The drawdown of water behind Wanapum Dam in central Washington is exposing dozens of human gravesites and hundreds of Native American cultural artifacts.
Grant County officials are working overtime to protect these sensitive sites. And that work isn’t cheap.
Grant County utility district says its spending about $600,000 a month protecting 80 miles of Columbia River shore. Sheriff’s deputies, Grant County employees and state Fish and Wildlife officers are patrolling the riverbanks to keep gawkers and illegal looters away.
At the same time, a team of 25 archaeologists is finding and cataloging sites along the river shore.
Grant County utility district’s Chuck Berrie says the area has a high density of ancient human remains.
“We know of over 20 cemeteries now along that stretch of the river. And there is a lot of people that just have no idea its illegal – looting it’s a big deal.”
Utility district officials hope to know the root cause of the dam’s crack around June. By then protecting the shoreline and cultural resources could rack up to more than $2 million.
Officials say it’s not clear yet, if they’ll raise power rates to cover this expense.
A construction crew in central Texas may have unearthed the remains of an ancient Indian cemetery. Earlier this week, human bones were discovered at the site of a future 225-home subdivision in Round Rock, about 100 miles northeast of San Antonio. Work was halted after the bones were discovered and the police were called in to investigate.
According to Associated Press, after examining photos of the bones, an FBI anthropologist said that they appeared to be the remains of a Native American. On Friday, Texas State University anthropologists were called to the site to excavate the area, which has long been a popular spot to search for Indian arrowheads.
Because the possible Native American remains were found on private land, the developers, KB Home, are responsible for preserving the site or hiring a professional archaeologist to remove and relocate the remains. Texas state law says that even a single body constitutes a cemetery and a qualified anthropologist must determine if there are other remains in the area.
“You get more than a couple and people start to go, ‘whoa,’” Mark Denton, with the Texas Historical Commission, told AP. “We better wait and back off. We have to figure how we can preserve and protect this area rather than remove all of them.”
Historically, central Texas was home to several Native American tribes, including the Tonkawa, Apache and Comanche. According to the Star-Telegram, if investigators can determine to which tribe the ancient remains belonged, they would contact any present-day members of the tribe so the remains could be handled according to that group’s customs.
Crews working to build a new dormitory for a boarding school on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in northwestern Montana have unearthed a prehistoric bison slaughter site.
An excavation team from the Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Office works on unearthing a bison processing site at the foot of a buffalo jump on the Blackfeet Boarding School campus in August. / (Photo by Rion Sanders, Great Falls Tribune)
The discovery prompted the tribal government there to issue a resolution ordering the BIA to stop construction.
Blackfeet tribal officials allege the Bureau of Indian Affairs failed to conduct a proper environmental assessment of the site before initiating the project or to consult with the tribe regarding their plans to build a new dormitory at the Cut Bank Boarding School. If true, the BIA would be in violation of both the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. The construction project sits immediately adjacent to a well-known prehistoric bison jump that was extensively excavated in the 1950s
“It’s kind of a big thing because the BIA never really consulted at all with us,” said Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. “There’s been a stop order placed on all work and for people not to enter the site. They’ve halted everything down there and the Tribal Historic Preservation Office has secured the site because people were trying to steal some of the artifacts.”
Hundreds of pounds of bison bones have been discovered at the site.
One Blackfeet archaeologist called the Boarding School site a “once-in-a-lifetime” discovery.
Sharp said construction work at the site has been halted for a minimum of two weeks while tribal officials attempt to sort out how to proceed. The tribal council is hoping Department of Interior officials from Washington, D.C., will travel to the Blackfeet Reservation to view the excavation and consult with tribal officials.