Edgar Lee Hewett and the Political Process

Hewett and Mesa Verde National Park

In the meantime, the bill to create Mesa Verde National Park, introduced by Congressman Herschel Millard Hogg from Telluride, Colorado, was in trouble. It was not clear where the great cliff dwellings were in relation to the proposed park except that some of the most spectacular ruins were known to be on the Ute Indian Reservation (Hewett 1905c: 600). The Congress was typically unwilling to consider withdrawal of land without established boundaries. This congressional reluctance recalls the problem faced by Fletcher and Stevenson in 1888. Several Congressmen indicated that a favorable vote on Mesa Verde depended on adequate survey information (Hewett to Kelsey, 24 April 1906, AIA). Hewett commented on the prospects of the Mesa Verde bill under these circumstances: "If all the people of Colorado were here [Washington] to request passage, it would do no good (Hewett to Kelsey, 3 February 1906, AIA).

In an effort to resolve the problem, Assistant Secretary of the Interior Thomas Ryan, Land Commissioner Richards, and BAE Chief Holmes arranged to have Hewett assist in a resurvey of the boundary between the proposed park and the Ute Reservation (Richards to Ryan, 21 February 1906; Holmes to Ryan, 27 February 1906; NAA). Richards urged Ryan to request the assistance of a BAE archaeologist. Holmes responded to the request by assigning Hewett who was "engaged by the Bureau in exploring the antiquities of the Pueblo region." The "antiquities bill alliance," comfortable that the antiquities bill was going well, turned its attention to Mesa Verde. The survey contract had been awarded to George Mills, one of Hewett's friends from Mancos, Colorado, who had done the previous survey, but by triangulation only. The resurvey was to follow the line on the ground, with Hewett locating and identifying the ruins to be included (Hewett to Holmes, 22 March 1906, 9 April 1906, NAA). Hewett researched records in

Denver and Washington and made two trips with the survey crew (Hewett to Kelsey, 24 April 1906, AIA; Chauvenet 1983: 56–57). The survey did not get underway until April because of the deep snow and was not completed until the end of the month because of the rough terrain. Mills submitted his report at the end of May (Hewett to Kelsey, 28 May 1906, AIA).

Hewett recognized that the real problem was not the lack. of good survey information. The survey that Mitts and he carried out basically confirmed earlier work in the region. The problem stemmed from the fact that the major cliff dwellings, such as Cliff Palace, were on Indian land and not inside the proposed park boundaries. Hewett, following good legal advice and using the principle that the federal government controlled unpatented Indian land, drafted an amendment to Hogg's bill that placed all ruins within five miles of the park boundary under the control of park authorities (Hewett, 24 April 1906, AIA). His amendment was accepted by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Francis Ellington Leupp, and the House Committee on Public Lands (Lee 1970: 79–80, pp. 242–43). The bill passed both houses of Congress and President Theodore Roosevelt signed it on June 29, 1906.