California Archaelogical Site Steward Program

The California Archaeological Site Stewardship Program (CASSP) is a network of concerned people committed to protecting California’s rich cultural heritage. The program uses professional archaeologists and trained volunteers as stewards to monitor sites throughout the state. Stewards promote protection through monitoring, education, research, and public awareness. Their presence enhances the preservation of California’s cultural resources for all. The goals for CASSP are:

  • To protect and to preserve prehistoric and historic archaeological resources for the purposes of conservation, scientific study, interpretation, and public appreciation.
  • To increase public knowledge and awareness of the significance and value of cultural resources.
  • To support the understanding of national, state, and local preservation laws.
  • To support the recordation and to provide the on-going physical record of the site to assist with permanent site management.

The CASSP motto is “Caring, Sharing, and Protecting.” The Society for California Archaeology (SCA) sponsors CASSP and works with several agencies and organizations to implement this program. CASSP partners include: Department of the Interior–Bureau of Land Management, California State Office; California Office of Historic Preservation; California Native American Heritage Commission; Discovery Works, Inc; Imperial Valley College Desert Museum; Maturango Museum; and the Society for California Archaeology. CASSP provides training to organize local groups of volunteer site stewards. Volunteers must attend two days of training and sign an ethics and confidentiality agreement before they become site stewards. Volunteers first attend an eight-hour workshop, where they review the local archaeology, history, and natural history; learn about Native American views concerning archaeology sites; study safety issues, and learn about the goals, methods, and operations of CASSP. Lunch is provided at the training site, which gives volunteers an opportunity to informally share their backgrounds and experiences. CASSP also provides the training notebooks, videos, and other workshop materials, but local experts, including the group’s coordinating archaeologist, provide the specific local information needed by the volunteers. If a volunteer signs the ethics and confidentiality agreement, then he or she can participate in the second part of the training–a field trip with the coordinating archaeologist to the site that the volunteer will be monitoring. The second part of the training is very important because it provides hands-on training to the volunteer, and it gives both the volunteer and the coordinating archaeologist the experience of working together.

In 1999, with the initial grant from the Bureau of Land Management, teams of site stewards were formed in Ridgecrest and El Centro. These volunteers are regularly visiting and recording their observations on more than 50 archaeological sites that have been open to public visitation, but were not monitored. On May 13, 2000, CASSP will organize another team of volunteers to monitor archaeological and historical sites in the Bishop area. BLM archaeologist Kirk Halford will serve as the coordinating archaeologist for this team. CASSP is pleased to offer this training at the Owens Valley Paiute Community Center.

In 2000, CASSP will seek outside funding to extend our program to other areas of the state. We are looking for professional archaeologists to work with trained volunteers and we are looking for interested individuals to volunteer as site stewards. To learn more about CASSP, please contact Beth Padon, program coordinator, at (949) 733-1915, or by email at, or by regular mail at Discovery Works, P O Box 51476, Irvine CA 92619.