We would like to welcome Deborah Stevenson as our next guest blogger. Deborah is Curator of Education at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City, Nevada.

The Nevada State Museum in Carson City conducted four full days of Project Archaeology: Investigating Shelter as part of our Fall Tour Volunteer Tour Guide Training, September 15-16 and 22-23, 2010.  Museum volunteer, Gail Omohundro, assisted me in planning and implementing the presentations.  Gail and I, both of whom had the privilege of attending Project Archaeology Leadership Academy in Bozeman, Montana on scholarships, were anxious to test out the curriculum.  We strategized that it would be wise to try out the lessons with our volunteers before launching into a full-scale teacher training program.

Barbara Dodgion making cordage

Native Nevadan, Barbara Dodgion, who has been volunteering at the museum for seven years, thoroughly enjoyed the new curriculum.  “The training is always wonderful,” she said, “but Project Archaeology was the best ever!”  Volunteer Susan Bunker-Niles added, “I loved the interaction and hands-on activities.  The program allowed me to bond with the other volunteers.  By working in small groups, I was able to learn interesting things about the family histories and backgrounds of the other guides—things I would never have known without Project Archaeology.  As a retired school teacher, I am excited about the opportunity to take this information into the classroom through our museum outreach program.”

Presentations by two Master Northern Paiute artists, Mike Williams and Marlin Thompson, brought everything together by highlighting the living connection with the prehistoric past.  Both demonstrations were funded in partnership with the Folklife Program of the Nevada Arts Council.

N. Paiute Master Artist, Marlin Thompson, showing baskets, cordage, and native plants to Pat Atkinson, Nevada Arts Council’s Folklife Coordinator, who attended the training.

We combined Mike Williams’ tule duck decoy demonstration with our children’s program, Wild and Wonderful Wetlands.  The wetland program is interdisciplinary, combining a study of the natural sciences (insects, birds, mammals, ecosystems) with anthropology, both prehistoric and historic.  Our tour guides worked directly with students from Bordewich-Bray Elementary to interpret the wetland portion of our Under One Sky Native American exhibit and to assist the kids in making miniature cattail ducks.  The kids were absolutely in awe of Williams’ commanding presence and depth of spirituality, as well as his exquisite skill in fashioning duck decoys out of tule (bulrush).

Volunteers Alyce Dickson and Ginger May examine a Paiute basket and learn Paiute words for “wickiup.”

Marlin Thompson, a singer, drummer, artist, and native plant use specialist, presented Traditional Paiute Arts on the final day of training.  His knowledge really augmented our discussions of Paiute winter shelters and artifacts associated with them.  Thompson asked us to use the N. Paiute word “nobii” for summer house and “kahnii” for winter house, rather than the more generic term “wickiup.”  He shared many Paiute words associated with hunting and gathering, including native words for medicinal plants and artifacts associated with hunting technologies.

Several months after the training, the museum had the opportunity to teach a segment of Project Archaeology, using the classification exercises and “do-hickey” kits, plus a map of a Paiute shelter in the Great Basin.  4th and 5th graders from Bordewich-Bray Elementary (our pet school because it is within walking distance) learned to love archaeology as a science rather than an Indiana Jones myth.  However, finding that the kids could not relate to the paper cut-outs of grinding stones, bifaces, etc., we now incorporate unprovenienced artifacts into the lessons, as we have always done with our Under One Sky tours.

We tested our revised methodology in Project Archaeology Revisited at the January 2011 Volunteer Tour Guide Training.  The photo below shows me getting ready to demonstrate the mano and metate while volunteers pass around a bag of projectile points. Our Curator of Anthropology, Dr. Gene Hattori, was also available to answer questions (right):

Deborah Stevenson demonstrating the mano and metate

Dr. Gene Hattori answering questions

Due to mandatory state budget restrictions, our museum staff members have been on part-time status for nearly two years and the museum is only open Wednesday – Saturday, instead of seven days a week. Nevertheless, we hope to work closely with BLM archaeologist, Bryan Hockett, to implement a teacher training program in Project Archaeology here at the Nevada State Museum by the summer of 2012.

If you would like more information on the upcoming Project Archaeology workshop in Nevada please contact Deborah Stevenson at DStevenson@nevadaculture.org. If you would like more information on the upcoming Project Archaeology Leadership Academy please contact Kathy Francisco at kfrancisco@montana.edu.