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Studies in Archeology and Ethnography 2 Implementing the Antiquities Act: A Survey of Archeological Permits 1906-1935

Chapter 2: Implementing the Antiquities Act

Passage of the Antiquities Act had three particular impacts of lasting importance for American archeology, historic preservation, and natural resource conservation. First, it was now possible for the President to unilaterally set aside federal land for preservation as a national monument. This authority provided for swifter, more expedient protective action than through the congressional process required for the establishment of national parks. Second, potential archeological investigators were required to secure a permit from the land managing officials, the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior or War, to conduct any type of archeological or paleontological research on federally owned or controlled land. Third, individuals who removed, disturbed, or destroyed antiquities on federal land without obtaining an Antiquities Act permit were subject to punishment by fine and/or imprisonment.

Permit requirements included an obligation to provide proper long-term care for collections in a public facility. As the preservation and presentation of cultural artifacts and scenic wonders for the visiting public were gaining importance both with archeologists and the American people, the remaining vestiges of the past were to be used to benefit the country as a whole, not merely wealthy collectors. The threat of penalties, including jail imprisonment and a $500 fine, were anticipated to be a deterrent to non-scientific excavation of antiquities on federal land holdings.

Developing a Permit System

Administrative records associated with the Antiquities Act permits reflect the permit application process. Individual researchers, normally an associated member of a nationally recognized public institution, were required to submit a permit application to the appropriate federal land managing department, Agriculture, Interior, or War. The required informaiton for permit application is described in the Act's rules and regulations (43 CFR 3). According to a Departmental letter from 1909, permits were required for "examinations, excavations, and gathering taking place on public lands, Indian reservations, National Monuments within public lands and Indian lands, National Parks, etc. . .” (Pierce 1909).

All applicants were required to provide the name of trained field workers' formal affiliation with a public institution, and a location where the collection would be properly housed, studied, and eventually publicly displayed. Additionally, a specific description of the research site was to be plotted on a sketch map, and a realistic scope of work for the field season(s) was to be suggested for all projects. The first permit issued under these procedures was to Edgar Lee Hewett, on behalf of the Archaeological Institute of America in 1907. Figure 1 shows Hewett's application seeking the initial Antiquities Act permit.

Section 3 of the Antiquities Act (16 U. S. C. 431-433) expressed the need for a process to monitor and regulate archeological investigations and artifact collection on public lands, stating:

That permits for the examination of ruins, the excavation of archeological sites, and the gathering of objects of antiquity upon the lands under the respective jurisdictions may be granted by the Secretaries of the Interior, Agriculture and War to institutions which they may deem properly qualified to conduct such examination, excavation, or gathering subject to such rules and regulations as they may prescribe: Provided, that the examinations, excavations, and gatherings are undertaken for the benefit of reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions, with a view to increasing the knowledge of such objects, and that the gathering shall be made for permanent preservation in public museums.

The idea for a permit system gained momentum in years prior to the statute's passage. The Rev. Henry Mason Baum, one of the most active lobbyists for antiquities protection at the turn of the century, clearly mentions the idea for federally issued permits as early as 1904. In Records of the Past, a journal dedicated to reporting the preservation of antiquities worldwide, Baum declared:

Of course, we should welcome the scientific men of foreign countries to investigate our prehistoric monuments and ruins and permit them to retain some of the archaeological treasures recovered, but it should be done under government permits and supervision [emphasis added], and a record should be left of their work and whatever they are permitted to take back with them (Baum 1904: 100).

In March, the same year, the federal permit concept was introduced, in draft form, into the Congressional consideration as bill H. R. 13349, by Representative W. A. Rodenberg from Illinois (Lee 1970/2001: 44). Several additional drafts and bills were considered later, until the Act, with its permit provision, passed in 1906.

The permit applications examined in this study were submitted to the Secretary of the Interior's office. These applications were reviewed at the Secretary’s office and then submitted for collaborative approval to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. Some of the permits were also submitted by the Secretary's Office to the General Land Office (GLO), a branch of the Department of the Interior established in 1912 to "superintend, execute and perform all such acts and things touching or respecting the public land of the United States." Additional responsibilities of the GLO included disposing of public land and overseeing the withdrawal from availability for homesteading land of cultural significance as a step towards prior to formal preservation (Lee 1970/2001; Townsend 1999).

In most cases, if adequate information was provided in the initial application by a recognized expert and public institution, the application was approved. A permit issued by the Secretary, upon recommendation by the Smithsonian Institution, and other relevant Department bureaus and offices resulted. If requests to excavate did not interfere with the work of other research institutions, project approvals materialized via a departmentally issued letter that reiterated the information provided by the applicant. The permit represented a contractual agreement between the federal government and the permitee that all rules and regulations of the Antiquities Act would be upheld.

Uniform rules and regulations were developed quickly by the Secretaries of Agriculture, Interior, and War to implement the Antiquities Act. On December 28, 1906, just six months after the law was issued, the three Secretaries issued the regulations, which immediately took effect. The regulations outlined specific conduct and procedures required of Antiquities Act permit recipients. All applicants were provided a copy of the conditions regulating examinations on federal land and were expected to abide strictly by them. The regulations (43 CFR 3.1-3.17) were relatively short and described responsibilities and requirements. The main points are summarized below:

  • The Department of the Interior had jurisdiction over all federal land holdings, excluding the forest reserves held by the Secretary of Agriculture and military reservations controlled under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of War. Jurisdiction included ruins, archeological sites, historic and prehistoric monuments and structures, objects of antiquity, historic landmarks and other objects of historic and scientific interest.
  • No permits for removal of ancient monuments or structures will be granted if in situ preservation is an option for the structure.
  • Permits for the examination, excavation or gathering of antiquities will be granted to reputable museums, universities, colleges, or other recognized scientific or educational institutions or their duly qualified agents.
  • Exclusive permits for excavation will not be granted for areas larger than can be explored systematically and fully within a reasonable amount of time estimated in the permit application.
  • All applications must include an outline of proposed work, the name of the institution, the date to begin field work, expected length of excavation, persons involved in the excavation, character of the work, and the public museum where the objects excavated, examined, or gathered will be deposited.
  • No permit will be issued for more than a three-year period, although extensions of original permitted activity are possible if renewal is approved.
  • Failure to begin work within six months of permit issuance, or insufficient progress with the work undertaken will result in the permit that was issued to be declared void by the Secretary without any order or proceeding.
  • All applications are referred to the Smithsonian Institution for recommendation.
  • All permits are to be in writing, referred to the Smithsonian Institution and the appropriate field officer in charge of the land. Recipients are to receive a copy of the rules and regulations with their permit.
  • All permit recipients are required to submit two copies of a report at the close of each field season, one to the Smithsonian and one to the Department of the Interior. Reports are to include a catalog of collections and photographs and indicate any material available for exchange.
  • At the close of a field project, permit recipients are to restore the site to the specifications of the appropriate field officer in charge.
  • Permits may be terminated at the discretion of the Department.
  • Field officers shall occasionally report to the Department on the existence of archeological ruins, monuments, objects of antiquity, historic, or scientific interest found on public land.
  • Authorities of various Departments may apprehend or arrest individuals who illegally obtain objects or damage ruins and monuments located on federal land.
  • Illegally obtained collections from federal land may be seized wherever found at any time by persons authorized by the Secretary of the Interior and deposited in a national depository or otherwise.
  • All collections made under Antiquities Act permits are to be stored in public museums, accessible to the public. Museums or collections facilities that close will transfer their material to a national facility at the United States National Museum.

The National Park Service and Early Federal Archeology

Because the number of permit applicants was quite small in the years immediately following the Act's passage, the existing modest Department of the Interior administrative staff shouldered the new responsibilities of reviewing applications, coordinating with the Smithsonian Institution, and issuing permits. Similarly, the numbers of new national monuments grew only gradually and initially were managed within the existing administrative framework. Within ten years of the passage of the Act, however, the amount of activity had increased substantially. The Department was responsible not only for supervising permit-related regulation, but also monitoring, protecting, and regulating activities in more than twenty national monuments and sixteen newly-created national parks (Cameron 1922; Lee 1970/2001; Rothman 1989; Interior 1912:697). The increased responsibilities included also additional national parks created during this decade by statute (Albright and Cahn 1985).

Walter L. Fisher, then Secretary of the Interior, presided over a conference of park superintendents in Yellowstone National Park in 1911 to address the growing inadequacies of the fatigued administrative structure plaguing the Department (Albright and Cahn 1985:7; Cameron 1922). The Department of the Interior annual report described the state of the administrative problem as follows:

The consensus of opinion . . .at the conference was that development of the national reservations should proceed along more liberal lines than has heretofore obtained, and that the supervision of the various parks should be centralized in a bureau especially charged with such work . . . presently supervision in many instances is necessarily limited, and considerable difficulty has been experienced in protecting monuments from vandalism, unauthorized exploration, and spoliation (Interior 1912:61).

A proposal for a coordinated system to manage the rapidly expanding national parks and monuments was presented by the Taft Administration to Congress. A similar presentation was made to the attendees of the American Civic Association's annual meeting in 1911 in an attempt to garner additional support for the cause (Albright and Cahn 1985:8). National parks, as expressed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a prominent advocate for creating a national park system, were to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of future generations, a sentiment ultimately incorporated into the law that established the National Park Service. The proposed restructuring would increase supervision of vast amounts of often isolated land and sought to reduce the continued assault of vandals and looters on sites and ruins located on public land.

Despite President Taft's pleas recommending the establishment of a bureau of national parks, a bill proposed to Congress in 1911 failed to become a law (Interior 1915). Subsequently, bills to establish a Bureau of National Parks were introduced in both the House and the Senate from 1912 through 1915. All the bills died in the committees despite assistance and support from Representatives William Kent and John E. Raker from California, and Senators Reed Smoot from Utah and Edward T. Taylor from Colorado (Albright and Cahn 1985: 35; Albright and Schenck 1999; Ise 1961; Lee 1970/2001).

Success in the campaign to create a formally recognized, systematic administrative federal bureau finally came on August 25, 1916, when an Act to establish a National Park Service was signed by President Woodrow Wilson. Years of continuous lobbying and political persuasion led by Stephen Mather, with important assistance and support from Horace Albright, Frederick Law Olmstead, and other advocates, including many volunteers working for the American Civic Association and the General Federation of Women's Clubs, resulted in the passage of a successful bill. Preservationists were armed now with an improved administrative system for the management of national parks and monuments.

However, limitations on funding continued to impede progress in national park and monument protection, especially for the relatively small and isolated national monuments with archeological sites (Rothman 1989: 93). Appropriations for the sustained operation of the newly authorized system of parks still needed to be approved by Congress. Without adequate funding, the newly authorized service was paralyzed; no staff could be hired and no progress made. Stephen Mather, who was named as the first Director of the Park Service, and his deputy Horace M. Albright continued to press for adequate funding. Generous appropriations for the newly established service initially were dismissed. "It was felt the bureau should first prove its worth to the country and start with a moderate personnel" (Mather 1923: 3).

As a result of continued efforts, "supplemental appropriations" in 1917 provided the bureau with $19,500 to employ a director, an assistant, a chief clerk, and several other employees to administer the managerial tasks regarding the national parks and monuments (Mather 1923: 3). Unfortunately, the funding coincided with the declaration of war on Germany. Many potential new park service employees volunteered or were drafted into the military. Despite Mather and Albright's eagerness to proceed (Albright and Cahn 1985: 57-58), establishing an effective administrative structure and expanding responsibilities to address the needs of the vast protected lands were again delayed.

Although there was scant opportunity to hire new staff, Horace Albright wasted no time in beginning his assessment of the parks and monuments. In the fall of 1917, he traveled to Utah to inspect a federally protected national monument, previously unseen by park service officials. Mukuntuweep, a site at the core of what would eventually become Zion National Park, was just one monument in a system that Albright referred to as the "forgotten orphans of the service." The Antiquities Act made it possible to set aside these diverse tracts of natural and historical wonders, yet each monument received an annual allocation of only $120, plus a dollar a month for a custodial salary (Albright and Schneck 1999; Rothman 1989).

Despite Antiquities Act protections secured more than a decade earlier, efforts to protect antiquities and prosecute those who violated the Act's provisions had not improved by the mid-1920s. A small administrative structure and limited field personnel did their best to monitor federal property throughout the United States, but ten monuments, including Yucca House and Hovenweep, had no appointed custodian (Cammerer 1924). Vast tracts of federal land holdings also had little or no staff to ensure illicit archeological looting was not on-going (Albright and Cahn 1985). Under these circumstances, the monuments languished on the western landscape.

Creating the Departmental Archeologist Position

The difficulties created by limited funds appropriation and the outbreak of World War I had stifled the newly formed National Park Service's ability to address the pervasive problems of archeological looting and vandalism and to deal effectively with the tourism influx on public land. However, the National Park Service personnel were trying more attentively to correct the lack of archeological site protection. As early as 1918, Neil Judd and Horace Albright discussed the possibility of creating an archeological division of the National Park Service to concentrate on the continuation of scientific research and the restoration of deteriorating ruins (Albright and Schenck 1999: 279). At the time, Judd, who was employed by the Smithsonian Institution, was working to restore Betatakin within Navajo National Monument (Brew 1978). Once again, a lack of funding made the hiring of an archeologist by the Park Service impossible at the time.

However, within a few years of the initial discussion proposing an archeological division of the National Park Service, a persuasive advocate for archeological site preservation and protection was hired as Superintendent of Mesa Verde National Park. Jesse L. Nusbaum, an archeologist with ample experience and a first hand knowledge of archeological sites throughout the Southwest and Central America, became the first archeologist employed by the Department of the Interior. He was entrusted with the task of managing the first national park established for its archeological and historic significance. Nusbaum was an early employee of Edgar Hewett and a friend and colleague of Alfred Kidder, Sylvanius Morely, and other early American archaeologists (R. Nusbaum 1980). Since Nusbaum and his prior work were well-known, he served as an effective liaison between the government and other professional archeologists working in the field to enforce existing American antiquities protection and advance archeological interpretation.

One such attempt to increase attention and activity to fight archeological looting within the Department of the Interior materialized in the 1920s. The President of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Walter Hough, organized a committee comprised of himself, as well as established archeologists A. V. Kidder and Neil Judd, to investigate the problem of archeological looting. Their findings, transmitted to the Secretary of the Interior by letter, concluded:

The difficulty lies in the fact that no government official seems to have been authorized to enforce the Antiquities Act of 1906. . . . In other words, the department's under whose authority the law places all ruins on the public domain seems unwilling, or unable to assume the responsibility of enforcing the law (Judd 1924a:429).

Neil Judd, then Curator of American Archeology at the United States National Museum, wrote three letters to the Secretary of the Interior in the spring of 1924 to pursue these concerns (Judd 1924b, 1924c, 1924d). He and the committee members reminded the Department of the unchecked looting of archeological sites and unauthorized excavations being carried out in direct violation of the Antiquities Act. Violations most commonly were carried out “within the Indian Reservations in New Mexico and Arizona and on adjacent public lands, including those in southern Utah and southwestern Colorado” (Judd 1924a). The AAA committee strongly recommended use of the sanctions in the Antiquities Act to encourage enforcement. Four recommendations were made to the Department:

  • Indian superintendents should be granted permission to confiscate illegally excavated material and forward them to approved depositories;
  • All traders in antiquities cease immediately or face revocation of their trading permits;
  • Copies of the Antiquities Act should be posted in visible places on federal land;
  • Field officers should be authorized to confiscate looted antiquities and monitor federal land for Antiquities Act violators (Judd 1924c).

The Department of the Interior responded to several of the AAA committee recommendations less than a year later. Judd's ideas for improvements in enforcement were shared with the Office of Indian Affairs (Burke 1924a), which in turn forwarded the concerns to park and monument superintendents and their administrative staff (Burke 1924b). Late in 1924, multiple copies of the Antiquities Act were sent to the parks and monuments for posting (Wickham 1924). "Superintendents or others in administrative charge" were reminded of their authority to confiscate looted artifacts from traders and alert individuals trafficking antiquities that their trade permits on Indian reservations could be revoked if traders were caught excavating for cultural material on public land (Burke 1924b). Park superintendents began to post signs on federal land bearing the following text in 1925 (Interior 1925:93):


All persons are warned that it is unlawful to remove any object from, excavate on, damage, destroy, or remove any portion of, an ancient ruin located on lands owned and controlled by the Government of the United States, except under permit issued in accordance with the act of Congress approved June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225); that any person violating the law may be arrested by an officer of the United States and may be fined not more than $500 or imprisoned for more than 90 days, or may suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court. Help preserve for the future the records of the past.

After many years of inaction, direct steps were taken by the Department to inform the public of the Act's existence and intent and to increase efforts by field personnel to reduce violations of the Antiquities Act.

Another important breakthrough occurred in 1927. The final provision of the AAA committee’s recommendations of 1924, the designation of a field officer "to compel observation" on federal land and "confiscate all antiquities illegally attained" (Judd 1924b) was realized. Department of the Interior Order No. 229 named Jesse L. Nusbaum as "Archeologist for the Department" on July 9, 1927 (Figure 2a).

The Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior for 1928 provides a brief description of Nusbaum's new responsibilities:

Mr. Jesse L. Nusbaum, who is also superintendent of the Mesa Verde National Park, renders advisory service to all branches of the department, as well a scientific and educational institutions contemplating archeological investigations upon the public domain under jurisdiction of the department. This official is also engaged in developing methods for the better protection of the many archeological sites located mainly throughout the Southwest; the prevention of unlawful excavation on these sites, the orderly conduct of work authorized by department permits, and proper publication of the scientific information derived therefrom (Interior 1928: 216).

In 1929, Departemnt Order No. 393 affirmed Nusbaum's designation (Figure 2b). The text of the order summoned the authority of his new position regarding permits:

All requests for permission to explore prehistoric ruins on the public domain, in the national parks, and on Indian reservations, are, under existing orders, referred to him for report. The request should be routed through the Office of the Secretary, and no permission will be given to any scientific or other party to carry on investgations or remove prehistoric relics without the consent of the Secretary and in accordance with interdepartmental regulations on the subject.

Nusbaum's appointment as Departmental Archeologist was an administrative development adopted to secure additional protection for archeological and other scientific resources on federal and Indian land in the Southwest. As a field officer, Nusbaum communicated the pressing need to monitor public lands more closely and to report all violations of the Antiquities Act to him or to National Park Service personnel. For the first time, park superintendents and field archeologists had an advocate and advisor for archaeological protection and to guarantee fieldwork was carried out in an orderly and professional manner. After decades without direct professional attention given to the Antiquities Act permits, the Department now had an employee to process a growing number of incoming permits and ensure proper scientific fieldwork (McManamon and Browning 1999).

Nusbaum's position title "Departmental Archeologist" changed to "Consulting Archeologist" when he took a leave of absence in 1930 from his post at Mesa Verde to direct the newly- opened Rockefeller-sponsored Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe. He remained active in both his position at the Laboratory of Anthropology and the National Park Service throughout this early period of his appointment as Consulting Archeologist. Nusbaum promoted archeological protection and increased public outreach with interpretive programs and displays featuring archeological specimens (Nusbaum 1930). For example, the museum buildings at Mesa Verde National Park were designed and constructed under Nusbaum's supervision to house, display, and interpret "newly excavated material of prime importance" (National Park Service 1930: 20). Public exhibits for interpretation at parks, including archeological material, were viewed by the National Park Service as "museum exhibits that have exceeded our most sanguine expectations. . .the beginning toward museum exhibits that have promise and will be valuable and popular exhibits for the National Government when completed" (National Park Service 1923:20).

Among the most helpful products for understanding Nusbaum's activities and goals following his appointment are the Annual Reports he prepared for the Secretary of the Interior (Nusbaum 1929, 1930, 1931). Their content was similar to the general Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, but Nusbaum's specifically addressed archeological issues. The Department from 1929-1931 published copies of the reports. A fourth report, dated 1932, appears never to have been published by the Department, although a draft copy of Nusbaum's findings for 1932 was found at the NARA II facility with the permit documentation. Each of the four Annual Reports discusses Nusbaum's tasks and responsibilities and describes authorized on-going permit excavations. In each, the problems of looting, vandalism, and increased visitation are discussed and remedies for problems advocated. The reports are an excellent tool to monitor federal progress with its Antiquities Act responsibilities. Although they are only able to provide a small window into federal archeology's past, Nusbaum's reports provide valuable insights into the conditions confronting archeologists concerned about archeological protection during the first third of the twentieth century.

Developments in the 1930s

Despite administrative gains and modest personnel increases, the inadequacies of Antiquities Act enforcement continued to plague the archeological community in the 1930s. Jesse Nusbaum made several requests in his Annual Reports for help in administering and overseeing the Department of the Interior’s archeological field resonsibilites: "One lone field representative. . .can not protect an area that extends over the major portion of the Southwestern states. Help is needed" (Nusbaum 1929:v). In addition to the enormity of the land to be managed, the number of permit applications was increasing steadily (Table 1).

Table 1. Number of Antiquities Act permit applications received by the Department of the Interior 1906-1935

1900-1909 1910-1919
1900 n/a 1910 2
1901 n/a 1911 1
1902 n/a 1912 1
1903 n/a 1913 7
1904 n/a 1914 4
1905 n/a 1915 13
1906 0 1916 13
1907 4 1917 11
1908 7 1918 4
1909 7 1919 10
subTOTAL: 18 subTOTAL: 66
1920-1929 1930-1935
1920 13 1930 25
1921 8 1931 32
1922 4 1932 25
1923 14 1933 25
1924 8 1934 21
1925 8 1935 23
1926 9 1936-1939 No Data
1927 15
1928 13
1929 11
subTOTAL: 103 subTOTAL: 151

By the 1930s, the number of permits applied for and issued were nearly double the number dealt with annually during the 1920s. The quantity of permit requests was too large and permit application inconsistency was exacerbating an already difficult situation. Nusbaum reported:

Many applicants for permits normally supply but a brief and often indefinite outline of the work contemplated under the permit, in a few cases so much so that the purpose and aim of the project could be construed by this office as an attempt to simply legalize sporadic excavations without definite aim other than securing material and without apparent consideration of the coordinated effort of other institutions (Nusbaum 1930:8).

In a coordinated effort to adopt a standardized form for Antiquities Act permits application, as well as to discuss the Antiquities Act’s continued ineffective enforcement, an interdepartmental meeting was held in Washington, D. C. Nusbaum met with representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, the National Park Service, the General Land Office, Indian Office, the Departments of Agriculture, Interior, and War, and a few private institutions in April, 1932. In two sessions, April 13 and April 19, held at the Smithsonian Institution, attendees were able to adopt a standard application form to systematize Antiquities Act permit requests, as well as compile a list of recommended procedures proposed for greater Antiquities Act protection on federal land (Abbot 1932).

Greater regulation and standardization of archeological procedures in the field through the Antiquities Act permitting procedures was one means of increasing professional responsibility and ensuring the adoption of scientific excavation procedures by all applicants. Participants in the conference at the Smithsonian Institution agreed:

  • Prehistoric remains found in the United States are of such great value and importance that any and all means to "conserve" and "safeguard" those located on federal land should be pursued;
  • The "fullest practical enforcement" consistent with the Antiquities Act and its regulations should be a priority;
  • Excavations should be for scientific aims, not for "self-gratification or profit";
  • All excavations authorized by each Department overseeing federal land should be in full compliance with the specific rules and regulations of the Antiquities Act, as passed in 1906;
  • The Antiquities Act is an adequate piece of legislation, if properly enforced.

There appears to have been no discussion about artifacts and materials excavated from historic period sites during this 1932 meeting. No changes in the Antiquities Act regulations resulted from this meeting held at the Smithsonian, though two amendments were proposed which would have:

  • Permitted the arrest of persons found on land of the United States and in possession of archeological material for which they could not establish ownership or right of possession, and the seizure and impounding of such material pending final determination of its origin and legal ownership;
  • Prohibited the interstate shipment of archeological material except under permit issued by an authorized Federal or State officer. The present acts of that tenor in Arizona and New Mexico would be strengthened and made more effective by such an amendment (Abbot 1932).

The amendments do not appear to have been pursued, and no changes to the regulations were made. Action was taken to more explicitly state the requirements expected by the Departments, as compliance with them was a major concern of conference participants. The responsible Secretaries eventually agreed on a standardized application form to be used by all permit applicants. The three page standardized form began to appear for approval at the Secretary of the Interior’s office by 1935 (Keur 1935b). See Figure 3 for a copy of a completed application using the 1935 detailed form.

During the early 1930s, an average of twenty-five permit applications were received (see Table 1) and initial field reports flooded into the Department with unprecedented frequency. Permitted excavators, now aware of repercussions for non-compliance, increasingly observed requirements they largely had ignored for many years.

Added Requirements for Studies on Indian Lands

The process of granting permits to individuals seeking to excavate ancient sites on Indian land occasionally was controversial. The Antiquities Act itself required permits for examinations, excavations, and gatherings taking place on all lands “owned or controlled by the government of the United States” (Pierce 1909). It did not require tribal approval of permits for investigations on reservation lands. However, the office of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs examined permit applications for those proposing archeological activity on an Indian reservation or tribal land. For instance, Alfred Kroeber and the American Museum of Natural History applied for a permit in 1916 to study the Zuni on their reservation. During administrative review of the permit, Dr. Charles Walcott of the Smithsonian Institution recommended that the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and the Superintendent of the Zuni Indian School be consulted:

Desired permission to conduct anthropological investigations on the Zuni Reservation, so far as they do not involve the excavation of ruins or the gathering of objects of antiquity is one which should be passed on by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs as involving the question of administration only (Walcott 1917).

Consideration of the impact of scientific investigations on Native American groups was a condition of the approval of this permit in February 1916. The permit stated "permission of the Indian agent and of the Indians themselves should be secured" prior to any anthropological research.

Another permit issued the same year to the American Museum of Natural History carried a similar provision for consultation. The permit issued by the Department of the Interior recommended the applicant "should be instructed to confer and cooperate with Superintendent Ellis of the Blackfeet Reservation and make no excavations that will interfere with the rights of the Blackfeet Indians or any work of the United States government" (Sells 1916).

Despite an apparent lack of documented incidents during the previous two decades, occasional entanglements over Antiquities Act permits in the 1930s required Departmental intervention. Increased tourism and the proliferation of isolated Indian trading posts and recreational accommodations on federal land had elevated knowledge of and demand for archeological materials. The market for American antiquities continued to grow and tensions between scientists and pothunters were escalating as well (U. S. Daily 1931). Some encounters raised tensions between American Indians residing in the Southwest and investigators in search of additional scientific information from the past.

In 1934, a recently buried, historic Native American skeleton and the associated funerary objects were excavated by investigators working under federal permit. The conduct of the scientists raised serious concerns. Carl H. Skinner of the Phoenix Indian School alerted the Department of the Interior of his concern about the conduct of scientists operating under an Antiquities Act permit on tribal land (Nusbaum 1935a). The Superintendent and related tribal members met with representatives from the Office of Indian Affairs to negotiate a compromise. Tribal members received the human remains and the funerary objects were kept by the excavation team from the University of Arizona (Collier 1934).

In order to prevent future conflicts of this sort, the Department devised a solution intended to respect both the Native American graves and the scientific interests of Antiquities Act permit recipients. An initial proposal protected graves younger than 200 years from exhumation and study. Several archeologists, including Julian Steward and Jesse Nusbaum, objected to the two hundred year limitation. Archeological investigations were expanding to federal land outside of the Southwest and the possibilities of new data and research were growing in the consciousness of the archeological community, such that an exclusion would have prohibited the study of some time periods. For example, prohibiting the excavation of graves postdating 1700 on federal land eliminated the possibility of excavating sites pertaining to the contact period on the Great Plains and elsewhere (Nusbaum 1935b, 1935c).

Six months later, on August 7, 1935, Oscar Chapman, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior, agreed to an Antiquities Act permit modification restricting excavation on Indian reservations and land to “qualified archeologists” only. Any work done in present and former burial grounds "abandoned for less than a century" required permission of the governing Indian Tribal Council and registering of any activity with a BIA Superintendent or those in administrative charge of the designated area (Chapman 1935b). A new rule limited the activities of archeologists who were known to have disturbed recent burial sites while conducting archeological studies or making museum collections.

Other Changes

Additional requirements and conditions were added to the permit approval procedures as new issues and problems demanded immediate attention. Initially, the Antiquities Act permit text established a procedure and informed applicants of the legal parameters of the agreed upon contract. Each permit issued carried the same general message for almost two decades:

Pursuant, therefore, to the act of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225) and to interdepartmental regulations (copy herewith) adopted and approved under said act, dated December 28, 1906, the [Institution] is hereby granted permission to prosecute archaeological research within the territory mentioned. The report required by the regulations should be submitted at the end of the season to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and a copy thereof forwarded to this department for information and record (Interior 1915).

A variety of conditions were inserted in permits on an as-need basis throughout the years, but by 1931 another paragraph became necessary for all permit recipients requesting to study ruins and sites located on Indian reservations and tribal land. The Office of Indian Affairs issued Order No. 7. It was approved by Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary, John H. Edwards, and required the insertion of a new paragraph into all letters of introduction to persons working on tribal land. The new paragraph read:

The holder of this permit, and those operating there under shall hold the Department of the Interior, its bureaus and employees, blameless for any and all events, acts, deeds, or mishaps arising while on the reservation, regardless of whether they arise in the performance of such study or research or not. The government assumes no legal or other responsibility in such matters. Such protection will be afforded as is consistent with the Superintendent and other employees (Edwards and Scattingwood 1931).

The Department was clearly distancing itself from the liability and safety issues manifesting themselves within the business of managing the federal lands of the United States.

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