Richard Daugherty expected to spend a few months excavating Makah Tribe artifacts uncovered by a storm in 1970.
Instead, he spent 11 years helping the Makah uncover their history at the Ozette village site, leading one of the most well-known and nationally significant archaeological discoveries of the last century.
“Doc” Daugherty, as he was known by many of the Makah, died Saturday in Pullman of bone cancer, at age 91.
The artifacts he helped to unearth — which were buried in a landslide and preserved for hundreds of years in wet clay — are on display at Neah Bay, on the Makah Reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. An additional 50,000 artifacts are in storage, in the tribe’s possession.
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Dr. Daugherty was ahead of his time, said Janine Ledford, the executive director of the Makah Cultural and Resource Center.
“He understood the collaboration between his scientists and the Makah community could be really beneficial,” she said, and he knew a partnership with the tribe and its elders was the best way to understand the remarkable discoveries he was making.
“He did a beautiful job of bringing ancestors to life for the people of today,” said state archaeologist Allyson Brooks. “His work was also foundational as far as our understanding of Pacific Northwest Native American history.”
At the time, many archaeologists treated Native Americans as communities of the past. “He understood they were still living entities,” said Brooks.
Dr. Daugherty brought Makah elders to the remote site for their cultural insights and employed younger tribal members, teaching them about archaeology while they taught his field students bits of Makah history — where to dig for clams, how to play traditional games.
“There was this exchange taking place during the 1970s … that really enriched all parties,” Ledford said.
An Aberdeen native, Dr. Daugherty served in World War II as a blimp pilot stationed on the East Coast.
He earned a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Washington and taught anthropology at Washington State University for several years.
When he finished his doctorate in ethnography at the UW, he became an assistant professor at WSU.
Though most known for his years of work on the Ozette site, he also worked on dozens of excavations all over the state.
He was lead investigator on an excavation of the Marmes rockshelter, uncovering the oldest set of human remains in North America at the time it was excavated. It is now the state’s only archaeological national historic landmark.
At a burial site on the Palouse River, investigators working under Dr. Daugherty discovered a peace medal carried by Lewis and Clark.
Dr. Daugherty raised his three children at archaeological digs, living in Korean Army tents every summer along the Snake River, leading graduate students on excavations.
“It was quite an adventure,” said his oldest child, Melinda Beasley. She compared her memories to episodes of “M.A.S.H.”
“He was the guy,” she said. “If someone found something in their backyard, digging a swimming pool, we got a call.”
Dr. Daugherty’s legacy also includes his work at the national level, making sure that archaeological sites were protected under the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act.
And he used history to determine where ancient Native American sites were likely to be located, which helped protect them from harm in construction projects and other work.
Dr. Daugherty was preceded in death by his first wife, Phyllis. He is survived by his wife, Ruth Kirk, of Lacey, and three children: Beasley, of Pullman; Carol Ewen, of Pendleton, Ore.; and Rick Daugherty, of Ellensburg; as well as five grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
His family plans a gathering of friends, family and colleagues in the spring.
Memorial donations may be made to the Phyllis and Richard Daugherty Scholarship for Graduate Student Excellence in Anthropology at WSU or the Makah Cultural and Research Center.
Emily Heffter: 206-464-8246 or email@example.com. On Twitter: @EmilyHeffter