Dave Cooper awarded John L. Cotter Award for Excellence in NPS Archeology

David Cooper wearing a hat and smiling

August 29, 2022

(NPS News Release) Join us in congratulating David J. Cooper, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Archeologist and Cultural Resource Manager, in being awarded the John L. Cotter Award for Excellence in NPS Archeology for Professional Achievement.

“Dave Cooper’s work shows the impact one person can have not only within a park, but across a whole landscape,” said Apostle Islands National Lakeshore Superintendent Lynne Dominy. “Dave has spent his lifetime protecting the historical and cultural resources on and around Lake Superior. From portages to fish camps to lighthouses and shipwrecks, Dave carefully documented and communicated the human interactions and influences on the islands, shorelines, and lake beds of Lake Superior.”

As an archaeologist for the state of Wisconsin, Dave founded the state underwater archaeology program, initiated surveys of historic Great Lakes shipwrecks, and played a lead role in locating, protecting, and educating the public about submerged resources in Lake Superior. He also helped establish the U.S. Navy’s first underwater archeology program. At Grand Portage National Monument, Dave worked with Grand Portage Anishinaabeg members to revolutionize understanding of the park’s eight and half mile portage use prior to the fur trade era. At Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, he led the restoration efforts for the park lighthouses which today are the best-preserved collection of historic lighthouses in the National Park Service.

“Dave is a big picture thinker who understands the importance of working across Federal and State agencies, with Tribal nations, with local communities and park partners to steward our historical resources and cultural landscapes,” added Dominy. “He knows that people care deeply about their heritage and these historic places because these places continue the connections between people and the Lake Superior landscape. People are a vital part of this place.”

Whether working as a boat operator, wildland fire-fighter, Search and Rescue Team member, diver, youth mentor, or program manager, Cooper enlightens his audience by creating access to information but also to lifeways, people, and landscapes. He makes this information relevant to vastly diverse audiences, all while making real the connection that the past has to the present and future. A letter in support of the nomination put it best: “Every park deserves to have a Dave Cooper.”

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