Northwest New Mexico Site Stewards Rock

5/11/2021

Archaeologist-trained site stewards commit to preservation activities that document any destruction and vandalism to local Navajo and ancestral Puebloan sites in San Juan County. By Donna K. Hewett. Sponsored by Artifacts 302 and Traegers.

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San Juan county's back country hides treasured artifacts. Hundreds of historic Navajo, and ancestral Puebloan sites quietly rest, mostly intact, thanks to the maintenance of local archeologists

and the volunteer site stewards they train. You're watching the Local News Network brought to you by Traegers and Artifacts 302. I'm Wendy Graham Settle. The Bureau of Land Management initiated the Northwest New Mexico site stewards program to protect precious archeology sites in the region. The San Juan County Museum Association administers the program. Site steward's co-president and local archeologist, Linda Wheelbarger says that volunteers also want to enlighten the public about the cultural significance of the sites.

We here in New Mexico, are blessed with thousands and thousands, perhaps even millions of archeological sites. And in particular, in our area, San Juan County and Rio Arriba counties in particular, there are, we are here in the homeland of both Puebloan and Navajo cultures. So we have many, many, many sites here.

Want to be stewards undertake a full day training session that first includes a four hour morning lab to go over rules and safety regulations. Volunteers then take a rocky 45 minute drive east to Largo Canyon, and then to a tributary called Jesus Canyon for an afternoon of thrilling finds.

The organization regularly monitors 150 sites for potential damages due to vandalism or the ravages of nature.

We just monitor primarily the sites that are very visible to the public, which those two consists of rock art and structures that have masonry. The Mason restructures in our area are predominantly Navajo defensive structures which are also called Pueblitos. The rock art is comprised of both Navajo and Puebloan cultures.

When certified, stewards are assigned one site to inspect, be it once a month, or at least twice a year. They're rewarded with an archeologists inside of Dene history that few laypersons comprehend.

We live in this beautiful, beautiful country with canyons and mesas. And these sites are numerous and it's just a joy to travel those back roads, which are mostly oil and gas roads, that go into this country that very few people live in. And there are spectacular views on top of Ensonata Mesa, Largo Canyon, Carrizo Canyon. Some of the people who have lived here for a long time are familiar with those canyons but many people who see farm in the city of Farmington, just go, well, there's nothing much here but that's because they don't know about our back country, which is absolutely marvelous.

Anyone who has an interest in preservation can volunteer as a site steward. Additional land management training activities such as para archeology, surveying and mapping are also offered. To sign up for future training dates, go to nwnhss@gmail.com. Thanks for watching the local news network serving San Juan County in Northwest New Mexico and Southwest Colorado. I'm Wendy Graham Settle.

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