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Archaeopolitics

Keith Kintigh

On January 11, 2000, President Clinton established Agua Fria National Monument, which is the largest unit in the National Park system that has America's prehistory as its major focus. The President's action represents a farsighted decision to protect and preserve a large and enormously important area before it is engulfed by the urban sprawl of Phoenix, Arizona. With new research, this monument's unique and well-preserved archaeological record has tremendous potential to enhance our understanding of the prehistory of the southwestern United States. Further, because of its location, the monument presents an unparalleled opportunity to convey results of archaeological research to the millions of people that live close by or that drive past on the adjacent interstate highway.

In recognition of SAA's role in the establishment of the monument, I was invited to the President's announcement of the monument at Hopi Point overlooking the Grand Canyon (see cover). In his speech, Clinton said:

. . . we act to promote some of the most significant late, prehistoric sites in the American southwest. In the shadow of Phoenix there lies a rough landscape of mesas and deep canyons rich in archaeological treasures; distinctive art etched into boulders and cliff faces; and stone masonry pueblos, once inhabited by several thousand people centuries ago. As the suburbs of Phoenix creep ever closer to this space, we act to protect history and heritage. For America's families, we designate this land the Agua Fria National Monument.

The 71,000-acre monument lies about 30 miles north of Phoenix along the freeway connecting Phoenix and Flagstaff. The monument and adjacent areas of Tonto National Forest that, unfortunately, were not included in the monument, encompass what appears to be a nearly complete prehistoric settlement system dated between A.D. 1250 and 1450. It contains impressive clusters of massive, basalt pueblosseven of which have between 60 and 300 roomsnumerous smaller habitations, dramatically situated stone forts, extensive prehistoric agricultural fields, and an enormous array of stunning rock art. All together, more than 450 sites are known. While there has been some looting, the archaeological record remains largely intact and the research and interpretive potential of the area is enormous.

The driving force behind this monument was Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt. Last June, after I presented him with the Society's 1999 Public Service Award [SAA Bulletin 17(4): 4; 17(5): 4], he sought SAA's help in obtaining a special designation for this area in order to enhance the preservation and public interpretation of its outstanding cultural resources. SAA's Board of Directors enthusiastically endorsed his initiative. On behalf of SAA, I worked with the Secretary's office and the BLM on planning and assessing the alternatives, and attended two public open houses. As SAA president, I was asked to introduce Secretary Babbitt at both of his public appearances in Arizona to promote his proposal, including a hike with the Secretary to one of the sites. Early on, SAA publicly advocated the establishment of a monument. I talked extensively with the press and Arizona's congressional delegation about the importance of the archaeological resources and the benefits of a National Monument.

The BLM put enormous energy into assembling all the pieces that made this possible, in the Phoenix District, at the state level, and in Washington. Archaeologists with key expertise, within the BLM and the Forest Service, as well as outside the government, came forward to help. The archaeological community provided crucial support through constructive public comments on the proposal. Input was provided, not just by professionals, but very importantly by avocational archaeologists including many in the Arizona Archaeological Society (a member of SAA's Council of Affiliated Societies).

Finally, the public in Arizona supported the creation of this new monument along with the million-acre Grand Canyon-Parachant National Monument that was established at the same time. A professional poll indicated that three out of four Arizonans favored the president's action. Despite the howls of protest from the governor and the Republicans in Arizona's congressional delegation, the Phoenix's conservative Arizona Republic opined in its editorial headline: "President Acted with Wide Support: State Politicians, Ease Up."

Given the strong political opposition, what did it take to make this happen? It took a President committed to ensuring that "more of the land that belongs to the American people will always be enjoyed by them." It took a Secretary of the Interior with vision and a commitment to protecting, preserving, and interpreting the nation's archaeological resources. It took the 1906 Antiquities Act that provides the President with the authority to designate National Monuments. It took hard work by agency archaeologists and managers, and persistent advocacy by avocational and professional archaeologists. It took some access to the press. Finally, it took the support of the public for the preservation of natural and archaeological resources.

The lobbying efforts and strategic advice of Donald Craib, SAA's manager of government affairs, are essential to the Society's successes in government affairs. However, our most important government affairs objectives will rarely be accomplished by lobbying alone. Media relations and public educationboth in general and targeted to specific issuesoften provide a critical backdrop to the political maneuvering. SAA's committees cannotand are not intended todo all the work in these areas. All SAA members need to seek appropriate opportunities to make a public difference for archaeologyby participating in the political process, working with the press, and educating the public more directly. I want to thank all of you who did work on Agua Fria National Monument in big and small ways; we did make a difference. ·

Keith W. Kintigh, president of SAA, is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at Arizona State University.

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