Archaeologist who unearthed Makah treasures mourned [with tribute to 'Doc' Daugherty]
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Meredith Parker collection
Meredith Parker, Makah general manager who assisted with the Ozette dig in the 1970s, sits with Richard and Ruth Daugherty during the Daughertys' visit to Neah Bay in 2012.
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Washington State University
Richard Daugherty, shown in a recent photo and one taken in the early 1970s as he examined a killer whale saddle found at Ozette. It was carved out of cedar and inlaid with 700 sea otter teeth.

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Tribute to 'Doc'

By Meredith Parker
I worked for Dr. Richard Daugherty as one of the Makah college students participating in the archaeological digs of our Ozette village site in the early 1970s.

“Doc,” as we fondly called him, provided an archaeological field camp environment at Ozette that benefited Makah tribal members, students from across the world and the general public through his expert guidance as the principal investigator.

Doc genuinely cared about the archaeological project and the Makah people, whose ancestors had once resided on that very spot.

My grandmother's grandfather was from Ozette, so my time there was very special and deeply meaningful.

Being at Ozette and under Doc's mentorship influenced my educational pursuits, and later, his guidance served as a factor in my career decisions.

He was instrumental as we excavated the village site, sought funds for the Makah Cultural and Research Center, oversaw academic research and later successfully implemented this shared vision.

I always appreciated that long after the site had been sealed, the doors to the museum opened and another couple of generations of Makahs were making their way in this world.

Doc maintained a close relationship with our Makah Cultural and Research Center, the tribe and especially with his close friends in Neah Bay.

After both their spouses had deceased, Doc and Ruth Kirk came to Neah Bay and married in the replicated Ozette longhouse at the Makah Museum at the MCRC.

How Ozette had affected them both was evident in that special day they shared with all of us.

Doc was honored at a party celebrating his 90th birthday in which the Makah Tribal Council passed a special resolution paying tribute to Dr. Richard Daugherty.

Two years ago, he and Ruth visited Neah Bay again, spending time with close friends and getting as close as possible to Ozette through the winds that blew in from the south at Hobuck and a walk through the exhibits at the museum.

I'm grateful for the time that Doc Daugherty spent here among our people.

I'm happy that I was able to know him in both an academic and professional relationship — and also be able to call him friend.

The legacy that he leaves behind is one that our Makah people will know about for many generations yet to come.


Meredith Parker is Makah general manager, a tribal member and president of the Makah Cultural and Research Center.

She spent six years living and working at the Ozette village site as the lab manager.
PULLMAN — Richard Daugherty expected to spend a few months excavating Makah artifacts uncovered by a storm on the North Olympic Peninsula coast in 1970.

Instead, he spent 11 years helping the Makah uncover their tribal history from a buried village at Ozette, “the Pompeii of America,” one of the most well-known and nationally significant archaeological discoveries of the past century .

“Doc” Daugherty, as the Washington State University archaeologist was known by many of the Makah, died of bone cancer Feb. 22 at his home near the WSU campus in Pullman.

He was 91.

Although best known for his years of work on the Ozette village site, located near Cape Alava on the coast just southwest of Neah Bay, Daugherty worked on dozens of excavations all over the Pacific Northwest.

Sequim mastodon

He was co-investigator with Carl Gustafson of a hand-hewn projectile point in a mastodon bone found near Sequim in 1977.

The artifacts turned back the clock on North American settlement as subsequent new research determined they were 13,800 years old, 800 years older than the Clovis people long regarded as the New World's oldest culture.

The fossil remains of the mastodon were donated to the Museum & Arts Center in Sequim and are now on display. A casting of the bone projectile point is also displayed.

More than 55,000 artifacts Daugherty helped to unearth at Ozette — which were buried in a landslide and preserved for hundreds of years in wet clay — are on display at the Makah Museum/Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay, or housed there.

In 2007, Daugherty got married in a replica of an Ozette village longhouse at Neah Bay.

Daugherty set a new standard for native and archaeological cooperation, said Allyson Brooks, state historic preservation officer.

“He really set the path for archaeologists and Native Americans to work together instead of in opposition,” she said.

Said Janine Ledford, the executive director of the Makah museum:

“He understood the collaboration between his scientists and the Makah community could be really beneficial,” she said, and he knew a partnership with the tribe and its elders was the best way to understand the remarkable discoveries he was making.

At the time, many archaeologists treated Native Americans as communities of the past.

“He understood they were still living entities,” said Brooks.

Daugherty brought Makah elders to the remote site for their cultural insights and employed younger tribal members, teaching them about archaeology while they taught his field students bits of Makah history — where to dig for clams, how to play traditional games.

“There was this exchange taking place during the 1970s . . . that really enriched all parties,” Ledford said.

Five longhouses

Daugherty had already surveyed the Ozette site and some 50 others along the coast when a winter storm in 1970 eroded a bank near Cape Alava, revealing five longhouses buried by a landslide, possibly from a huge, magnitude-9 earthquake in 1700.

The site had been occupied continuously for at least 2,000 years before it was abandoned in the 1920s when the federal government forced the last remaining inhabitants to move 20 miles to Neah Bay so their children could attend school.

Called to the site by Ed Claplanhoo, a Makah tribal leader and WSU graduate (who died March 14, 2010), Daugherty saw the first artifacts of an enormous trove preserved in the oxygen-free environment of wet clay — a canoe paddle, wooden halibut hooks, a harpoon shaft, wooden house planks.

A village soon emerged as dozens of scientists, students and locals focused on three longhouses that yielded 1,424 arrow shafts, 103 bows, 110 harpoon shafts, 1,000 baskets, 13 looms, perfectly preserved cedar rope, whale bones and more.

It became the largest, most complex archaeological site in the Northwest.

“Anyone who takes a college class in archaeology covers the Ozette site,” Ledford said.

The site yielded numerous insights into Makah culture.

The people had long been whalers, for example, and whale bones were everywhere in the dig.

But the Makah also ate fur seal, sea lion, halibut, waterfowl and various berries.

Many insights came in consultation with elders as the archaeologists tapped them to identify the meaning and uses of mysterious objects.

“If you work in partnership, you can't have a better way of gaining the cultural side, because they” — the natives — “are the experts on the cultural side,” said Dale Croes, WSU adjunct faculty member and president of Pacific Northwest Archaeological Services.

As part of the archaeologists' partnership with the Makah, Croes had to learn basket weaving from the elders.

“I probably learned more in that semester than any graduate class here,” Croes said.

His doctoral dissertation is one of nine produced from the site.

Blimp pilot

Daugherty was born in Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County.

He served in World War II as a blimp pilot stationed in Lakehurst, N.J., looking for enemy ships and submarines off the East Coast.

He earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from the University of Washington and taught anthropology at Washington State University for several years.

After finishing his doctorate in ethnography at UW, he became an assistant professor at WSU.

At various times over nearly 30 years, he served as a department chair, director of the WSU Laboratory of Archaeology and History, and director of the Washington Archaeological Research Center.

Many of his graduate students were women, with “Daugherty's Daughters” going on to serve in the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and private archaeological services.

In addition to his work in Sequim, he was lead investigator on an excavation of the Marmes rockshelter before it was inundated by waters behind the Snake River's Lower Monumental Dam.

The state's only archaeological national historic landmark, it had the oldest set of human remains in North America when it was investigated.

Daugherty was the principal investigator of a burial site at the mouth of the Palouse River where a Jefferson “peace medal” was found.

The medal was one of fewer than 90 carried by Lewis and Clark on their journey to the Northwest in 1805.

In 1971, at the request of the Nez Perce tribe and on Daugherty's recommendation, WSU gave the medal to the tribe.

National reputation

Daugherty raised his three children at archaeological digs, living in army tents every summer along the Snake River as he led graduate students on excavations.

Daugherty's legacy also includes his work at the national level, making sure that archaeological sites were protected under the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.

And he used history to determine where ancient Native American sites were likely to be located, which helped protect them from harm in construction projects and other work.

Daugherty was preceded in death by his first wife, Phyllis.

He is survived by Ruth Kirk, who he married in Neah Bay, and three children: Melinda Beasley of Pullman; Carol Ewen of Pendleton, Ore.; and Rick Daugherty of Ellensburg; as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

His family plans a gathering of friends, family and colleagues in the spring.

Memorial donations may be made to the Phyllis and Richard Daugherty Scholarship for Graduate Student Excellence in Anthropology at WSU or the Makah Museum/Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay.

Last modified: March 01. 2014 7:15PM
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