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Cottonwood Field Office

Protection of Our Cultural Resources

Spread along the Lower Salmon River are sites representing a diverse cultural history. Viewing these sites in their natural setting can be a memorable experience. The artifacts are important in terms of their location in or on the ground. Where they are found and what is found near them supply information critical to interpreting the human activities that occurred there. For example, if an undisturbed rock structure is found in context (grouped together) with a scatter of Chinese artifacts, it can be inferred that the structure was lived in by Chinese.
If the rock structure is associated with old hydraulic mine tailings, it can be further deduced that the Chinese hydraulically mined the area. Further study might yield dates of the artifacts; determine what kinds of food were consumed; what recreational activities were pursued; etc. However, if artifacts are taken, the rock walls of the structure destroyed, or the site vandalized, then there is little left to interpret. An important part of the past is lost forever.
Our cultural heritage is being destroyed and is disappearing at an alarming rate. You can preserve these cultural resources in their current condition by not climbing over banks from sandy beaches to reach existing trails or terraces. Climbing over banks accelerates erosion and destroys some sites. Please do not walk or lean on the walls of rock structures. If the rock walls are weakened and collapse, it is virtually impossible to restore the walls to their original condition. Pictographs are very fragile, so please don't touch them. Oils from your fingers can cause the pictographs to deteriorate. Some people pick up artifacts without realizing their importance. Please leave them where they are found.

Cultural resource values have been recognized through the enactment of various laws to protect these resources. The Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979 provides for severe penalties for unauthorized excavation or vandalism of archeological sites on public land. To help protect your heritage you are asked to report any vandalism to the Bureau of Land Management office.

Cultural resource is a term used to describe remains of past human activity or occupation. Along the Lower Salmon River the cultural resources are very diverse, representing 12,000 years of human activity. This long history of use has resulted in sites that include rock structures, mines, mining equipment, cans, bottles, glass, ceramics, nails, shovels, picks, ditches, reservoirs, trails, graves, pictographs, prehistoric house pits, and stone artifacts. Cultural resources also include those areas where significant human events occurred, even though evidence of the event no longer remains. Some cultural resources hold special religious or social significance for Native Americans and other groups.
Cultural resources form a significant link between the past and the present. Discovering how and why humans have interacted with the cultural and physical environment in the past helps provide an understanding of our present situation, as well as provide insights to the future.
Although cultural resources are often very fragile and need to be protected, they can also be enjoyed. Once a site is destroyed, the information and enjoyment offered is lost forever. Sites must be managed so that those values making them significant are maintained. Collectively, they are a national treasure that belongs to us all.
Most visitors do not intentionally destroy sites, but the sheer volume of human traffic can severely damage some cultural resources. Another major source of impact is erosion created by seasonal high water of the Salmon River. Combined natural erosion and heavy visitor use can destroy or cause severe damage to some sites.
The cultural resources along the Lower Salmon River are very significant. These cultural resources are the only remaining examples of certain types of sites in the Pacific Northwest that are in Federal ownership and have not bee damaged from dam construction or other land disturbing activities. Because of their importance, the Lower Salmon River Archeological District has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places (the formal listing of nationally significant cultural resources).
It is everyone's responsibility to protect these important sites. If we conserve cultural resources in the present, we can meet our obligations to the future by preserving the opportunity for future generations to enjoy and learn about our cultural heritage.
This booklet is an outline of cultural resources and the culture history of the Lower Salmon River. More detailed information is available. Information on the Nez Perce Tribal heritage can be obtained from the Nez Perce Tribe at Lapwai, Idaho or from the Nez Perce National Historical Park at Spalding, Idaho. Information on prehistory or history of the area, or comments on this booklet can be directed to the archeologist at the address indicated below. Information can also be provided on how you can further help the Bureau of Land Management with the management of our public lands.


David Sisson,
Coeur d'Alene District Archeologist
Cottonwood Field Office
1 Butte Drive
Cottonwood, Idaho 83522
Phone: (208) 962-3245