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Wikiups, cattle and a few hundred years

This is not going to look like much, but there’s a story here.

This summer I contacted the Forest Service archaeologist.  The forest service is planning on doing logging and burning in the valley for beetle damage.  Since our stream is on forest service land, and is a sensitive area, I didn’t want logging done there.  The hydrologist, the archaeologist and the permit supervisor came out and did a walk through.  Afterwards, I took the archaeologist aside and showed her some arrowheads and a large spear I’d found on my property.

2500-3000 year old spear head found on property

The archaeologist was amazed at the find and told me she wanted to come back with Larry Todd, a premier archaeologist in the state, and make some molds of the spear from clay.

In the fall, Larry and Molly came up to my house and made an identical mold of the spear.  Larry put the age, although it was very hard to age it, at around 2500 years old.  I showed him a small obsidian arrowhead that I had found, oddly enough, on the same day, behind my house.  He aged that at around 4000 years old.

Molly and Larry were on their way up the valley to find, document, measure, and photograph some wikiups.  They invited me to come along.  They had a rough photograph taken in the seventies of the five wikiups which were still standing at the time.  A former forest service archaeologist had measured and documented them.

I knew the small drainage.  I’d hiked it several times.  It was an off shoot that had only a well-used animal trail heading up it.  The trail led to a small flat clearing which then separates into two very narrow draws, both of which get steep and dead end quickly.  I’d never seen any wikiups there.

We hiked up the draw and arrived at the clearing.  Molly had shown me the photo from the 1970’s.  The wikiups were upright and intact.  But now she pointed them out, a pile of sticks.  Once I knew what I was looking at, it was easy to find the five piles of sticks–old sticks, but still now just sticks.

The two archaeologists spent an hour collecting data.  Larry said these wikiups were probably over 300 years old.  The poles, unrecognizable to me even though I’m quite familiar with trees, were made of aspen.  Looking around, there were only one or two aspen in the area.  Obviously the landscape had been different then, changed mostly by frequent fire.

A long time resident had told Molly that he used to picnic here with his parents as a child.  The wikiups were still standing then.  But the cattle that are allowed to run free-range in the valley also liked to lay here and rub themselves against the standing wikiup poles.  Eventually the cattle knocked all of them over.

Wow!  After 300 years intact, these special artifacts were destroyed in just the last 25 years–by cattle.

300 year old wikiup standing till 25 years ago when destroyed by cattle

Would we let cattle  hang around the Liberty Bell, defecating and knocking the bell over?  I was saddened and appalled at the unconscious policies that allowed these cattle to run rampant over native sacred heritage sites.   These cattle, owned by a super wealthy ranch, provide only a nice tax break for the ranch owner.

Have we lost our perspective?  We must make an effort to preserve these delicate sites.  Soon fires will come and destroy them; that is for sure.  But our stance should be to protect these sites, as long as we can, for future generations, and, if for no other reason, out of respect to the peoples who came before and their present day ancestors.

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One Response

  1. Dang cows. Hoofed locusts, as Abbey called ’em. Nice projectile points–we’ve found some large Clovis-like points at relatively high lakes (7,000 – 8,000 feet) in the upper Big Hole. Maybe after another 1,000 or so years (if we make it that long) we’ll figure out how to live in this place.

    Like

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