Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month Legislation!

Following the success of Tennessee’s State Artifact legislation and re-launch of Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month celebrations in 2014, the Tennessee Council for Professional Archaeology was keen to preserve legislative momentum and further promote the unique archaeological heritage of our state going into 2015. At the January 2015 annual Business Meeting, TCPA Executive Board member and head of the Legislative Committee Jared Barrett proposed that TCPA contact lawmakers and promote new legislation codifying September as Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month. The membership voted and agreed TCPA should move forward with this initiative.

Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month grew out of Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Week, which beginning in 1996 took place in September in order to incorporate the Archaeofest event at Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park. Over the years Archaeological Awareness celebrations have included the efforts of numerous professional and avocational archaeologists, and reached thousands of citizens. However, there has been no official legislative recognition of the event.

In addition to the traditional Archaeological Awareness celebration, two other factors led the Executive Board to identify September for the Archaeology Awareness Month legislation. In 2013 and 2014, September was named “American Indian Heritage Month.” This fits nicely with the archaeological celebration and acknowledgement of centuries of Native American contributions to Tennessee history. Secondly, in July of 2013 the State of Tennessee Board of Education approved new statewide Social Studies standards. The first unit for 4th grade Social Studies under the new standards is “The Land and People before European Exploration,” in which students learn to “Describe the legacy and cultures of the major indigenous settlements in Tennessee,” beginning with the first PaleoAmerican settlers and extending through historic Native American tribes. This unit is covered at the beginning of the school year, extending into September.

Jared approached Senator Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro (District 13), who agreed to sponsor the Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month bill. Ketron enlisted the support of Representative Steve McDaniel of Parkers Crossroads (District 72). Together they introduced SB0170/HB0313, which reads: “Naming and Designating – As introduced, designates the month of September as ‘Tennessee Archaeology Awareness Month’ to encourage citizens to learn more about prehistoric and historic archaeology in Tennessee.” This legislation amends TCA Title 4, Chapter 1, Part 4, the portion of the Tennessee Code that also designates statewide celebrations including Tennessee Genealogy Month and Women in STEM Month.

The Archaeology Awareness Month bill has now been introduced to both the Tennessee House and Senate. You can track the progress of the bill online at the General Assembly Bill Search page.