South Dakota state artifacts put in jeopardy

Sioux Falls, South Dakota (AP) 2-09

One of many proposed cuts to South Dakota’s state government budget would put the state Archaeological Research Center in Rapid City on the brink of extinction.

Gov. Mike Rounds has proposed cutting the $308,782 that the agency gets from the state. It’s one of several cost-cutting moves he proposes to offset declining state revenues.

Archaeologists say the cut actually would mean no savings and would hurt economic development while putting the care and protection of South Dakota’s archaeological resources and research in jeopardy.

“Obviously, none of the cuts we’ve looked at are easy cuts, many aren’t optimal,” said state budget director Jason Dilges. “We’ve had to make the least painful cuts we can, but that isn’t to say there isn’t going to be some pain involved.”


The agency is part of the Department of Tourism and State Development. It is responsible for all compliance work for the state Department of Transportation to build roads. Many construction projects – from cellular telephone towers to wind farms – also require approval from the center to ensure that the projects do not disturb important archaeological sites or displace Native American grave sites.

While the agency’s budget is only 0.024 percent of the state’s general fund, more than $1.5 million is generated yearly from grant- and contract-funded projects. The center employs three people who are paid from state general fund money, as well as 22 people who are on the payroll as employees and subcontractors.

“We would just be gone,” said state archaeologist Jim Haug. “That $300,000 covers the statutory work that we do. And if we’re not doing it, I’m not sure how things get done. It complicates the process.”

“I think someone went down a list and said, ‘Archaeological Research Center? That can go,”’ said Adrien Hannus, director of Augustana College’s archaeology lab. “(Closing) it violates the spirit of cultural resources, our state’s heritage.”

The center maintains 8,000 archaeological collections in its repository and houses records on 19,500 archaeological sites. Staff completed 322 record searches in 2008, with another 263 done by visiting consultants and scholars.

“Maybe they would be able to become self-sufficient, cover its own costs with payments from the state,” Dilges said. “I don’t think the book is closed on this, there is dialogue.”