in this particular development." The group agreed that the superintendent or custodian should be an administrative person and that a naturalist—"a high type of archeologist"—should also be appointed. Nusbaum concluded that "we should have a superintendent who is sympathetic to this educational and scientific development, but not too intimately concerned therein." [15]

In defining the role of the National Park Service in the development of a scientific exhibit in Canyon de Chelly, the committee decided that the Park Service "should not undertake the development through its own forces," but should have organized scientific bodies handle the matter. Furthermore, the Park Service should assign a naturalist, acting as an assistant to the head of the scientific body, to help in the archeological work. [16]

Judd then moved that Nusbaum write Director Albright informing him of the following prime objectives that the committee agreed to:

(1) That the de Chelly National Monument be made an outdoor museum, exemplifying the history of the aboriginal life of the northern Southwest and that type sites within it be kept available to the public, and, at the same time, carefully protected from the public.

(2) That a small local museum be established, when feasible, in which limited exhibits can be displayed of material taken from the ruins, and showings made of such synoptic series of sherds and other materials as will best illustrate the various phases of the aboriginal life and other features of the area. (Guide-control of visitors to and through ruins is fundamentally necessary to their preservation. Therefore, the local museum development and quarters for the custodian should be near the entrance in order to maintain traffic control, with the museum to hold the attention of visitors until guides are able to make trips with them.)

(3) That we welcome proposal from some scientific institution to make such investigations in the canons as may be necessary to develop an educational program.

(4) That we recommend appointment of superintendent or custodian as administrative man, and a qualified naturalist for this particular phase of the work who can take part in excavations as they progress. [17]

Judd, then asked the committee how these objectives should be attained. The following answers were supplied: that the staff should include at a minimum a custodian (administrative man) and a naturalist (archeologist), and that Nusbaum suggest to the Park Service which institutions might be interested in cooperating with them. Moreover, any monies alloted by the Government would be made immediately available to allow the Park Service to work with the scientific institution when arrangements were made. Morris believed that the best time of year to work would be in August and September after the summer rains. [18]

In regard to restoration and repairs, the committee followed a conservative policy. They recommended that "a minimum amount of restoration" be done on archaeological sites in order to protect and preserve them. They did not want restorations erected on the sites because of confusion and detraction from the actual ruins. [19]

Before the meeting adjourned, Judd suggested the following two tentative programs for the ensuing year, which the committee unanimously approved.

(1) The appointment of custodian who will take control, guard ruins, study administrative and traffic problems, and recommend such surveys as are necessary.

(2) Pending development of scientific programs, certain immediate protective measures should be taken at Antelope House and Mummy Cave where the tower is in very immediate danger. In this connection, it was suggested that Mr. Morris act as consultant because of his very intimate knowledge of the problems involved, and his broad experience in accomplishing such work. [20]

Following the instructions of the committee, Nusbaum wrote to Albright presenting the consensus of the committee's opinion on the prime objectives established. He referred to Kidder's suggestions that the Carnegie Institute might allot $6,000 per year for a 5-year period. This amount would be Morris's salary and expenses for the most part. However, under this plan the Park Service would supply $5,000 per annum for 5 years also. If it could not get the $5,000 appropriation from the Government, Nusbaum thought that the Rockefeller Foundation might be a possible source. [21]

Albright's reply to Nusbaum was far from encouraging. He believed the committee's report "most helpful to the Service," but the plan was "a bit ambitious" in wanting both a custodian and a park naturalist, although Albright believed it would be ideal to have such an arrangement. He stated that the recommendations provided a goal toward which to strive, but immediate results were "almost out of the question at the present time." Referring to the funding, Albright was pleased that the Carnegie Institute might supply $6,000 per annum, but he was unable to figure where the Park Service could get $5,000 to help in the cooperative plan. He believed Rockefeller could not be a source of revenue because of his other commitments. Albright did, however, write to Dr. Merriam requesting him to consider the program even though the Park Service could not fulfill its part of the scheme. Albright "pledged all the support we can give from this end." [22]

Although the above plan of funding did not materialize, Morris did do needed repair work at Mummy Cave. This was decided upon at a meeting at Canyon de Chelly National Monument on July 1, 1932. Present at this gathering were Horace M. Albright, Director, NPS: C. Marshal Finnan, superintendent, Mesa Verde National Park; C. J. Smith, superintendent, Petrified Forest National Monument; Frank Pinkley, superintendent, Southwestern Monuments; Jesse Nusbaum, archeologist for the Department of Interior; and Earl Morris, representing the Carnegie Institute. [23] The Carnegie Institute supplied Morris's services and transportation, while the Park Service furnished a fund of $400 to cover materials, supplies, and salaries for workers. Morris began work in September 1932. [24]

Morris and his crew (which did not include any Navajo workers) worked on the tower wall in Mummy Cave. They rebuilt and bonded the corners of the tower and did needed ceiling repairs; numerous photographs were taken. Morris terminated his work in Mummy Cave in October 1932. [25]

The selection of an archeologist and a custodian also did not proceed according to the plans and recommendations of the Canyon de Chelly Committee. Pinkley, who was unable to attend the meeting because of illness, took issue with Nusbaum over the custodian's and archeologist's duties. Pinkley, in a letter to Albright, wondered who paid the archeologist's salary and if he would be involved in public relations. [26]

Pinkley felt that there were three aspects of development in Canyon de Chelly National Monument: the research activities, which would be under the direction of an archeologist; the administrative affairs, which would be handled by the custodian; and the educational matters, which would be under the National Park Service Educational Division whose duty would be to "translate the results of the archaeologist for the benefit of the visitors." [27] Pinkley believed that the hiring of a permanent archeologist was unnecessary because the Educational Division could handle most of the duties, and if any "strictly" archeological problems arose, he suggested that the staff of the Bureau of Ethnology of the U.S. National Museum be consulted. [28]

Nusbaum answered Pinkley's criticism by stating that the appointed archeologist would not only supervise expeditions for a few months of the year but would also serve in the Educational Division. Nusbaum believed that "Pinkley will gain an additional archaeologist-naturalist in his forces for permanent service in a restricted national monument area, and his whole educational division, will be greatly strengthened thereby." [29]

In reply, Pinkley stated that "Nusbaum somewhat misses the point I was aiming at." [30] Pinkley reiterated that "What I am objecting to is the calm assumption that only a field-excavating archaeologist is capable of handling the educational work at an archaeological monument." [31] Furthermore, Pinkley believed that the real work was not what an archeologist found but the dissemination of the findings to the public, and since, according to Pinkley, archeologists were habitually slow in publishing their results, this would leave the Educational Division without materials to present to the public. In sum, Pinkley was saying that "it is not necessary to have a field-digging archaeologist in our Educational Division." [32] Therefore no permanent archeologist was appointed at Canyon de Chelly National Monument.

The appointment of a custodian also did not materialize as quickly as the committee recommended. The aforementioned meeting at Canyon de Chelly on July 1, 1932, recognized that someone needed to be on hand at the monument for security purposes. Consequently, they empowered the proprietors of the Thunderbird Ranch to be "placed upon the rolls of the Park Service as nominally paid Park Rangers, which would give them the power of arrest and a general control over the problem of vandalism inside the monument." This was to be a temporary measure until the appointment of a permanent custodian, whose salary was included in the 1934 fiscal budget. [33]

Several men were nominated for the position of custodian between 1930 and 1934. Representative Douglas recommended that L. H. McSparron, owner of the Thunderbird Ranch, be appointed custodian as long as it would not be a full-time job. [34] Another request for the position came from W. H. Clark on January 28, 1931. [35] Pinkley, in charge of hiring, considered Clark too old and lacking the technical training needed for such a position. [36] Other candidates included O. C. Havens, L. C. Boies, Tom Allen, and Louis R. Caywood. [37] Caywood received a probational appointment as custodian at Canyon de Chelly from Demaray. [38] Pinkley did not want Caywood to go to Canyon de Chelly but rather to Casa Grande. [39] Pinkley favored Robert Budlong, custodian at Casa Grande, for the position at de Chelly. [40] Since Pinkley was responsible for the hiring of a new custodian, Robert Budlong was chosen, beginning his duties as the first custodian of Canyon de Chelly National Monument on August 18, 1934. [41]

Although Canyon de Chelly National Monument now had a custodian, it lacked a headquarters and residence for him. According to a reconnaissance report of de Chelly in 1932 conducted by J. B. Hamilton, an engineer, the best site for a headquarters was near the mouth of Canyon de Chelly. Hamilton favored this location because it would be advantageous for preventing unauthorized travel up the canyon and because it would be less expensive. [42] Hamilton did not give the actual cost of the headquarters project, but he did include the following estimates on some of the work involved: road from Thunderbird Ranch—$2,500, water supply (including plant for lights)—$750, and sewers—$350. [43]

The actual construction of the custodian's residence began on September 28, 1935, [44] and a 5,000-gallon water storage reservoir was completed on December 13. Helping Hamilton in the construction of the reservoir were local Navajo workers. [45] The total cost of the water storage reservoir and the sewer line, completed earlier, was estimated at $2,860. [46] A well to supply water was completed in January 1936; it was 98 feet 5 inches in depth. [47]

Budlong, who had moved his "residence" six times since being appointed custodian at de Chelly, was elated over the progress of the building. He described the residence as having 2 bedrooms, 1 bath, an enormous living room, an office, a dining alcove, a kitchen, and a service porch. [48] In June 1936 Budlong and his wife moved into their new quarters at Canyon de Chelly. [49]

The Budlongs did not stay very long in their new home because on November 30, 1936, he was transferred to El Morro. [50] Replacing him at Canyon de Chelly was Johnwill Faris, who was custodian from December 1, 1936, to November 14, 1938. [51]

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Last Updated: 08-Mar-2004