HETTINGER – A western North Dakota farm where artifacts dating up to 7,500 years old were found won’t get wind turbines in a new project slated for next year.
Tetra Tech, a firm hired by Allete Clean Energy, conducted a cultural resources survey on Celestine (Sally) Slater’s farm in 2013 in Adams County near Hettinger while considering the location for a Thunder Spirit Wind Energy Center wind turbine.
Adam Holven, a senior archaeologist and project manager for Tetra Tech, wrote the 89-year-old Slater, who is now in a nursing home, a letter to inform her of the findings in September 2014. Slater doesn’t remember receiving the letter, but her son, Larry Slater, recently came across the artifacts.
Enclosed within the letter was a manilla envelope containing five projectile points and two end scrapers. The end scrapers were thought to be used for carcass or hide scraping, according to the official site form.
The Thunder Spirit Wind Energy Center is a collection of 43 wind turbines north of Hettinger that produces 107 megawatts, according to Mark Hanson, spokesman for Montana-Dakota Utilities. When Allete Clean Energy was considering sites for the original turbines, they conducted several archaeological surveys to identify culturally sensitive areas, which is done through the state historical preservation office.
“We signed a power purchase agreement with Allete Clean Energy, and they are going to be constructing that portion (14 to 16 new turbines),” Hanson said.
The 16 turbines slated to be built in May 2018 will provide an additional 48 megawatts, and there will be more surveys, Hanson said.
“How come they aren’t putting it in (the wind turbine on her land)?” Sally Slater asked. “The whole neighborhood got one and we got nothing. We’ve been wondering, too. Really got close and then they quit. I don’t know. Now they’re talking there might be some more.”
Paul Picha, chief archaeologist for the State Historical Society of North Dakota, said cultural resources surveys like the one done on Slater’s land prior to any new construction is a formality.
“Basically on those kind of projects, if there are artifacts found on private property, under the century code, the landowner would, unless they’re associated with a burial (ground). … it’s the landowner’s property,” Picha said.
According to the archeological site form, “based on the documented projectile points, this site may be associated with the Early Plains Archaic Tradition, which spans from 7,500 to 4,500 B.P. (before present). At this time, it is unknown whether the observed lithic scatter represents a single event or repeated use. The presence of broken projectile points and tools with heavy use may indicate the site was used for retooling after a hunting event or for carcass or hide processing.”
Sites that date to the time period of this particular find are uncommon for several reasons, Picha said.
“One of which is in other settings, they may be for example, deeply buried. … the population was not as large as it was later in time,” he said. “It’s an important location.”
Sally Slater purchased the land in 1948 from her grandpa. Her son, Larry Slater, has now taken over the family ranch.
Slater said she and her husband ran cattle and mainly grew wheat on the land for many years.
“We never paid much attention (to any artifacts), we were too busy working,” she said. “You gotta keep the money coming. Once and awhile we’d find a little one, but nobody got excited.”
Most of the artifacts were what is commonly referred to as oxbow, and some of the pieces are Knife River flint, Picha said.
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