Technical Report

Environment, Prehistory & Archaeology of Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
Greg C. Burtchard

Chapter 6:

Mount Rainier National Park embodies scenic and geological qualities that have made it one of the nation's best known and most heavily visited parks. Well before becoming a park and before its historical attraction to adventures, scientists, miners and the rest, the mountain played an important role in the lives of indigenous people residing in its vicinity. Known as Tahoma during early historical times, the mountain's subalpine and alpine habitats provided huckleberries, game and other plant resources to Indian groups east and west of the Cascades. As Tahoma and probably a host of other names, the mountain also was integrated into the lives of Northwest hunter-gatherers for up to 8,500 years into the prehistoric past. Beyond its scenic and perhaps spiritual grandeur, the mountain's value to these populations lay largely in the abundance of animal and plant resources that could be obtained from upper elevation settings during its brief summer season.

This project has been designed to develop a better understanding of Mount Rainier's role in the region's long-term prehistoric subsistence and settlement patterns by clarifying the character and interpretive potential of its archeological record. In pursuit of this general goal, the Mount Rainier archeological project undertook four specific obligations.

1. Conduct new archeological reconnaissance structured to provide a more complete view of Mount Rainier National Park's prehistoric archaeological record.

2. Prepare archaeological base maps and supporting site data for prehistoric localities documented within Park boundaries.

3. Prepare an archaeological overview and research document for Mount Rainier National Park, emphasizing relationships between the montane environment, prehistoric subsistence and settlement practices, and the nature of the Park's archeological record.

4. Building on overview and research results, develop management and research recommendations to protect the Park's archaeological record and further the interpretive effort begun here.

The archaeological reconnaissance was completed in late summer of 1995. Detailed site specific data are on file at Mount Rainier National Park, at the Washington Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation, and are included in the separately bound 1995 Reconnaissance Data companion volume (Burtchard and Hamilton 1998). Chapter 4 of the present volume describes reconnaissance procedures and results in summary fashion. Map Figure 4.2 in that chapter shows the Park-wide distribution of prehistoric remains documented during the reconnaissance and through earlier archeological efforts. Color fold-out map Figures 2.10 through 2.13 in Chapter 2 also show prehistoric site distribution in relation to environmental zones in four Park quadrants.

For the most part, the present volume is intended to meet the final two objectives. Its primary focus has been to use combined archaeological and environmental information, interpreted through a body of ecological and anthropological theory, to address Holocene subsistence and settlement processes relevant to Mount Rainier National Park and the southern Washington Cascades. Contents include environmental descriptions, archeological background discussions, current site data, and the Mount Rainier site distribution/site type and long-term land-use models. These have been organized to provide an interpretive overview of the Park's archaeological record in its broader regional and temporal context, and to establish a research context for its continuing refinement.

This concluding chapter summarizes basic aspects of Mount Rainier archaeology by returning to a series of questions posed earlier in the report. These summaries are then used as a platform to address continuing management, interpretation and research options for the Park's prehistoric archaeological resources.

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Last Updated: Monday, 18-Oct-2004 20:10:54
Author: Natural & Cultural Resources Division

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