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Aztec Ruins to celebrate 90 years as a National Monument

By Lauren Blacik
Special to The SUN

On Jan. 22, Aztec Ruins will celebrate the anniversary of its National Monument designation with cake and a special presentation by Dr. Carla Van West.

Van West will share her research about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) crew working in Bloomfield, as well as the lesser-known CCC crew that completed stabilization projects at Aztec Ruins during the Great Depression.

Van West has more than 40 years experience in the archaeology of the U.S. Southwest and has also engaged in fieldwork in Scotland, Cyprus and Egypt. She is currently the director of research at the SRI Foundation, a nonprofit historic preservation foundation established in 2001, with the mission to, “advance education, training, public outreach, and research in all fields of historic preservation — archaeology, anthropology, history, and historic architecture.”

In 1923, President Warren G. Harding issued an executive order declaring Aztec Ruins a National Monument. At the time, the Great Kiva had not been reconstructed, and East Ruin was still farmland. In fact, the National Park Service feared it did not have the resources to adequately preserve the spectacular archeological resources of the new Monument.

Thanks to the dedicated effort of Aztec residents and park employees, the Monument grew over time. Now the park protects dozens of archeological sites within its boundaries that extend all the way to the Animas River. In 1987, Aztec Ruins (with Chaco Culture) joined the elite company of the Grand Canyon and the Statue of Liberty as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

One factor in the National Park Service’s success at stabilizing West Ruin was the Civilian Conservation Corps, a federal work program that employed millions of people in the 1930s after the economy was crippled by the Great Depression and Dust Bowl. Van West has uncovered interesting detail about the CCC’s work in Northwestern New Mexico by reviewing historical reports provided by Aztec Ruins and Salmon Ruins.

The free program starts at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 22, at the Visitor Center. Birthday cake will be served before the program.

For more information about Aztec Ruins National Monument, call (505) 334-6174, go to nps.gov/azru, or “like” the Facebook page.

This story was posted on January 17, 2013.