Fort Riley and Kansas State University will partner up to survey long untouched land within the installation. The two organizations signed their first intergovernmental support agreement with one another May 13 in the K-State Alumni Center.
Archaeology experts and students from the university will be able to work with the post’s cultural resources archaeologist, providing their expertise while gaining field experience. Fort Riley Garrison Commander Col Stephen Shrader says the partnership with KSU is significant and that they can’t do what they do without the support of the community, including their 101 partner organizations.
“Installation Management Command is taking this particular type of archaeological intergovernmental support agreement and saying ‘hey, we’re going to export this out and share it with all the other installations and say you need to look for these same kinds of opportunities that Fort Riley has found with K-State,'” Shrader says.
Executive Director of the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs Art DeGroat calls the agreement to share intellectual capital historical.
“These are relationships that don’t just naturally form on their own, they have to be curated,” says DeGroat. “This IGSA is a real, real big step towards enhancing the university’s resource portfolio in defense-related and military-related things.”
Though the first IGSA between the two groups, Vice President for Research Peter Dorhout says the relationship has existed for decades.
“As Professor [Lauren] Ritterbush would tell us, this research is critical to our understanding of all of those ancestors who came before us and have put into our cultural perspectives the value of human existence that has existed for millennia here in this part of the world,” says Dorhout.
Much of what the surveying will be for is evidence of Native artifacts and prehistoric settlements on parts of the post. If something is found upon a visual survey, a more in depth study will take place. If the survey team discovers a significant archaeological site and the State of Kansas agrees regarding its cultural and historical significance, Fort Riley Conservation Branch Chief Alan Hynek says they most often set aside the site for preservation.
All federal agencies are subject to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990. This creates a process for governmental organizations to consult with tribal governments and other Native organizations and individuals to identify the cultural background of their discoveries as well as possibly repatriate the artifacts.
“We’ve got 21 tribes that we work with — two of those almost every day — their input goes into this,” Hynek says. “They’ve helped us along the way to know what to look for, sometimes it’s not in a book. They’ve told us things that have just been passed down by generations and it’s like ‘we didn’t think about that.'”
Outside of the IGSA, KSU and Fort Riley have been in their current partnership for 11 years. Recently, U.S. Veterans Magazine named KSU a 2019 top veteran-friendly school.