Message #114 From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Date: Wed, 18 Mar 1998 Subject: Burials, Archaeology, and SLC Legacy Highway From: Kevin Jones firstname.lastname@example.org Indian burial sites may stall work on Legacy Highway UDOT likely to uncover artifacts while building By Josh Loftin Deseret News staff writer The burial sites of long-dead Indians may stall construction of the Legacy Highway. Archaeologists say it is highly possible that numerous Indian burial sites lie beneath the soil of west Davis county. If such sites are found along whatever highway corridor is eventually selected, the Utah Department of Transportation may wind up with substantial delays and increased costs while building the proposed West Davis Highway, a 13-mile portion of the Legacy Highway. While officials are confident the highway would eventually be built, stops to excavate sites, and even lawsuits, could delay the work. "The density of sites in that area is very high," said Steve Simms, a professor of anthropology at Utah State University. "The American Indian tribes were burying their deceased very near to the places Utahns are living now." Much like farmers today, many of the tribes preferred the wetlands and quality agricultural land near the Great Salt Lake, Simms said. These areas provided necessary resources such as plentiful water and large populations of wildlife. Simms' and other archaeologists' concern is based on more than guesswork. After the Great Salt Lake flooded in 1990, Simms was a member of a team that recovered the remains of at least 85 humans in an area between Willard Bay and Plain City. The researchers dated many of the remains, which came from more than 500 sites, as older than 1,000 years, he said. Even more sites could turn up in the path of the West Davis Highway, Simms said. The lake constantly deposits sediment in the area that has covered most of the sites. The sediment burial of the sites poses a serious problem for both UDOT and archaeologists, because although researchers feel confident they exist, they don't know exactly where to look. Any sites uncovered during construction -- the most likely time to find these sites -- will cause the project to halt in that particular spot, said Chris Lizotte, UDOT's preservation specialist. "We don't know what's out there," Lizotte said. "The sites are buried, and we don't know what impact this construction will have." UDOT policy has long held that any site with historical value, whether human remains, arrowheads or pioneer tools, requires an archaeological evaluation before any construction can occur on the site, Lizotte said. Already, UDOT has purchased one piece of North Salt Lake land that all proposed alignments will cross. Even though the study in that area is only preliminary, researchers have found arrowheads and tools. One advantage UDOT does have is the ability to adjust the road within the alignments during construction to avoid smaller sites, and to work on other areas of the road during any larger excavations. Another advantage for UDOT is knowing that the sites probably exist. Because of that knowledge, UDOT has already began negotiating with six to eight nearby tribes, in hoping to make make the analysis and removal of any discoveries run smoothly, Lizotte said. "The hope is that our being proactive with the tribal governments will help us avoid big problems later." He said UDOT and tribal leaders have nearly reached an agreement outlining protocol for the treatment of these sites. A problem the agreement won't solve is the possibility that lawsuits could stall the project. Lizotte, as well as tribal leaders and archaeologists, agree that the currently strained relationships between state government and certain tribes could prompt a lawsuit. Were a suit to occur, the project could face delays of months, if not years. UDOT's attempts to address the problem ahead of time has eased the mind of American Indian leaders, however. While he would prefer the sites be left undisturbed, Forrest Cuch, state director of Indian affairs, said that UDOT's contact with the tribes makes him confident that the tribes will have good control over the excavation of the sites. "They (UDOT) are making a good-faith effort to work with tribes," Cuch said. But Cuch didn't rule out any action regarding the handling of sites. "We will have to deal with each site on a case-by-case basis," he said. Most everyone agrees that the farther east the road is built, the lesser the chance that sites will be found. The wetlands along the shores of the Great Salt Lake most likely have the greatest concentration of sites, primarily because less farming and development have occurred in the wetlands. Of the four proposed highway alignments, the westernmost Alignment C (backed by south Davis cities) passes through the most wetlands. Already, the Army Corps of Engineers has opposed any construction through the wetlands, although UDOT hasn't stopped considering any alignment option. Not being able to excavate sites previous to the start of construction poses problems for archaeologists, as well. "From an archaeological perspective, I'm horrified," said Kevin Jones, Utah state archaeologist. "I'm afraid they'll get all geared up, and burial sites will end up in the claws of bulldozers." Most likely, Jones said, any remains will be excavated and stored at an American Indian repository, located at This is the Place State Park in Salt Lake City. Although Jones would prefer that no sites be disturbed, he said that UDOT will most likely build the West Davis Highway, and sites will be damaged. "We would all like to leave human remains undisturbed, but in some cases you simply cannot," he said. "If a highway goes through there, the sites will get disturbed." Wednesday, March 18, 1998 Indian Graves to Be Protected BY MIKE GORRELL - THE SALT LAKE TRIBUNE If the Legacy-West Davis Highway is built, construction crews could unearth the remains of American Indians buried through the centuries along the Great Salt Lake's fluctuating shoreline. State and tribal leaders are preparing for that possibility, negotiating an agreement that outlines how uncovered grave sites and artifacts would be handled. "We are proceeding on the assumption that we may encounter them [grave sites]," said Chris Lizotte, the Utah Department of Transportation's preservation specialist. ``The agreement essentially assures we're complying with appropriate laws and are sensitive to Native American needs if we encounter burials.'' The talks with a half-dozen tribes are proceeding smoothly, said Forrest Cuch, director of the Utah Division of Indian Affairs. ``We're satisfied they're making a good-faith effort to involve the tribes,'' he said. ``We want to ensure the law [the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act] is followed and the tribes are consulted about disposition of the remains.'' The Great Salt Lake's rise and subsequent fall during the 1980s exposed dozens of grave sites along the lake's east shore. Some archaeologists, such as Utah State University Professor Steve Simms, believe there could be American Indian remains within the corridors of the highway. But Asa Nielson, who oversaw a detailed survey of the 12-mile-long strip planned for the highway, said he is convinced most remains are closer to the lake and that the road area is largely empty. ``We crawled over that place for weeks. If anybody ought to be qualified to say what's out there, we are,'' said Nielson, president of Baseline Data, Orem. ``I can tell you without any hesitation, we found no evidence of any sacred remains. None. There's no guarantees, but... if the project goes through, anything can be handled legally, respectfully and expeditiously.'' The new $300 million highway is proposed to run from Farmington to North Salt Lake between Interstate 15 and the Great Salt Lake. The project has come under attack from community leaders who fear it would use up valuable development land, and environmentalists worry about destroying wetlands next to the Great Salt Lake. The highway has not been approved and designers have yet to settle on one of three possible alignments. But the project has the support of Gov. Mike Leavitt. The Legislature appropriated $27 million for the road during the recently completed session. If the West Davis Highway ultimately is approved and construction exposes burial sites, Lizotte said UDOT will stop work immediately. The remains will be handled according to terms of the agreement, which is still being drafted by UDOT and the tribes, including representatives from the Northwest Band of Shoshoni, Shoshone-Bannock, Skull Valley band of the Goshutes, Ibapah Goshutes, and the Ute Tribe. ``As soon as it is finalized, it will go out for public comment,'' Lizotte said. He and Nielson both noted that the areas proposed as corridors are wide enough that a road could be rerouted around a burial site. But if that is not possible, Nielson said the agreement sets up a procedure governing the removal of ``remains, associated artifacts under the supervision and guidance of Native Americans and their repatriation to the tribes. This material will never be in anybody's museum, it's never going to be in somebody's box.'' Nielson and archaeologists from his company walked the entire area, following a tightly controlled pattern that allowed visual inspections of every square foot of the surface. They were accompanied at times by tribal members involved in negotiating the agreement. ``It took weeks and weeks to get that done,'' said Nielson. In addition, Baseline Data did auger tests in heavily vegetated areas to see if anything was buried beneath the site, studied aerial photographs, reviewed geomorphology records and archaeological reports and interviewed American Indians ``to ascertain patterns where things were more probable than others.'' Archaeological sites were found in the survey. ``The overwhelming majority probably will be avoided'' because they are in an alignment corridor nobody supports, said Nielson. He documented one village whose existence has been known since the 1950s. Another small village site also was discovered, Nielson added, but it is outside of the proposed highway corridors. ``Our goal is to make this as positive to [American Indian] religious beliefs as possible,'' said Nielson.