Last Thursday I put a lot of miles on my Prius as a “water tourist” along an extended area of the proposed Great Bend of the Gila National Conservation Area. What I saw really worried me, and it might worry you, too, however nonsensical that seems for a desert in a drought. I’ll explain.
Water has been flowing for more than a week now in the upstream portion of the proposed NCA, and on Thursday morning it had reached Painted Rock Dam. The water level there was rising rapidly.
Unlike the big dams on the Colorado River that were built to create enormous reservoirs, Painted Rock Dam was built to temporarily retain water so that major areas of irrigated agriculture in the Wellton-Mohawk Irrigation District (nearly to Yuma) wouldn’t be flooded or otherwise harmed.
However, in a truly massive flood, as happened in 1993, a huge lake backed up behind Painted Rock Dam. The impacts of that flood proved gruesome as it inundated the cemetery of the San Lucy District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. And downstream from the dam, the scale of the river flow caused erosion and major transformation of the floodplain.
These are the memories that rush forward when a potentially big flood threatens.
Those same fears were top of mind for Dax Hansen when I spoke to him. You may recall that, just a few weeks ago, we featured an Arizona Republic article that described how Dax was growing heritage wheat crops requiring significantly less water. But last week, Dax saw water as a serious threat to the land that supports his water-thrifty White Sonoran wheat.
Based on fieldwork directed by Aaron Wright, Archaeology Southwest’s Preservation Anthropologist, we know that same land preserves sensitive archaeology—which only just survived the 1993 flood.
Here’s the critical question: Is there a realistic path to protecting all these values?
Dax is convinced there is—through his direct engagement with the decision makers who decide how much water is released from Painted Rock Dam from their Army Corps of Engineers office in Los Angeles. He’s made the point that his economic resource and the cultural resources on his land are important, and threatened, values.
Meanwhile, I’ve discovered an amazing National Water Dashboard maintained by the United States Geological Service that lets us see that the Verde River and the Salt River below Stewart Mountain Dam (just above the Verde junction with the Salt) are the two big water sources now visible on the lower Gila. Those water gauges are 75 miles from Dax’s farm.
When so many of the variables are distant—the water source and the people making key decisions—it’s hard to feel one has real control. But I respect Dax’s effort, and I’m optimistic that this won’t be a 1993 flood.
The seasoned optimist in your inbox,
President & CEO, Archaeology Southwest
P.S. There’s a lot of good news in today’s edition.
Banner image: Robert DeDeaux
Pueblo Grande Becomes S’eḏav Va’aki Museum
During a Phoenix Parks and Recreation Board Meeting on Thursday, March 23, 2023, the board voted unanimously to change the name of Pueblo Grande Museum and Archaeological Park to “S’eḏav Va’aki Museum.” The name S’eḏav Va’aki (Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community spelling) or Central Vahki (English spelling) is an O’Odham name that reflects the connection the site has with the local O’Odham and Piipaash communities. S’eḏav Va’aki refers to the large platform mound (Va’aki) that is preserved at the site, and the central location of this ancestral village within the Salt River Valley and to the extensive canal system created by these exceptional engineers before Euro-Americans moved into the region. … S’eḏav pronounced suh-UH-dahf; Va’aki pronounced VAH-ah-kee. City of Phoenix Parks and Recreation | Read more »
Hovenweep National Monument Marks 100 Years
On March 3, 1923, President Warren G. Harding wielded the Antiquities Act to designate Hovenweep National Monument in southeastern Utah. The designation put a few hundred acres and a handful of Puebloan towers and other cultural sites under the auspices of the National Park Service, and was mainly aimed at protecting the sites from further looting and vandalism. “Few of the mounds have escaped the hands of the destroyer,” T. Mitchell Prudden wrote of Hovenweep’s cultural sites in 1903. Jonathan Thompson at The Land Desk | Read more »
Commentary: Solutions to the Problem of Low Entry-Level Wages in CRM
You are working as an archaeological monitor on a highway project. You ask around and you find to your surprise that even though you have a BA and several years of experience, you are the lowest paid person on the crew. Even the unskilled laborer without a high school degree is making about $5/hour more than you. How can this be? And, what if anything can we as a discipline do about it? Jeff Altschul, Terry Klein, Ellen Chapman, and Katherine Sorrell at the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis | Read more »
Commentary: Why We Continue to Oppose the Proposed Routing of the SunZia Transmission Line
“The BLM has largely ignored not only the recommendations we have made based on our voluminous research, but also the well-documented wishes of Tribes regarding irreversible impacts to the cultural landscape that is the San Pedro Valley,” says [John R.] Welch. “We have been clear: This valley should be avoided. The BLM’s failure to meaningfully address the massive and deleterious impact SunZia will have on Tribes whose histories and belongings are in that landscape or even on the heritage places themselves has made it necessary for us to file this protest.” Bill Doelle and John Welch for Archaeology Southwest | Read more »
An In-Depth Look at Indigenous-Led Conservation
Native Americans in Philanthropy (NAP) and the Center for American Progress [CAP] are working together to support a conservation agenda driven by Indigenous traditional ecological leadership and storied knowledge of U.S. lands and waterways. … On March 7, 2023, CAP, NAP, and the Biodiversity Funders Group hosted an event, titled “Sacred Stories: Indigenous-led Conservation of Lands and Waterways,” to celebrate these successful partnerships and invited funding recipients to share their stories of conservation success. Angelo Villagomez and Joel Moffet for the Center for American Progress | Read more »
Video footage is also available at the link.
Toward an Inclusive and Equitable Grand Canyon Economy
In 2018, the Intertribal Centennial Conversations Group, a grassroots advisory body that works to place Native voices at the forefront of education, stewardship, and economic opportunities in Grand Canyon National Park, posed a question: How can the region’s tribal communities establish direct, lucrative partnerships with Grand Canyon National Park? To answer and generate discussion around this question, the idea for an intertribal economic summit was born. And in August 2022, with support from the Grand Canyon Trust, Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon Conservancy, and others, the inaugural Emergence Intertribal Economic Summit took place on the south rim of Grand Canyon National Park. The four-day mix of panels, brainstorming sessions, and field tours brought together approximately 75 Native entrepreneurs, artists, community leaders, governmental support staff, and National Park Service employees to discuss arts and crafts markets, concessionaire contracts, infrastructure needs, cultural demonstration opportunities, and more. Daryn Akei Melvin for the Grand Canyon Trust | Read more »
Check out SAPIENS Podcast Season 5 Trailer
In the fifth season of the SAPIENS podcast, listeners will hear a range of human stories: from the origins of the chili pepper to how prosecutors decide someone is a criminal to stolen skulls from Iceland. This season of the SAPIENS podcast embraces the diversity of human experience, digging deep into our human past and how we live today. The throughline of this season is the way in which humans use cultural beliefs and practices not only to explain the past, but also to imagine the present and future. These stories aspire to understand how cultures can guide knowledge of human truths and help all of us to become seekers of wisdom. SAPIENS | Listen now »
April Subscription Lectures (Santa Fe NM)
4/3, John Ware, Chaco: A View from Downstream; 4/10, Doug Crispin, Challenges for Our National Parks; 4/17 Rusty Greaves, 40 Years in the Field; 4/24, Ashley Lemke, Archaeology’s Research Frontier: Submerged Sites in North American Great Lakes. Southwest Seminars | Learn more »
REMINDER: March 30 Online Event: Return to Clay
With Ron Martinez Looking Elk. Join this international, award winning artist and community activist as he makes his exquisite return to the process of Pueblo pottery creation. The first portion of this webinar will feature a memorable short film highlighting his pottery, from conception to birth, while he discusses the connection of his identity and journey as a Pueblo artist. Filled with beautiful footage of this miraculous process and compelling discussions around culture, we accompany Ron as he reflects on his past expeditions and gently returns to a familiar space. The second half of this webinar allows you to engage with Ron directly through an interactive question-and-answer session with the audience. Crow Canyon Archaeological Center | Learn more and register (free) »
REMINDER: March 31 Online Event: The Altar Valley Conservation Alliance: Collaborative Conservation in a Polarized West
With Tom Sheridan, Sarah King, and Mary Miller. Founded in 1995, the Altar Valley Conservation Alliance (AVCA) is a grassroots collaborative conservation organization of ranchers southwest of Tucson, Arizona. At a time when “Cattle Free in ’93” was a goal of some environmental groups, who wanted to remove cattle from federal and state lands, the AVCA positioned itself in the “Radical Center,” bringing ranchers, environmentalists, and agency land managers together to seek common ground on Arizona range lands. Southwest Center (University of Arizona) | Learn more and register (free) »
REMINDER: April 4 Online Event: Archaeologies that Matter
With Kisha Supernant (University of Alberta). Dr. Supernant will discuss “Archaeologies that Matter: Heart-centered Practice, Indigenous Knowledge, and Restorative Justice in Canada.” Archaeology Café (Archaeology Southwest) | Learn more and register (free) »
April 4 In-Person Event (Cortez CO): Hiding in Plain Sight
With Winston Hurst. Hurst will present “Hiding in Plain Sight: The Rise and Evolution of Three Kiva Pueblo and Its Place in the Great House World.” 7:00 p.m., Methodist Church, 515 Park St. Contact Mary Gallagher at 202 445 5755 with questions. Four Corners Lecture Series and Hisatsinom Chapter of the Colorado Archaeology Society
April 12 In-Person (Durango CO) and Online Event: The Peopling of South America
With Bruce Bradley. Bradley will discuss research at sites in Brazil, work with collectors in Brazil and Uruguay, and an experimental replication study in Uruguay, and the implications those projects have for understanding the peopling of southeastern South America. San Juan Basin Archaeological Society | More information and Zoom link »
April 17 Online Event: Drinking Rituals and Politics in Chaco Canyon
This lecture will be offered through Zoom on the date above. It will NOT be recorded nor posted on YouTube.
With Patricia L. Crown. Drinking rituals are common throughout the world, and they impact exchange, crafts, the economy, and politics in the past. For the last two decades, Crown has studied the cylinder jars found primarily in Chaco Canyon. In this talk, she discusses how the cylinder jar fits into the history of drinking forms in Chaco, the possible inspiration for the vessel shape, the contents and their source, and the etiquette associated with drinking from cylinder jars. She describes the results of 2013 excavations in Pueblo Bonito that show when the form ceased to be used and how Chacoans terminated the jars and the room where they were stored. Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society | Learn more and register (free) »
Save the Date: June 9 In-Person Event (Salt Lake City): Preservation Engaged
With an expanded program, slightly different look, and all of your old favorites! The Utah State Historic Preservation Office and Preservation Utah are excited to welcome you to our 2023 annual Historic Preservation Conference, “Preservation Engaged: Celebrating Utah’s Communities.” This year we’ll include tracks dedicated to Main Street and Cultural Site Stewardship, in addition to traditional Preservation topics. We hope you’ll join us for an engaging day of information sessions, panel discussions, and hands-on demonstrations and workshops. Utah State Historic Preservation Office | Learn more »
Video Channel Roundup
Find out which webinars and videos you missed and get caught up at the YouTube channels of our Partners and Friends. (And please do let us know if your channel isn’t in this list but should be!)
Arizona Archaeological and Historical Society
Arizona State Museum
Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA
Crow Canyon Archaeological Center
Grand Canyon Trust
Grand Staircase Escalante Partners
Mesa Prieta Petroglyphs Project
Mission Garden (Friends of Tucson’s Birthplace)
Museum of Indian Arts and Cultures
Museum of Northern Arizona
Old Pueblo Archaeology Center
San Diego Archaeological Center
School for Advanced Research
The Archaeological Conservancy
Verde Valley Archaeology Center
Our friends at Southwest Seminars offer pay-per-view videos of their past lectures here.
Remember to send us notice of upcoming webinars and Zoom lectures, tours and workshops, and anything else you’d like to share with the Friends. Thanks!