Dr. Wilson Receives 2011 Cotter Award

Dr. Douglas Wilson describes an archaeology dig for news cameras while sitting in an excavation pit in the Fort Vancouver Village.
Dr. Douglas Wilson describes an archaeological excavation at the Fort Vancouver Village to a television news crew in 2010.

NPS Photo by Greg Shine

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News Release Date: April 4, 2011

Contact: Dr. Robert Cromwell, 360.816.6253

Dr. Douglas Wilson is the 2011 recipient of the John L. Cotter Award for Excellence in National Park Service Archeology. Dr. Wilson is an archaeologist for the Pacific West Regional Office of the National Park Service, based at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Dr. Wilson was nominated for his work on the Station Camp/Middle Village archaeological site, a part of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. The archaeology was initiated as a result of a proposed realignment of Highway 101 to create an interpretive park area commemorating the encampment of the Lewis and Clark expedition during November 1805, the history of the indigenous Chinook Indians, and the salmon cannery town established by P.J. McGowan. Dr. Wilson, as the principal investigator, brought together an impressive multidisciplinary team to ensure a fuller understanding of the site; there were eleven contributors to the final report. In addition, Dr. Wilson incorporated a battery of scientific techniques into the research design in order to establish the site’s chronology and tease additional data from the artifacts, including Carbon-14 dating, ground penetrating radar, magnetometry, and isotope analyses.

The research will be the basis for park interpretive developments at Station Camp / Middle Village. The $2 million project - a partnership between the Chinook Nation, the State of Washington, and the National Park Service - is scheduled for completion in 2011. Doug has served as the principle cultural resource advisor on the project.

According to David Szymanski, Superintendent of Lewis and Clark National Historical Park, "It is hard to overstate the impact of Doug's work at Middle Village. It has and will change the way people think of the Lower Columbia. Since the release of his report in 2009, both the press and local people have become fascinated with the sophisticated, wealthy, and populous Chinookan culture that controlled the lower river."

As Director of the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute, a research and stewardship consortium based at Fort Vancouver, Dr. Wilson has been a strong advocate for including students in archaeological work and ensuring that information is disseminated to the public. Undergraduate and graduate students from Portland State University and Washington State University assisted on the project, both in the field and with lab work. Dr. Wilson has taken every opportunity to share his knowledge of the site with the local community and the greater region, through numerous newspaper articles, television appearances, talks at professional conferences, and public lectures. Through all aspects of the project, Dr. Wilson has been the main liaison with the Native American tribes who have ancestral claims to the site.

"Doug is the consummate professional, and I knew he would lend his extraordinary talents to scientifically studying this highly significant site and disseminating the results," said Stephanie Toothman, Associate Director of Cultural Resources for the National Park Service.

Dr. Wilson has exemplified the tradition of responsible, scientific archaeology as espoused by John Cotter, resulting in an incredibly rich view of a significant site.

John Cotter is considered one of the founding fathers of historical archaeology in the United States. During his career he excavated such well-known sites as Bynum Mounds, Emerald Mound, and Jamestown, Virginia (Louis Caywood, the archaeologist who rediscovered Fort Vancouver in 1947, worked with Cotter at Jamestown). Dr. Cotter worked for the National Park Service from 1940 to 1977, retiring as the senior archaeologist for the agency. He received his Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and, while working for the NPS, also served as an adjunct associate professor there. In 1961, he taught the nation’s first course in American historical archaeology. Later, he helped to establish the Society for Historical Archaeology and served as its first president. The National Park Service award was established to honor Dr. Cotter’s distinguished career and his pioneering contributions to professional archaeology within the National Park System. The peer recognition is designed to encourage and inspire archaeologists by highlighting an exemplary local archaeological activity.

Please note that Dr. Wilson will be speaking about his experiences working on the Gulf Oil Spill cleanup efforts this Thursday, 4:00 pm, at Portland State University – for more information call the PSU Anthropology Department at (503) 725-3081.

Last updated: February 28, 2015

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