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Archaeopolitics

Keith Kintigh

The presentation of the 1999 SAA Public Service Award to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt provided an opportunity to discuss a number of issues important to SAA. Below are the comments made by SAA President Keith Kintigh during the ceremony.

Society for American Archaeology Office of the President, June 11, 1999

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) is an international organization dedicated to the research, interpretation, and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas. With more than 6,500 members, the Society is the major professional association of archaeologists in the United States. Each year, SAA presents its Public Service Award to a public figure who has made substantial contributions to the protection and preservation of cultural resources. As SAA president and a fellow Arizonan, it is my great pleasure to award the Honorable Bruce Babbitt with the Society's 1999 Public Service Award for his lifetime dedication to the protection, preservation, conservation, and public interpretation of this nation's rich and diverse archaeological heritage.

As governor of Arizona, Bruce Babbitt initiated an aggressive campaign against the looting of archaeological sites and thoroughly transformed the public perception of archaeology. Innovative programs developed under his leadership continue to be critical in Arizona's efforts to save the past for the future and have served as models for successful efforts throughout the nation. Governor Babbitt's dismay over the looting of irreplaceable ruins led to the enactment of an amendment to the Arizona Antiquities Act that dramatically strengthened the legislation. Aggressive enforcement of antiquities legislation was stimulated by his personal efforts to motivate U.S. attorneys and state officials to prosecute looters. The heightened awareness of law enforcement officials and resulting prosecutions greatly increased the level of legal risk associated with pothunting.

Governor Babbitt was responsible for the creation of Homolovi Ruins State Park, Arizona's first state park devoted to archaeology. The establishment of this park brought state protection to ancestral Hopi Indian villages that had long been ravaged by looters. It led to a long-term archaeological research effort devoted to understanding the occupation of these impressive ruins. And, through its visitors, the park has enhanced public education about Arizona's Native American heritage. As governor, Bruce Babbitt established a formal role for archaeology in state planning through the appointment of what became established in statute as the Arizona Archaeological Advisory Commission. Governor Babbitt was quick to recognize the importance of the public education and involvement in archaeology. He initiated Arizona Archaeology Week to promote public interest in archaeology and to combat looting. He created the Site Steward Program in which trained citizens regularly monitor assigned archaeological sites and report any signs of looting to law enforcement officials. The excellence of Arizona's public archaeology program established under Babbitt's leadership was recognized by a national Take Pride in America Award presented by then-Vice President George Bush.

While many people were involved, these accomplishments would not have been possible without Bruce Babbitt's personal involvement and interest, not just from his office in the State Capitol, but through frequent visits to archaeological sites. As Secretary of the Interior, Babbitt is responsible for the general implementation of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Secretary Babbitt has directed the Department to judiciously balance the legitimate concerns of Native Americans with the acknowledged value of education based on scientific investigation. Given the diverse interests that must be addressed by the Department, this balanced approach to NAGPRA has been absolutely crucial. It has come into play most visibly as the Department carries out the responsibilities delegated by the Corps of Engineers for the Kennewick remains. In this precedent-setting case, appropriate scientific recording and analysis as well as tribal consultation are being employed to resolve the important issues that are at stake.

Despite tight federal budgets, the secretary has supported important increases in funding for Vanishing Treasures, a National Park Service initiative to stabilize ancient and historic archaeological sites in the arid southwest and west. Recently, the secretary and the First Lady, along with other public and private partners, have instituted a matching grant program, Save America's Treasures. This year, 62 nationally significant archaeological sites, historic structures, and objects have received funding for needed repair, preservation, and interpretation. Finally, Secretary Babbitt recently issued "the National Strategy for Federal Archeology," a comprehensive policy statement that renews federal efforts to protect, preserve, and interpret the nation's archaeological resources. The strategy covers four key topics: (1) the preservation, protection, and appropriate research on archaeological sites; (2) the conservation and research use of archaeological collections and records; (3) the utilization and dissemination of archaeological research results; and (4) the promotion of public education and participation in archaeology.

In light of his outstanding contributions to American archaeology, I am honored to present the 1999 SAA Public Service Award to Secretary Babbitt. The citation reads:

The Society for American Archaeology Public Service Award is presented to the Honorable Bruce Babbitt for his lifetime dedication to the protection, preservation, conservation, and public interpretation of this nation's rich and diverse archaeological heritage while Governor of Arizona and as U.S. Secretary of the Interior. SAA also recognizes Secretary Babbitt's continuing support of and commitment to archaeology as evidenced by his 1999 renewal of "A National Strategy for Federal Archeology."

Thank you, Secretary Babbitt; you have made an enormous difference to the archaeology of the United States. ·

Keith W. Kintigh, president of SAA, is at the department of anthropology at Arizona State University.

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