Current topics in archaeology, cultural heritage & historic preservation

Monday, May 18, 2009

...Who Knew?!

I Just read a very enlightening newspaper article that struck me as a perfect illustration of one of the major issues facing anyone concerned with preserving cultural or archaeological resources...the problem of "Who Knew?"
The image above is called a Yakima Star.
A common petroglyph in the Yakama
Indian cultural region.

In a nutshell, a developer building a road as part of a wind power project near Goldendale, WA is said to have disturbed a cultural site sacred to the Yakama Indians (read the whole story at

The developers say..."who knew?" and plead innocent by reason of "not knowing because there were no records of the site". Now they say they're trying their best to avoid damage.

The Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation says "who knew?" and has no power to force an archaeological survey unless known sites are nearby and there's reason to suspect that there might be sites in a proposed project area.

Yakama Indian tribal elders say "we knew, but no one asked us".

And therein lies the problem...the people who KNOW [don't, won't, can't] share the information they have with people who NEED TO KNOW. Some barriers are cultural, some are bureaucratic, some are legal (or a lack of legal)...some are...well who knows, but they seem to be almost insurmountable.

I'm willing to bet that more cultural heritage is lost due to "who knew" than for almost any other reason!

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