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Rock Art in the Public Trust: Managing Prehistoric Rock Art on Federal Land


Cultural resource management conducted by the United States government revolves around the concept of proper stewardship of the land and the resources contained therein. By definition, stewardship means to take proper management for the good of the items entrusted. Practically, however, stewardship is a set of cultural resource management practices that seeks to manage the cultural resources that fall within the bounds of federally-managed lands, consistent with the perceived needs and desires of the public at large. Rock art is a unique and valuable resource that can and should be inventoried, recorded, protected, researched, and used to educate the public on the past lifeways of native peoples who occupied the United States in the pre-contact era. While the federal government has had some success in rock art management programs on public lands, for the most part federal land managers have historically disenfranchised Native Americans by minimizing their input into management practices of archeological resources, including rock art. This dissertation analyzes the salient aspects of managing rock art sites on federally-administered land, and argues for a more comprehensive, inclusive, and effective management strategy that is inclusive of Native Americans. For effective rock art site management, historians, archeologists, and land managers must focus on three main goals in management strategy: more actively and effectively incorporating Native Americans in the management process, taking a multidisciplinary approach to site management that incorporates concepts of landscape and cultural heritage principles, and maximizing the potential for rock art sites as an educational tool to teach about Native American lifeways, practices, and philosophies.

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