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Digging for preservation

I spent day four of the Carden Bottoms Excavation being a sponge.

I absorbed any and all information I came across and it made me think of something an Osage participant said to me on the very first day – you never stop learning.

I didn’t realized how right she was until today.

I learned just how important the excavation is, who it was important to and for what reasons.

It took a lot of exploring, a little bit of digging and much understanding to figure it out, but I think I got it.

A small group of us drove up Petit Jean Mountain, the mountain that overlooks the Bottoms, and there we explored a number of beautiful scenery.

We saw bridges, waterfalls, and hiked trails but most importantly we saw “Rock Art.”

Rock Art, as it is known here, is the symbols or art drawn on rocks in the mountains that is said to be that of the unknown Native Americans who once lived in the Carden Bottoms.

Archeologists connected the possible Native people to the rock art based on the decorations on pottery found years ago.

The drawings found on the rocks were the same as the ones found on the pots of an earlier excavation.

Also based on the rock art, pottery and other artifacts found, archeologists were further able to make the connection of the artifacts found to the Quapaw, Caddo and Osage people.

The Rock Art was vibrant and interesting. Some say the ones found are of visions and depicted various worlds the tribes believe existed and others say they were images of the people’s surroundings.

But why is it important to find out who the people who lived in the Carden Bottoms were? Why dig in their trash pits and find out how they live? Why put so much time and effort into digging one hole after another?

There are actually a lot of reasons.

For some, the excavation is a way to a degree, for all others they enjoy the chase of finding nearly impossible answers, for another group it might be just to scratch the curious itch.

But to the Osages, it would mean a couple of things.

It could preserve their culture and help them better understand their history.

If it turns out the Osage people once occupied the Carden Bottoms there could be a change in their current knowledge of their history.

If it turns out the Osages once occupied the Bottoms, they might learn more about their history, or even rewrite it and they could learn a lot more about the relationships they may have had with other tribes.

Who knew that by sifting through dirt one could find so much history and information?

In my four days I’ve learned about the significance of the dig and how the many people on site tie into it.

While sifting through dirt and spending time scraping the walls in a trench, I was able to talk to other participants in the excavation who had been doing it for years.

A couple were volunteers who were retired or enjoyed spending time being archeologists.

One person once worked at the local nuclear plant and another was the captain of a fire department.

Others were archeologists who enjoyed being in the field.

And there was me.

Like everyone else I was there for information, there to tell the Osages about the progress in the excavation of where their ancestors may have once lived.

Being a Native American myself I believe in the importance of preserving culture, whether it’s through word of mouth and teaching young children or continuing to participate in historical activities like herding sheep.

And there’s one thing I’ve learned for sure, the Osage people are very fortunate to have people like the ones on the excavation who are interested in preserving what could be their history, even if they say they’re just there to play in the dirt.