Donlin Creek Mine Project: 2004, 2006-2009
In collaboration with Chumis Cultural Resource Services, NLUR has conducted a multi-year cultural resources project in southwest Alaska as part of the permitting process and Environmental Assessment documentation for the Donlin Creek Project in the middle Kuskokwim region. Field survey has been conducted within proposed areas of development including the mine site, airstrips, campsites, dock site, wind farms, and along proposed roads. The project has included literature review and extensive archival research, field survey, and collaboration with Alaska Native elders and community members. Since 2004, we have identified four historic resources, seven lithic scatters, and the extensive 2000 year-old riverine camp or settlement, Angyacuaq site.
The Angyacuaq site has several features including semi-subterranean houses and cache pits and excellent organic preservation that will provide information on organic technologies and subsistence resources. Four lithic scatters are situated on promontories along the edges of the foothills that overlook drainages and wetlands and along known portage routes from the Yukon River to the Kuskokwim River. Three other lithic scatters are situated within the uplands of the project area. As part the cultural resources effort of the Donlin Creek project, in the winter of 2008, Chris Wooley of Chumis worked with the Village of Crooked Creek and the Smithsonian Institute to return human remains excavated in the 1920s to the community of Crooked Creek.
The 2009 field season focused on excavation a 2000 year old house depression at the Angyacuaq site and continued survey of proposed impacts. NLUR and Chumis are working with community members from Crooked Creek to explore the prehistory of the middle Kuskokwim River region. The initial results of the cultural resources investigations for the Donlin Creek project have added a significant amount of information on prehistoric riverine and upland resource exploitation and continuity of landscape use, including travel routes and subsistence locations, in a region of Alaska that is still poorly understood by archaeologists.