Edgar Lee Hewett and the Political Process

The Beginnings of Pajarito Park

While Mary Hemenway and other New Englanders, enchanted by Frank Hamilton Cushing and his Zuni companions, were working to save Casa Grande, Alice Cunningham Fletcher was trying to combine the two approaches. She had visited Yellowstone National Park in the summer of 1886 while on her way to Alaska. Although she was not excited by natural beauty or wilderness, she got the idea while surrounded by the natural wonders of Yellowstone that there should be archaeological parks as well as those celebrating natural glories (Mark 1988: 142). In 1887 she turned for help to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), whose Permanent Secretary, Frederic Ward Putnam of the Peabody Museum at Harvard, was her mentor. She presented an open letter to the members of Section H (Anthropology), which had become one of the most robust divisions of the AAAS in the short time since its establishment in 1882.

Fletcher (1888) called attention to the need to "set aside certain portions of the public domain in the southwest territories in which are characteristic remains of former and present aboriginal life…as national reserves." Anticipating an argument that would be used many times in the future, she emphasized that "many of the most remarkable ruins…are upon land of little use to the settlers, so that the claims of archaeology do not interfere with local prosperity." She urged Section H to "take such action as is deemed best to memorialize Congress, and secure the needed legislation, to effect such preservation as shall stand as a monument of our interest as Americans in the history of our country." She enlisted the support of Matilda Coxe Stevenson who was a veteran of both Southwest fieldwork and Washington politics (Mark 1988: 142-43; Parezo 1993: 60, n. 5).

After vigorous discussion, Section H nominated Fletcher and Stevenson to "memorialize Congress." The Council of the AAAS agreed and appointed them to a Committee on the Preservation of Archaeologic Remains on the Public Lands (Fletcher 1888, comment by editor, that is, Putnam). They prepared a bill that attempted to combine the two approaches to preservation (Fletcher and Stevenson 1889). Although they emphasized the Southwest, they were bold enough to suggest that sites on the Great Plains and in Alaska were also worthy of federal protection. This broad sweep was a logical extension of the "general bill" approach, but it attracted the unwanted attention of those who felt that too much land had already been "reserved." Moreover, it diluted the strong romantic appeal that the Southwest, its Indians, and its ruins had for Easterners (Wild 1987: 38-39; Dilworth 1996).

Fletcher and Stevenson (1889), despite their broad perspective on preservation, found that, with one exception, it was impossible without fieldwork to "designate the exact acreage" of the ruins they wished to protect. They sensed that it would be politically unwise to ask Congress to save ruins without known boundaries. In order "to inaugurate the precedent of preserving archaeologic remains upon the Public Domain," they devised a hybrid plan to place that exception under the protection of the Secretary of the Interior and to instruct the Director of the Geological Survey to identify other ruins for Congress to protect "from injury and spoliation." The exception involved the ruins on the Pajarito Plateau that Bandelier had explored for the Archaeological Institute of America. In 1888 Congressman William Steele Holman of Indiana (Lynch 1932), the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, introduced their bill (Lee 1970: 82, p. 244; Altherr 1985: 290, n. 6), but it did not gain the support of Congress. By choosing the Pajarito region, Fletcher and Stevenson began a campaign that would occupy and frustrate Hewett and others for many years (Altherr 1985; Rothman 1992).

The AAAS maintained an interest in antiquities legislation and formed a Committee on the Protection and Preservation of Objects of Archaeological Interest in 1899 (Lee 1970: 47, p. 224), the year that Putnam was elected President following twenty-five years as Permanent Secretary. This committee joined forces with a similar one from the Archaeological Institute of America (AIA) and produced a bill that reflected a national park approach. It was introduced early in 1900 by Congressman Jonathan Prentiss Dolliver of Iowa (fig. b; Nichols 1930), a friend and political ally of Congressman John Fletcher Lacey of Iowa, the Chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands (Gallagher 1981). The Dolliver and Lacey families had pre-Iowa connections. Dolliver's father, an itinerant Methodist minister, had stayed with Lacey's parents in Wheeling, West Virginia, in 1853 when the Lacey family was working its way west to Oskaloosa, Iowa (Gallagher 1970: 10), and he thought very highly of Lacey (Ross 1958: 110). Whether Dolliver introduced the bill on behalf of the joint AAAS-AIA Committee (Lee 1970: 50, p. 226), the Smithsonian Institution, or Lacey (Ise 1961: 149) is not clear. Although Dolliver resigned in August 1900 to accept an appointment to a vacant seat in the Senate, his bill was the opening shot in a battle of six years duration, a battle that Lee (1970: 47-77, pp. 223-42) so ably recounts. The strategic emphasis in that effort alternated between attempts to preserve places like Montezuma Castle, Chaco Canyon, Pajarito Plateau, and Mesa Verde, and the drive to pass a "general bill" that would provide protection for all archaeological sites under federal control. Edgar Lee Hewett, whose political skills brought these two approaches together, began his combined archaeological and political career promoting the Pajarito Park, put that experience to good use working for the passage of the Antiquities Act, and demonstrated his political skills by brokering the creation of Mesa Verde National Park.