Learning the way of an archaeologist

Getting dirt under your fingernails and shoveling in the muggy weather in July might not be the average teenager's ideal summer vacation, but for some, the opportunity is endless. The Oneida Nation Work Learn Program has been providing kids between the ages of 13 and 21 with numerous occupational summer activities for about 10 years. Today Thursday July 23, youth participating in the program were on site to show their findings to the Canastota Youth Enrichment Program that stopped by to take a peak at the progress.

Teenagers between 13 and 15 years old have been taking part in a two-week archeological dig on the Great Swamp Conservancy's land in Canastota. The Oneida Nation and the conservancy have been working in unison on archaeological digs for about 16 years.

The idea for digs on the land across the street from the conservancy office came about after Great Swamp Conservancy Director Mike Patane plowed the field and discovered something more than fresh cut grass.

"After I finished plowing, it rained," Patane said. "I saw flint, which becomes very distinctive when it's wet."

Flint, also known as chirt, turned out to be mildly abundant within the soil of the land. Patane said he wasted no time and made calls to conservancy members and the Oneida Nation to see that the conservancy had full support to conduct digs on site.

"I though it would be a good project," Patane said. "After a few digs, there definitely was evidence of the nation."

There has been discussion on sending some of the larger findings such as pottery, arrowheads and pipe stems to a research lab that can better identify the origin and age. If this were to be decided upon, Oneida Nation Historic Resources Specialist Jesse Bergevin would find an appropriate lab for the artifact so that the conservancy would get the best results for their finding. Artifacts discovered at the current dig will be given to Bergevin for cataloging and research. The more significant discoveries may be displayed in the future at the Shako:wi Cultural Education Center at the Oneida Indian Nation.

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