Edgar Lee Hewett and the Political Process

Hewett and Pajarito Park

As Ferdon (1993: 12) suggests, Hewett's career was a serendipitous result of his marriage on September 16, 1891, to Cora Whitford (fig. c), who shared his love of horses, the outdoors, and camping. They spent the summer vacations from his teaching positions in Colorado at Florence and Greeley, camping all along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Unfortunately, not long after they were married, Cora became "frail," a turn- of-the-century euphemism for tuberculosis (Ferdon 1993: 12-13), and their marriage was childless. Her doctor recommended that they spend their summers in New Mexico so that she might benefit from the warm, dry climate there. The Hewetts followed that advice, headquartering in Santa Fe, but spending most of their time exploring and camping on the Pajarito Plateau west of the city. Hewett ultimately bought a small ranch in the upper Pecos Valley that served as a summer retreat, especially after he became president of the Normal University (now New Mexico Highlands University) in Las Vegas (Ferdon 1993: 14).

Hewett, having already read Bandelier's The Delight Makers (1890a) and his reports to the Archaeological Institute of America (1890b, 1892), developed not only an interest in the region but also great admiration for Bandelier, whom he saw as a role model (Lange 1993: 3). Hewett and Bandelier developed a respectful friendship, in part because of their shared love of the Rito de los Frijoles and the surrounding region at the south end of the Pajarito Plateau, although Hewett (1938: 17) noted years later that while he had "some proprietorship in the Pajarito Plateau,…from the Rito south…belongs to Bandelier and Lummis." By 1896, Hewett had moved beyond visiting and camping and began to carry out archaeological survey and mapping (Hewett 1904a). As Ferdon (1993: 13) points out, "Hewett was never a man to sit idling away a summer while his wife. relaxed and gained strength in the New Mexico sun." Hewett soon became deeply attached to the Pajarito region both professionally and emotionally and very early got the idea that the entire region should be designated a national park in order to preserve the ruins there for "scientific research" (Rothman 1992:56-60).

The people living in the western territories in this period were well aware of the different kinds of land status that made their homelands a mosaic of federal, Indian, and private jurisdiction and ownership. They felt that unchallenged access to the resources of all of these land categories was a basic right. Southwesterners, though, had mixed feelings about the Indian ruins. Some saw them as a resource to be mined for commercial gain. For others, they were a uniquely Southwestern source of local pride. Preserving the ruins and exhibiting their contents promoted an enhanced sense of identity. However, Hewett recognized that not everyone shared in that pride: "I think our legislatures as a rule hold that the less said about our ruins the better, lest the impression get about that we have nothing else to boast of! Our [New Mexico] St. Louis Exposition Commission frowns upon any archaeological exhibits for this reason" (Hewett to Holmes, 29 September 1903, National Anthropological Archives, hereafter NAA). Hewett was well aware of this mix of values that ranged from exploitation to preservation. Nevertheless, it was not until after he began work in the Pajarito region that he recognized the potential of federal ownership for archaeological preservation. Even though some of the most important Southwestern ruins were on private land, Hewett (1905c: 590) found it politically useful to insist that "of the archeological remains in the Southwest, probably nine-tenths are on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States." He repeated this theme over and over, because it opened the door for the protection of sites by one comprehensive law, a "general bill," which he hoped would, in turn, stimulate responsible private landowners to take protective action on their own.

The federal land in the northern and southern portions of the Pajarito region were controlled by the General Land Office of the Department of the Interior and were under consideration for inclusion in the proposed Jemez Forest Preserve (now Santa Fe National Forest). The region in between, including Pajarito Canyon for which the region was named, was the privately owned Ramon Vigil Grant. Hewett developed good working relations, even friendships, with both the agents of the General Land Office and the private landowners, whom he frequently recognized for their enlightened custodianship of the ruins (Hewett 1905c: 598 n. b; 601 n. a). He hoped that, when the region became a national park, the federal government would purchase a thousand or so acres of the Vigil Grant, probably at a good price because the timber had already been cut by its Seattle owners (Hewett to Holmes, 29 September 1903, 4 March 1904, NAA).

In 1898 Hewett was appointed to a five-year term as the first president of the new Normal University at Las Vegas, New Mexico, at the recommendation of Frank Springer (Merrill 1935a), who became his lifelong friend and supporter. A prominent New Mexican lawyer, Springer was also a leading authority on crinoids and had close connections with the U.S. National Museum. Hewett developed a curriculum at the Normal University that included a good deal of anthropology and began to involve his students in his summer explorations. In 1899, the General Land Office, largely at Hewett's suggestion, sent James D. Mankin to investigate the park potential of the region. Early in December of that year, Mankin recommended the withdrawal of 153,000 acres to establish Pajarito Park, named for Pajarito Canyon located in the center of the region. At the end of July 1900 Land Commissioner Binger Hermann withdrew the recommended acreage, a withdrawal that stayed on the books until 1938 (Altherr 1985: 276). Hewett, who was following these developments closely, wrote in October 1900 to President William McKinley telling him of the educational benefits of his work "in the area known as Pajarito Park" and calling the President's attention to "the proposed-legislation pertaining to the creation of a prehistoric National Park, for the purpose of preserving and protecting the ruins thereon for future scientific research" (Hewett to McKinley, 26 October 1900, NAA).

Two months later in December 1900, Secretary of the Interior Ethan Allen Hitchcock (Bailey 1932) submitted a draft of that "proposed legislation" for Pajarito Park to Congressman John Fletcher Lacey, Chairman of the Committee on Public Lands of the House, who introduced the bill in January 1901. Lacey (1915a: 220-21) acknowledged the support of Hitchcock, Mankin, and Hewett in presenting this bill. He documented the urgency involved by quoting Hewett (from a letter of October 26, the same day Hewett had written to President McKinley): "I believe more earnestly than ever in the desirability of creating…a national park…. At no time in the history of that region has such wanton vandalism gone on as during the last summer." Hewett later emphasized that, while he heartily approved of the bill, it "originated in and has been handled by the General Land Office" (Hewett to Holmes 29, September 1903, NAA). Although Lacey's committee gave the bill a prompt and favorable hearing, no further progress was made.

By this time Hewett's relationship with Congressman Lacey, which began sometime in 1900, was well established. In order to promote the Pajarito Park bill, Hewett invited Lacey to visit the Southwest, and a trip was arranged during the summer of 1902 (Lacey 1915c: 210; Pammel 1915: 44; not the spring of 1903 as indicated by Bloom 1939: 19 and repeated by Chauvenet 1983: 42). Years later, Lacey (1915c: 210) recalled: "It was in August, 1902, that Prof. Edgar L. Hewett urged me to visit the ruins of the cliff dwellers and cave dwellers and see for myself the necessity and propriety of the enactment of a law to protect and preserve the ancient aboriginal ruins of the Southwest; and so Dr. Hewett, Congressman B. S. Rodey [of New Mexico], land commissioner Keen, and myself visited the Pajarito region; slept in the deserted caves, explored the communal ruins, and then pursued our journey to the still living pueblos." As a result of that trip Hewett and Lacey developed a lasting relationship of mutual respect and friendship.

Earlier in the summer of 1902, Hewett had also guided Henry Mason Baum and his group from the Records of the Past Exploration Society (Rothman 1989: 36), although Hewett's role is not mentioned in Baum's (1902a) account of that trip. Baum (1902a: 361) recommended national park status for Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, and Canyon de Chelly, but he did not believe that it was "advisable for the Government to create a national reservation" on the Pajarito Plateau. He stated that "the vandals are not likely to disturb" the cavate dwellings there and added that the timber on the plateau was "needed for the people living in the Rio Grande Valley." Baum's casual assessment contrasts sharply with Hewett's description of serious vandalism in his letter to Congressman Lacey (1915a: 221) two years earlier.

Hewett, despite the inaction of Congress and the attitude of Baum, was not about to give up on his dream. By 1902, he had completed the archaeological survey of the Pajarito region and was turning his attention to mapping Chaco Canyon. He included this information in his report for that year as president of the Normal University (Hewett 1902) and supported the Pajarito Park concept of the General Land Office. Proving that he was learning that the political process required perseverance, he repeated the park recommendation in his report for the following year (Hewett 1903). These documents were included in the reports of the Territorial Governor to the Secretary of the Interior. Hewett and Frank Springer, his ally on the Board of Regents of the Normal University, were already in political trouble because of the complaints of a losing bidder for a university printing contract. Governor Miguel Antonio Otero disapproved of Hewett's approach to education, considered his summer archaeology trips a waste of time, and agreed with those who were appalled at the idea of withdrawing huge tracts of land from potential private use. Otero's supporters on the Board of Regents did not renew Hewett's appointment as President (Chauvenet 1983: 46-47).

While Hewett was unemployed, he lost none of his enthusiasm for Pajarito Park. Springer (1917: 6) describes the Pajarito activities in late 1903 as "a sharp campaign." Before leaving for Europe Hewett reported to Holmes that Lacey had assured him that a new Cliff Dweller's National Park bill was ready to be introduced into the next session of Congress. Hewett, who had originally proposed the name Pajarito Plateau (Hewett 1938: 27), also told Holmes of his unhappiness that Lacey had changed the name of the park, rejecting the word Pajarito (Hewett to Holmes, 29 September 1903, 28 November 1903, NAA; Altherr 1985: 277; Hewett 1916: 51-54; Lacey 1915a: 223). Hewett continued to write to Holmes about the Pajarito Park proposal from Europe (Hewett to Holmes, 4 March 1904, 17 April 1904, NAA).

In 1904, the Pajarito timber lands were removed from the park bill and added to the proposed Rio Jemez Forest Reserve, reducing the Pajarito Park to about a quarter of its originally proposed size. The reductions included Pajarito Canyon, which Hewett considered the heart of the Park. He commented: "As the lines are now drawn, it creates Pajarito Park with the 'Pajarito' left out" (Hewett 1905c: 598, n. a). In July 1905 President Theodore Roosevelt gave even more land slated for Pajarito Park to Santa Clara Pueblo (Hewett 1905e: 570). Lacey reported the greatly amended bill favorably, but no further action was taken on it. Hewett (1905e: 570) had already indicated that he thought the national park proposal would "be abandoned." Nevertheless, within less than a year he spent several days in the field with a group of Santa Fe businessmen (also fellow members of the Archaeological Society of New Mexico) who had requested his assistance "in opening up the Pajarito Park" (Hewett to Kelsey, 24 April 1906; Hewett to Carroll, I May 1906; Archaeological Institute of America Archives, hereafter AIA). It remained for President Woodrow Wilson to salvage something by creating a much smaller Bandelier National Monument in 1916 around the Rito de las Frijoles sites at the southern end of the Pajarito Plateau, although his action did nothing to still the controversies surrounding the Pajarito Plateau, controversies that continued for many more years (Altherr 1985; Rothman 1988, 1992).

Although Hewett lost the battle for Pajarito Park, he established solid working relations with Congress and the Department of the Interior, he gained professional credibility, and he learned a lot about the political process. In many ways this early work on the Pajarito Plateau was a defining experience for Hewett. He returned to those early haunts physically, intellectually, and emotionally throughout his life (Hewett 1938: 15; Rothman 1992: 152).