By Erika Malo, Project Archaeology Program Lead

a photo of Erika in her canoe on the Smith River with cliffs in the background.

Erika in her canoe on the Smith River. Photo by Angie Weikert.

I just came back from an incredible journey down the Smith River in Montana. When my husband received the heavily sought-after river permit, I wasn’t sure I would go. I decided to embark on this adventure in a solo canoe after some discussion and help from my wonderful mother-in-law. Seriously, this woman is AMAZING! She looked after my daughter, two elderly dogs, and ten chickens while I was gone. Paddling solo meant that I had to pay attention to the river, its currents, and its challenges. It also meant I needed a buddy or team to help me make it down the river. When I made it to the end, I had learned a lot, established incredible partnerships, and felt fulfilled. Little did I know, but my experience would be very similar to my time at Project Archaeology.

A photo of National Archaeology Educator’s conference speakers RunningHorse Livingston from Mathematize, Inc and David O’Connor from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction. Project Archaeology Iowa State Coordinator Elizabeth Reetz and Erika Malo.

National Archaeology Educator’s Conference speakers RunningHorse Livingston from Mathematize, Inc. (left) and David O’Connor from the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction (right). Project Archaeology Iowa State Coordinator Elizabeth Reetz (second from left) and Erika Malo (second from right). Photo from Elizabeth Reetz.

You all are what makes Project Archaeology so special. It is the network of committed people that motivated me to do my best every day. I do not think I can say thank you enough! Whether it is delivering workshops in your communities, mentoring educators, reviewing materials for the Nationa Office, or inspiring learners, you step up to the plate to go above and beyond. Your passion for Project Archaeology helps us fulfill our mission in diverse learning environments across America.

Teamwork on the river. Photo by Brad Hammerquist.

My time at Project Archaeology has taught me about the value of partnership. We do not change the world with archaeology alone. Our partnership with the Bureau of Land Management is essential to creating future stewards and providing high-quality curricula and training. Each curriculum is created with a team of experts that work together to create the content. Getting to witness this collaborative partnership is something that I will take with me throughout the rest of my life. Like my partners on the river, I would not have navigated the last few years without their assistance. I am thankful for their continued support and investment in Project Archaeology.

Thank you for your partnership, support, and commitment. It has been an honor to serve you these last five years. I can’t wait to see what is down the river for Project Archaeology!

My last day is June 11th. You can send communication to Kate Hodge ( or 406-994-7582) until a new Program Lead is hired