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Date Published: 2010-05-06

Contact: Meg Ragonese

Phone: (775) 888-7172

Title: Carson City Freeway Project Awarded for Archeological Efforts

Story Text:

The Nevada Department of Transportation has received an award for archeological preservation of the Old Stewart Indian Cemetery.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) awarded an Exemplary Human Environment Initiative award to NDOT for partnering efforts to enhance and preserve the historic cemetery as part of the Carson City Freeway project.

The cemetery was used until the 1940s as the final resting place of Washoe, Shoshone and Paiute tribe members, particularly those connected to the historic Stewart Indian School in Carson City. With the final phase of the Carson City Freeway planned to be constructed within 1,000 feet of the cultural site, NDOT wanted to mitigate any visual impact on cemetery scenery.

“Required mitigation efforts would have included filing a report at the State Historic Preservation Office,” explained NDOT Chief of Environmental Services Steve Cooke. “But, we wanted to go beyond and join with the Washoe tribe community to preserve and educate about the cemetery.”

NDOT environmental experts partnered with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, the Washoe Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, the Nevada Indian Commission, the Virginia City Cemetery Foundation and the Stewart Indian Colony Youth Group to preserve and document the cemetery in numerous ways:

• Documentation of over 250 graves.

• Repair of four broken grave markers, resetting of numerous tilted markers and repair of damaged cemetery fencing.

• Research that reproduced hundreds of primary documents on Stewart Indian School students buried in the cemetery.

• Creation of a cemetery map with birth dates, death dates, tribal affiliations, gender, condition of grave marker and inscriptions for each grave site. This information will be used to find patterns in mortality and burial customs.

• Three published articles and three public presentations detailing cemetery history.

• Creation of a virtual on-line "cemetery" at www.findagrave.com where relatives can share photographs, stories and information about their loved ones.

Following hands-on training from NDOT archaeologists, more than 50 volunteers from the Washoe tribe and the Stewart Indian Colony Youth Group helped preserve the cemetery. Young children removed overgrown brush while teenagers documented graves, reset and repaired broken markers with the instruction of a stone mason, and recorded inscriptions and evaluated grave marker conditions. Washoe tribe elders shared with their children and grandchildren in remaking the burial site. The approximate $3,000 cost of preservation was minimal thanks to volunteers and donated supplies.

As funding becomes available, the final phase of the Carson City Freeway project is planned to build a separated two-lane freeway from Fairview Drive to the intersection of U.S. 50 West and South Carson Street. In keeping with the Nevada Department of Transportation’s mission of providing a better transportation system for Nevada, the project is designed to provide less congestion and ease of travel through the capital city. The project previously received two American Council of Engineering Companies awards for archeological excavations that unearthed one of northern Nevada’s largest prehistoric villages.