The Wupatki National Monument in Arizona, a rich repository of archaeological history and the ancestral homestead of several Southwestern Indigenous tribes, will soon be the focus of a major preservation project.
The Los Angeles-based Getty Foundation has announced a $1.3 million grant awarded to the Center for Architectural Conservation at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design, which is tasked with developing a new conservation and management plan for the red-rock highlands in collaboration with local Native communities.
Wupatki National Monument and its sister monuments, Walnut Canyon and Sunset Crater Volcano, contain some of the best-preserved records of ancient Native American culture. As early as the 11th century, the ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni, Navajo, Yavapai, Havasupai, and Hualapai settled in the area between the Painted Desert and red-rock highlands, establishing migration and trade routes. More than 5,000 Indigenous archaeological sites are scattered throughout the monument. Wupatki—meaning “tall house” in the Hopi language—is a 900-year-old complex constructed from Moenkopi sandstone. Containing over 100 rooms, it is located at the monument’s heart. Local tribes consider the dwelling a spiritual site, and it draws more than 200,000 visitors annually.
“Reflective of contemporary concerns that address climate threat and cultural appropriation, this project will develop a framework for integrated site stewardship based on an understanding of sustainability as both a physical and cultural necessity,” Frank Matero, director of the Center for Architectural Conservation and chair of the graduate program in historic preservation, said in a statement.
According to the Getty Foundation, the project team will work closely with a network of Indigenous-run organizations to help identify vulnerabilities in the current preservation model, and create opportunities for heritage stewardship, allowing tribal communities to have a leading role in determining the monument’s future. Participating groups include the Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, Wupatki Cultural Resources Program, and the Vanishing Treasures Program, a National Parks initiative which promotes the use of traditional skills in maintaining heritage sites.
“Identifying the vulnerabilities of sites like Wupatki is perhaps the most critical challenge currently facing all cultural and natural resource managers today,” Matero said. “Mitigation, resilience, and adaptation in the form of renewed cultural partnerships with affiliated tribal communities will move the conservation needs front and center in this model project.”
Chas Robles, director of Ancestral Lands Conservation Corps, said in a statement: “Projects such as this one are incredibly impactful for our participants, who are descendants of the original architects and builders of these places.”