Lake Roosevelt
Administrative History
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From Simple to Complex: Cultural Resource Management (continued)

Archaeology, 1940-1960

When the Park Service began studying the Columbia River Reservoir, the agency was interested primarily in the area's recreation potential. Nonetheless, Regional Director Herbert Maier wrote to Joel Ferris in 1941 to ask if the Coulee Dam area had any archaeological or historical values. Ferris, vice president of the Eastern Washington State Historical Society, had been the key figure in funding the work of the CBAS. He believed that the reservoir area contained many sites with both historical and archaeological value, but his own interests lay with sites outside the reservoir. His believed that Fort Spokane was worth restoring but of lesser historical interest than Spokane House or sites in the Colville area. [8]

Following World War II, federal agencies began to pay more attention to archaeological resources that were scheduled for destruction as a result of a federal action. Consequently, salvage archaeology projects increased in connection with highway, pipeline, and canal construction. In August 1947, Reclamation, the Park Service, the Smithsonian Institution, and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cooperated with the universities of Oregon, Washington, and California on a survey and salvage project in the Grand Coulee, prior to the dam and flooding that turned it into the Equalizing Reservoir, now known as Banks Lake. The project was led by Philip Drucker from the Smithsonian, who had worked nearly a decade earlier on the CBAS. Within two weeks, crews had located approximately twenty-five sites with burials, artifacts, and pictographs. Their primary work included sampling at some sites and sketches of rock art. [9]

The Park Service employed few archaeologists during the 1940s. Jesse L. Nusbaum worked out of the regional office in Santa Fe in 1947, but he covered a vast area including much of the western United States and Alaska. Along with the established parks, he had to survey areas that were potential additions to the National Park System, such as the Equalizing Reservoir, as well as all Department of the Interior lands in eleven western states and Alaska. With responsibility for such a large territory, there was little time to concentrate in any one area. By 1960, the regional office in San Francisco had its own archaeologist available to either do the work himself or help parks contract with qualified outside personnel. The Regional Director reminded superintendents to watch for archaeological resources during construction projects. He suggested inspecting any proposed construction areas prior to work and, if archaeological evidence was seen, the staff should stop the project until the site could be investigated. If this were not possible, they should salvage the site. LARO depended on both Park Service and private archaeologists until 1993 when the park hired its first full-time archaeologist. [10]

Archaeology, Early 1960s

Following the conclusion of the CBAS in 1940, there was no further archaeological work at LARO until the 1960s. Initial emphasis was at Fort Spokane, acquired by the Park Service in 1960 and scheduled for extensive development under the Mission 66 program. The Western Regional Office funded preliminary excavations at Fort Spokane in August and September 1963. John Combes and his students from Washington State University (WSU) located footings and artifacts associated with the 1880-1882 Camp Spokane and then turned their attention to foundations of the main fort. The results were so satisfying that the Park Service proposed continuing the work of uncovering and stabilizing foundations to help interpret the site. [11]

Work on a new Master Plan in 1963 indicated deficiencies in the archaeological knowledge of the park. Regional personnel proposed to remedy this with an archaeological survey conducted by WSU in FY1965-1967 for $15,000. Superintendent Homer Robinson questioned the need for this survey because of the archaeological work done by the CBAS in 1939-1940, but others assured him that the survey was definitely warranted. Robinson followed up with three research project proposals to cover the archaeological survey, historic structures studies at Fort Spokane, and a study of building furnishings at the fort. [12]

Funds were not immediately available for any work, however. Although the Regional Archeologist had requested money for surveys at LARO each year, his budgets were "cut to a bare minimum" for research funds. He asked Superintendent Robinson if there were any chance that the park's Natural History Association had any funds to help with an important salvage project at Kettle Falls. If so, he believed the regional office could "scrape up some funds at the end of the year" to match money from the Association. Robinson's reply was far from encouraging: "The Coulee Dam Nature and History Association has a balance of $15.43 in the bank and we doubt that much could be done with this amount. Are there any other possibilities?" [13]

Federal Legislation Governing Cultural Resource Management

Prior to 1966, two major laws affected archaeological and historical sites. The Antiquities Act of 1906 established a system of permits for any archaeological work on federal lands. This was followed by the Historic Sites Act of 1935 that mandated the National Park Service to identify important cultural resources and provide for their protection and preservation. [14]

The landmark National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (NHPA) greatly expanded protections by requiring the federal government to implement a nationwide program to identify, protect, and preserve historic places. This process was mandatory for all federal agencies as well as any project involving federal dollars. Compliance oversight rested with a newly created national Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. [15]

Other legislation expanded the mandate to identify and protect cultural resources. The Archaeological Recovery Act (also known as the Reservoir Salvage Act) of 1960 provided for salvage of archaeological sites prior to dam construction. The National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 (NEPA) required federal agencies to consider the impact of their actions on environmental, historical, and cultural resources, whether on federal land or on private lands using federal monies. This ushered in the era of environmental impact statements. Ten years later, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 (ARPA) and subsequent amendments tightened protection for archaeological sites on federal lands and provided for criminal penalties. [16]

The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990 (NAGPRA) directed museums, universities, and all federal agencies to inventory their collections of human remains and associated grave goods, determine cultural affiliation where possible, and notify appropriate tribes. If they wished, tribes could ask for skeletal remains and artifacts to be returned to them. The sections of NAGPRA governing inadvertent discoveries of burials strengthened the tribal role in cultural resource management of reservoir lands such as LARO where the actions of reservoir operators caused slumping of banks and exposure of burials. When cultural affiliation is clear, the law gives tribes custody of such human remains. At the same time, federal land managers still have responsibilities under Sections 106 and 110 of NHPA and under ARPA. [17]

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Last Updated: 22-Apr-2003