DOINews: BLM-New Mexico: Archaeologist Jim Copeland Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Last edited 09/05/2019

Jim Copeland standing between his daughter and wife.
BLM-Farmington's lead archeologist, Jim Copeland, poses for family photo after receiving a lifetime achievement award from the state of New Mexico's Historic Preservation Division in May 2012. (From left, Copeland's daughter, Shandiin; Copeland, and his wife, Denise.) BLM's Jim Copeland and others standing beside a canyon wall filled with rock art
Wearing his signature cowboy hat, BLM-Farmington archeologist Jim Copeland explains Navajo rock art to youth while giving a tour of Crow Canyon in Farmington, N.M. Photo by BLM.

Jim Copeland, an archeologist with the BLM-Farmington Field Office in New Mexico, has won a lifetime achievement award from the state of New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. Copeland, BLM-Farmington's lead archaeologist since 1990, won recognition for his 36 years of devotion to cultural resources and for sharing his knowledge with the community.

"Jim's dedication to the cultural resource program of the Farmington area is exemplary and most deserving of this recognition," said Dave Evans, BLM-Farmington's district manager.

Born in Virginia to a military family, Copeland said he remembers finding his first artifact — an obsidian arrowhead — when he was in second grade in California. He said he first knew he wanted to be an archaeologist when he was a sophomore in high school but didn't find the area where he would spend more than 30 years until he arrived in Durango, Colo., in 1972 to attend Fort Lewis College.

Following college, Copeland worked in areas throughout the Southwest; and in 1990, he discovered the uniqueness of the Farmington area when coming to work for the BLM.

"Much of what's out there in terms of early Navajo history and archaeology is found nowhere else in the American Southwest," he said of Largo Canyon, N.M. "What's out there is tens if not hundreds of thousands of archaeological sites ranging from very old 6,000- to 8,000-year-old campsites to Navajo defensive sites built in the 1700s to protect themselves from other Native American groups," he said.

Copeland shares his passion for archaeology with youth, the local and regional level of the Boy Scouts of America, and the public.

Often times, he wears his signature cowboy hat as he explains Navajo rock art. "When I'm out there giving a tour or showing people around," he said, "I'll share with them what I know about the Navajo rock art which is spectacular."

One of Copeland's favorite projects is his work with the Chaco roads, or "glorified foot trails," that connect Chaco Culture National Historical Park with other historic structures, including Aztec Ruins, Salmon Ruins, and Mesa Verde. Most of these roads are short, less than two miles long, Copeland said, and link buildings with religious structures or sacred land.

Copeland's field work includes extensive archaeological surveys and excavations for the Navajo Nation, Mesa Verde, Colorado, USDA Forest Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, in addition to his work at BLM. He has guided the Northwest Chapter of the volunteer SiteWatch Program to high achievement levels and community involvement. Copeland also assisted with criminal investigations of looting and vandalism of cultural sites.

By: Theresa Herrera, public affairs specialist, New Mexico State Office, BLM

June 20, 2012

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BLM-New Mexico

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