Antiquities Act of 1906

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was deemed necessary after two decades of looting, desecration, and destruction of Native American sites in the Southwest such as Chaco Canyon and Cliff Palace. The bill was the result of several years’ work by, among others, Representative John F. Lacey and Senator Jonathan P. Dolliver of Iowa (the latter a friend of Theodore Roosevelt) and Representative John F. Shafroth and Senator Thomas M. Patterson of Colorado. On June 8, 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill, which had been finally sponsored by Patterson in the Senate and Lacey in the House. The Act for the Preservation of Antiquities (also called the Lacey Act) was an intentionally broad piece of legislation to set aside "historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest" in order to stop their destruction. As it was worded, either the President or Congress could establish national monuments under the Antiquities Act. Roosevelt quickly took advantage of the authority given him and the wide variety of sites allowed by the bill.

He began on September 24, 1906, by proclaiming Devils Tower in Wyoming the first national monument under the Antiquities Act. President Roosevelt followed that quickly with the Petrified Forest and Montezuma Castle in Arizona and El Morro in New Mexico. In all, Roosevelt issued executive proclamations for the following scientific areas or natural monuments:

  • Devils Tower, Wyoming, September 24, 1906
  • El Morro, New Mexico, December 8, 1906
  • Montezuma Castle, Arizona, December 8, 1906
  • Petrified Forest, Arizona, December 8, 1906
  • Lassen Peak, California, May 6, 1907
  • Cinder Cone, California, May 6, 1907
  • Chaco Canyon, New Mexico, March 11, 1907
  • Gila Cliff Dwellings, New Mexico, November 16, 1907
  • Tonto Cliff Dwellings, Arizona, December 19, 1907
  • Muir Woods, California, January 9, 1908
  • Grand Canyon, Arizona, January 11, 1908 (made a national park by President Woodrow Wilson in 1917)
  • Pinnacles, California, January 16, 1908
  • Jewel Cave, South Dakota, February 7, 1908
  • Natural Bridges, Utah, April 16, 1908
  • Lewis & Clark Cavern, Montana, May 11, 1908
  • Tumacacori Mission, Arizona, September 15, 1908
  • Wheeler, Colorado, December 7, 1908
  • Mount Olympus, Washington, March 2, 1909

The 1906 Act was replaced by a a stronger measure, the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979, which gave greater power to authorities to protect rare or unique land formations, archeological sites, historic locations, and other such monuments.