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Edgar Lee Hewett, photograph, 1907

Edgar Lee Hewett, a pioneering archeologist of Southwest American Indian cultures, invited Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa to New Mexico in 1902 to witness the impact of artifact looting by private collectors. Lacey, an ardent nature conservationist, became an advocate for cultural preservation. Hewitt drafted the bill introduced by Lacey as the Antiquities Act to protect the nation’s heritage for future generations.

School of Advanced Research, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Edgar Lee Hewett, photograph, 1907

Preserving American Antiquities

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first U.S. law to provide general protection for cultural and natural resources on federal lands. Previously Congress used specific acts to create national parks and other protected areas. Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa, chairman of the House Committee on Public Lands, introduced the new legislation in response to archaeologists anxious to prevent looting of American Indian relics. Broadening federal protection beyond American Indian antiquities, Congress empowered the president to move quickly to save threatened archaeological, historic, or natural sites.

The immensity of man’s power to destroy imposes a responsibility to preserve.

Representative John F. Lacey, Address to the League of American Sportsmen, 1901