November is National American Indian Heritage Month. For hundreds of generations American Indians have called this land home. In some places, the achievements of ancient cultures are visible on the landscape in surviving architecture of stone, adobe, or earth. More often, the remains of materials are underground and out of sight. In either case, the methods and techniques of archeology are used to illuminate the past and help us better understand it.
Sometimes the clues to a site's location are right on the surface, like the earthworks of the Mississippi valley, or eroding out of the ground as with Alagnak Village in Katmai NP&P in Alaska. At the other extreme are sites deeply buried, such as the sites discovered near the Potomac River in the C&O Canal NHP in Maryland. The search may take place high in the mountains, or in the middle of Washington, DC.
In many cases, archeologists and American Indians work together to preserve and protect the important legacy represented by ancient sites, as with the cooperative work at Brooks River Cut Bank, also at Katmai. Many communities find that archeology is important to them.
Preserving and protecting archeological places and their collections and records are ways of honoring the past and giving ourselves the opportunity to learn from it. Some sites are formally recognized as nationally important, such as National Historic Landmarks associated with the earliest Americans in the eastern U.S., and the Coso Rock Art District in California.
When archeological sites are in danger of being destroyed, sometimes the best response is to rebury them, as at Chaco Culture National Historical Park. Preserving the records from over a century of excavation takes some effort too, as the Chaco Digital Initiative shows. Explore some of the extraordinary objects recovered by browsing through on online exhibit of the Chaco museum collections.
You can visit many places to celebrate the achievements of American Indians and Alaska Natives and gain a sense of the long history of this land. Explore Visit Archeology for some ideas for a trip. Also be sure to visit your National Parks! Teachers will want to use some of the Teaching with Historic Places lesson plans on American Indian History.
Did you know?
The national parks are home to a wide variety of research and educational projects. Our Projects in the Parks series touches on all aspects of archeology, including site survey, analysis, curation, consultation, education, technology, and ongoing efforts to recover sites being destroyed by erosion.
One recent project looks at lakeside villages and associated rock art in the Brooks Range, Alaska. Archeologists from the University of Alaska Museum and the NPS recently worked at three unique prehistoric lakeside village sites in northwestern Alaska. The sites contain large, rock-lined communal structures and dozens of petroglyphs, making them unique for Alaska. Emerging threats from erosion, natural disturbances, and vandalism led researchers to document and evaluate the sites, shedding light on their mysteries and while enhancing their preservation. Learn more >>
Projects in the Parks also highlights the value of the National Parks as repositories of the raw data of the past, and the dedication of the people who protect, recover, and interpret those resources for our children and for those who are yet to come. Learn more >>
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Archeology E-gram Newsletter
Archeology E-Gram, distributed via e-mail on a regular basis, includes announcements about news, new publications, training opportunities, national and regional meetings, and other important goings-on related to public archeology in the NPS and other public agencies. Recipients are encouraged to forward Archeology E-Grams to colleagues and relevant mailing lists. The illustrated Archeology E-Gram is available on the News and Links page on the NPS Archeology Program website.