A Conversation Pondering The Future Of Our Past.
In Two Parts...(for now)
by Stone Sweet and Bob Wishoff

Part One
Stone Sweet

What is really needed is a serious discussion/s looking into the reasonable range of political/business/educational situations and opportunities which might develop, once K-man DNA-testing is completed (and demonstrating these remains to be ancestral to modern populations), and the Tribes/Nations rightfully demand greater cultural protections. 

Given a serious overview of possible situations and scenarios, there may be some very positive surprises in store for all, if open-minded collectors can prevail upon those who are not so inclined.

In great need to be discussed are outlined positions-to-be taken--the Tribes/Nations would like to have their sovereign nations' status recognized, and be represented at any organized excavations, as they proceed. The Tribes/Nations would like to curtail the destruction of sites by land-developers (all kinds of sites) via increased fines for violations, and possible mandatory jail-time for CEO's and Presidents of firms violating the laws. The repatriation of human remains is also an issue, as too, the issues surrounding DNA-testing. 
The Tribes/Nations wish to be consulted about, rather than legislated into, performing these DNA-tests. This is, really, a very fair proposition to consider, and as some Tribes/Nations have already ascented to testing, there is still room to talk of this without resorting to...well, the usual 'stuff'...

Another side of the issues surrounding site-preservation and site-excavation--Tax write-offs, from state/feds, for commercial and private property-owners, as incentive to preserve any sites on their property--this is/should be a serious consideration for all parties. 

The two-fold advantages, beyond the tax-breaks, are the acknowledgement of a sites' existence at professional levels and the eventuality that the site will be excavated--can bring to new levels the 'local-collector' involvement, as well as the inherent learning exchanges that will result of cooperative efforts. 
It may fairly be said that to the extent with which 'Americans' are enamored with this country's past, there is far less interest in learning anything about it, than there is in simply holding something from it... 
This can change, and is even now changing. Different peoples are even coming to understand each other in better ways—less shooting, a la Wounded Knee I and II, and more discussion....Much more is still needed, if all parties can back down from their 'guns' for awhile. 
In spite of the heated exchanges, one of my most desired goals is being achieved 'in spite of collectors' best efforts, and because of collectors best efforts'! YOU are becoming organized politically, but are still in what is yet the infant-stages of sorting out your bottom-line agendas, the perameters of which can be summed up in two words: Collectors Rights... 
While not likely to remain so absolute as they might seem just now, they do not have to be unjustly compromised by legislation passed to curtail the land developers/their depredations. 
These 'land developers' are seen by collectors, pro-archaeologists, Native American Indians...and the general public, as a 'pestilence', not unlike locusts destroying crops. We are all angered at the announcement of some famous site or place being consumed in a fire...or by commercial design, and especially vandalism. 
The questions which arise can be brought down to one theme-issue: 
How can the average-citizen remain caretaker of Americas' Past , while states/fed gov't enact legislation to curtail land developers? 

What will be required of  average citizen 'Joe-artifacthunter', that he might continue to collect artifacts? 
What would 'Joe-artifac thunter' demand of the state and federal gov't's? What will each of three factions(Pro-archy's, NA's, Collectors) each likely ask from the others, and what will each offer to give in return? 

What can be demanded, given up, or accepted as legal obligation/advantage? 

Some considerations are: 
Documentation and reporting of new sites to state offices; Incentives offered by state gov't's for preservation of said sites from developers/other excavations/etc, via tax-exemptions; 
Moneyed incentives to write report/s on sites(following certain formats and protocols); 
Guarantees of state-level support and experitse to write these reports; 
Establishment of collector-owned and operated publishing house/s to publish/sell said reports(with certain royalties coming back to the reports' writers/also the state, and leaving enough to support the publishing of said reports); Acceptance of waiting-list status re: excavation/s of sites on private properties; 
Establishing absolute and/or some degree thereof of home-owner/property rights status(comes down to ownership of artifacts!); 

Expectations of increased publishing of site-reports already written and as yet unavailable to average citizen 'Joe-artifacthunter; 

Scientific material-analysis--for the collectors' benefit(vis-a-vis report-writing); 
Commitments at state/federal levels to 'go after' the artifake-sellers, the fakes' manufacturers/other violators/destroyers of sites; and etc. 
Fine lines can be worked out in the long-run, but the processes of considering the facts, and coming events' probabilities, and also positions most desired by each 'faction' all needs be aired and discussed openly and without rancor or retributional hatreds flaring in needless spates of invective. 
It has been hard to gain acceptance of NA sovereingty, even in discussion...and this is still an issue with some. 

For this to all work, a new era of cooperative education and cultural exchange will have to be maintained...(and jump-starting it may also be a requirement!)  A much higher level of respect will evolve from this, for it seems that the co-existence of two or more 'factions' will inherently produce much effort toward education and learning--for all concerned, and to the cler benefit of all parties. 
This is what I seek--and if any have doubts about it, air them, too--politely, and with an open mind...

Part Two
Bob Wishoff

I cannot speak for the Native American tribes and their role in determination of a site’s tribal association. It is a controversial topic, and I believe it will continue to be.  I do feel that remains should be taken care of, and if it takes litigation to determine who will perform the task, then so-be-it. That’s what the legal system is for.  Native Americans are not alone in their struggle for civil justice, and for laws that see things from their point of view. Since I believe in the principles of the legal system, I must believe that injustices will be worked out of the system in time, and with the help of the courageous few.

I can, however, speak to the subject of development and the role of avocationalists in salvaging what can be saved under the most dire circumstances. The movement toward salvage archaeology is slowly growing across America. Recent numbers support the common sense observation that rural property is undergoing rapid development everywhere. Some states, like Texas, have little say over archaeological sites located on private property. Some flks simply do not want agents of the state on their property for fear that they will try to take ownership away under some obtuse twist of the law. Developers do not want the state, or other authorities, to delay their construction schedules. There simply has to be found a middle ground position.... one that everyone can live with.

The State agencies must stop calling everyone who picks up an artifact a looter... in fact, everyone needs to just keep to the facts. An army of hard-core looters could not destroy near as many sites as development, simple progress does. And you just can’t stop progress. Hell, yes, let’s fight them when they want to develop special properties, but how many lawsuits can be won over a midden?

The irony is that middens are vanishing faster than the “important” sites.... there used to be so many!

So, what do we do?

Insist that public lands be carefully tended to! Call the State or regional Archaeology authority at the first sign of neglect. Suggest a group of volunteers can be put together to work on the site’s upkeep. If waterside erosion is working away at the site, offer to mesh it with tires. GET INVOLVED!

We know who the vandals are.... and we know we are not them!
Use your intellect to defend each and every instance where authorities try to bunch us all with the vandals.
Take photographs and video of instances of neglect!
Why should Joe Bubba be able to launch boats off of a midden, but Jim Bubba gets busted for picking up and arrowhead that Joe nearly ran over?

I believe the authorities are hogtied--- they simply do not have the funds to take on the task. We must offer our assistance at every turn. We must give rise to the new paradigm by not alienating ourselves from the experts... they have the knowledge we want. I know they do not respect us, but we can still make a difference and they know it. I know that while many pros lack imagination, that they nonetheless share the same passion for the topic as I do.

I believe that the professionals need to see the light and create a methodology for the salvaging of a doomed site. This methodology should help evaluate a site in a triage-like fashion, a offer a flow chart for what measurements, samples, etc, can be done under differing cicumstances.

I believe collectors need to document their finds, or at least to share them on a site like the Dirt Brothers, with at least the location of the find.

I am in total agreement that perhaps someone could establish a granting fund that would reward folks for properly documenting private sites, or to give tax incentives to developers who allow excavations voluntarily on sites not protected by law.

I wish there was a clear voice for Native America, and among Native Americans publicly, about a lot more archaeological issues beyond repatriation of sacred objects and remains. This issue seems pretty clearcut --- but issues of development, where “unimportant” sites are at issue, there is little opinion that I know of coming from Native America. Thisa makes it difficult for a non-NA to understand who is for what.

I look forward to further articulation in these areas from others.

I thank Stone for bringing this topic together so well for us all to converse and extrapolate on.

Why don’t you, the reader. create your own part to this essay?
Send us an essay responding to these issues.
If you articulate well, we’ll publish it here.
Email essays to: dirtbro@dirtbrothers.org
please send in MS Word DOC format, if possible.


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