Daugherty as treasured an artifact as what he dug

jdodge@theolympian.comMarch 4, 2014 

Richard Daugherty, the dean of Pacific Northwest archaeology and resident of Panorama in Lacey, died Feb. 22 in Pullman at the age of 91.

The longtime Washington State University professor was a pioneer in his field, working in concert with Washington coast Native Americans on the region’s most significant archaeological digs of the 20th century – the Ozette village.

He guided excavation of the site on the Olympic Peninsula in the 1970s, seeking the counsel of tribal elders to identify a treasure trove of thousands of artifacts from the “Pompeii of America.”

The Ozette site earned that name because the five longhouses discovered there were buried in a landslide from a mega-earthquake in 1700. They then slowly emerged through erosion caused by winter storms on the rugged ocean coast. Even after the landslide, the site was a Makah village until 1920 when tribal members were forced to move 20 miles to Neah Bay so their children could attend school.

The Ozette dig produced some 55,000 artifacts pre-dating European settlement. The artifacts, including arrow shafts, baskets, bows, cedar rope and whale bones are on display at the Makah Cultural and Resource Center at Neah Bay.

“He was so progressive at a time when it was so uncommon,” Janine Bowechop, historic preservation officer for the Makah Tribe told me at a surprise 90th birthday party for Daugherty. “Dr. Daugherty taught people how tribes and scientists can work together.”

The years-long project also generated nine doctoral dissertations from some of the many graduate students who worked at Ozette under Daugherty’s supervision. One of the doctorates went to Dale Croes, a former South Puget Sound Community College archaeology instructor.

“He was a master at making archaeology interesting to the public,” Croes said of his mentor. “And he was the first to work with tribes in equal partnership.”

Croes applied what he learned from Daugherty at South Sound’s most noteworthy archaeological dig, a Squaxin Island tribe fishing village site on the Mud Bay property of former Secretary of State Ralph Munro. Tribal members helped manage and conduct the excavation in the same manner the Ozette site was treated.

John Hughes, former editor and publisher of The Daily World in Aberdeen, recalls visiting the Ozette dig as a young reporter and receiving a warm welcome from the Daugherty team.

“Being around him was so infectious,” Hughes recalled. “He made archaeology come alive.”

I asked Hughes, my journalism mentor, where Daugherty ranks in the pantheon of famous Harborites — the phrase coined to describe natives of the Aberdeen-Hoquiam area.

“Way high up there with our Nobel laureates,” Hughes said. The who’s who of Grays Harbor is pretty impressive, including former state Supreme Court Justice Gerry Alexander, Nirvana lead singer Kurt Cobain and George Hitchings, who won the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1988.

Daugherty was born in Aberdeen in 1922. He loved the outdoors as a child and roamed the shorelines of Grays Harbor, occasionally unearthing an artifact from forgotten times. During World War II, he piloted blimps out of the Lakehurst, N.J., Naval Station, home to the deadly crash of the Hindenburg in 1937.

After the war he attended the University of Washington. He completed his doctorate in ethnography in 1954, accepted an assistant professor post at Washington State University and served in a variety of positions, including department chairman, for almost 30 years.

In addition to the Ozette site, Daugherty directed excavation of the Marmes rock shelter before it was flooded after construction of the Lower Monumental Dam on the Snake River in 1969. At the time, the 10,000-year-old human remains were the oldest in North America.

Daugherty also knew how to work the halls of Congress. He joined forces in 1966 with the state’s two powerful senators — Henry M. Jackson and Warren G. Magnuson — to secure passage of the National Historic Preservation Act to help preserve historical and archaeological sites across the country.

Noted nature writer Ruth Kirk was a lifelong friend of Daugherty, and co-authored a book with him called “Hunters of the Whale,” which chronicled the first stages of the Ozette dig through 1974. They teamed up again to write “Archaeology in Washington,” published in 2007.

Both widowed, they married in 2007 at Neah Bay. The wedding ceremony took place in an Ozette longhouse replica.

Just a few days before Daugherty died, Kirk finished the draft of a book on Ozette, set for publication by the University of Washington Press. I believe it’s her 35th book in a remarkable career and a wonderful tribute to her husband.

I telephoned the prolific nonfiction writer Monday at her home at Panorama to express my condolences and let her know she’s in my thoughts. She told me her life of late has been shaped by two goals: Taking care of her husband until the end of his life and completing the Ozette book.

Mission accomplished.

John Dodge: 360-754-5444 jdodge@theolympian.com

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