Save Alaska's Past

Protecting Historic Sites & Artifacts

It's exciting to hold a little piece of the past in your hand - to know that you have some connection with those who came before. The belongings, living quarters, and material objects of these people survive today as archeological sites. An archeological site can be anything from an isolated artifact lying on the surface of the ground, to a village site covering a large area. Archeology represents our heritage and it therefore fascinating to many people.

Why Should We Protect Cultural Resources?
Why should we preserve the physical remains of the past;is it not sufficient to capture the stories in books? The remnants of our nation's cultural legacy give us an irreplaceable tangible link to our past, which a book or an article cannot replace. These authentic places and objects are material touchstones to a past that we experience for ourselves. They serve as material anchors to our past and reference points to our future. We can see them, touch them, connect with them in such a way that we can know the past actually happened. Each generation can learn from the ruins, the buildings, and the objects of the past. Each is the landmarks that link us over time and space and give meaning and orientation to our lives.

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Mining Ruins near Kennecott

Laws & Policies
Most artifacts themselves tell us relatively little about past cultures. Of more importance is the association or context. This refers to its location or placement in relation to other evidence. If a site has been disturbed by erosion, vandalism, or looting, much of the context is gone forever. If you encounter historic cabins, debris from the mining era, or artifacts from native peoples, please leave them as your found them so that other visitors might also enjoy the same sense of discovery and history that you enjoyed.

Removal of artifacts and destruction or vandalism to the structures themselves is illegal. Please leave all artifacts where you found them. What may appear to be "trash" from another era may be an important part of the story of the place.

The Archeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA) of 1979 makes it illegal to:

  • excavate, remove, or damage protected archeological sites

  • purchase, sell, receive, or transport artifacts or other materials from a protected site

It is a felony if violations to the law result in damage to a site or trade in artifacts in excess of $500.


  • up to $20,000 in fines and two years in prison for a first felony conviction and $100,000 for a second felony conviction

  • seizure of vehicles, boats, airplanes, or ATV's that were used during such activities

  • loss of master's license, voting privileges, and right to own firearms.

Last updated: June 11, 2020

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve
PO Box 439
Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway

Copper Center, AK 99573


907 822-5234

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