Archeology

Reports from several archeological studies conducted in the proposed mining project area include the Class III Historic and Architectural resources inventory of lands for Western Mobile and Hart Environmental reports, produced in 1997 by Western Historical Studies, Inc.

At least 18 sites of note have been recorded in the project area and surrounding vicinity, including three prehistoric sites, several burial sites (5BL2 / 5BL379, 5BL8, 5BL62, 5BL9, 5BL285), five farmstead sites, and 15 historic irrigation sites that were determined to meet the eligibility criteria for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). To date, none of these sites has been registered with the NRHP. Significantly, the earliest and westernmost known occurrence of Plains Pottery in Colorado was discovered at one of the prehistoric sites.

At that time the Project Historian for the Colorado Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation stated, “Based on very limited test excavations comprised of shovel tests…the density of artifacts (247 recovered), the presence of undisturbed and datable archeological components, and the site’s surprisingly great and still underdetermined depth are characteristics which fulfill the eligibility criteria for inclusion into the National Register of Historic Places” (Dr. Steven F. Mehls, Colorado Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation, Cultural Resource Survey Management Information Form, November 4, 1997).

Colorado law addresses archeological sites in three key statutes and regulations:

  • The Colorado Register of Historic Places Act (CRS 24-80) establishes the office of the state archeologist in the State Historical Society of Colorado to coordinate, encourage, and preserve the full understanding of Colorado’s archaeological and paleontological resources for the benefit of Colorado’s citizens. It governs the procedures concerning unmarked human graves, in which it directs the state archeologist to consider the value of history and archeology as a guide to human activity when adopting rules and regulations (24-80-1304).
  • Colorado Code of Regulations 8 CCR 1504-7 Rules and Procedures, Sec. 4 promulgates the duties of the office of the state archaeologist as they relate to CRS-24-80. It dictates that developers intending to perform excavation activities must obtain a permit prior to the excavation of any unmarked human burial older than 100 years, if such burial is located within any nonfederal land within the state of Colorado. Given the presence of documented and other burial sites reported by the Native American community at and near the proposed location of the Lyons Pit gravel mine, Martin Marietta should apply for such a permit.
  • CRS 29-20 concerns local government regulation of land use, and gives authority to local governments to plan and regulate the use of land within their jurisdictions. Section 29-20-104 (c) addresses the powers of local governments, including the preservation of areas of historical and archaeological importance. It is therefore Boulder County’s responsibility to identify and ensure that these important cultural resources, including burial sites, are preserved and protected.

The 1997 Office of Archeology & Historic Preservation report asserts, “The remaining remnants of archeology for the survey area are both regrettable in their loss since the beginning of historical development in the area and the ‘significance’ of what is left remaining intact. As archeological resources become increasingly fewer due to their loss by development, erosion, etc. what remains becomes even more significant when considering their long term conservation..Additional excavations conducted at prehistoric sites..have the potential to yield buried information significant to providing information regarding, but not limited to, chronological placement, function, and intra-site patterning” (28).

Despite these highly significant findings and protective regulations, the archeologists’ recommendations for further study of these numerous sites were never pursued.

The burden of responsibility for filing with the NRHP lies with the landowner. For the project area in question, this falls within Boulder County Parks and Open Space’s (BCPOS) jurisdiction. SOSvv has formally requested that BCPOS perform due diligence and register each of the recommended eligible sites to prevent further desecration of significant artifacts and burial sites, and to ensure that appropriate consideration and maximum protection is applied moving forward.

The 2016 Standing Rock “Thunderbird Tipi” in Hygiene, Colorado during the August 2017 solar eclipse. Photograph courtesy of Ripple Ratt Photography

The 2016 Standing Rock “Thunderbird Tipi” in Hygiene during the August 2017 solar eclipse. Photo courtesy of Ripple Ratt Photography

The importance of this land to the Native American community remains paramount. Hygiene is honored to host the Oglala Lakota’s Thunderbird tipi from Standing Rock for educational purposes. Marty Chase Alone, great grandson of Lakota Holy Medicine Man Nicholas Black Elk, led an Eagle Blessing ceremony there on August 27, 2017. Since then Marty Chase Alone has led monthly ceremonial lodges at this location. The St. Vrain Valley is also blessed by the songs and prayers of ­ award winning Lakota traditional singer Charlie Red Cloud, the direct descendant of Chief Red Cloud and Chief Big Road.

See the 2018 letters written to Boulder County regarding archeological sites from Marty Chase Alone; Lakota Sundance Chief Doug Good Feather, descendant of Sitting Bull; and SOSvv Chair Amanda Dumenigo.

In an August 27, 2018 letter responding to Good Feather, Boulder County Parks and Open Space Director Eric Lane explained that the county is not currently in a position to pursue potentially eligible sites for inclusion on the NHRP. However, he does state:

The department has been and remains very concerned about cultural resources on this site. To that end, Parks & Open Space staff will request that the Land Use Department require Martin Marietta Materials to conduct a new historic and archaeological resource survey on the property during either the next interim review period or a revised application request. We believe this is warranted due to the age of the 1997 project and the impacts of the 2013 flood. At this time, the county has not received an application or request for an interim review.

SOSvv has convened an archeology subcommittee, including tribal leaders, to determine next steps in ensuring the protection of the valuable archeology in the project area.

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