Rawlins Field Office partners with Ft. Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes to train interns

Story by Bonni Bruce, Rawlins Field Office Archaeologist. Photos by Bonni Bruce and other archaeologists.

This summer, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Wyoming Rawlins Field Office archaeologists formed a unique partnership with the Ft. Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribal Historic Preservation Office to train Tribal interns in archaeological field methods on BLM-managed land.

Each day, the traditional cultural specialist (TCS) interns practiced these archaeological field methods in a different portion of the Between the Mountains Traditional Cultural Landscape in the Rawlins Field Office area in central Wyoming. The landscape encompasses 32 miles of unencumbered land with only a few low-profile fences and two tracks marring the viewshed toward the Shirley Mountains.

aerial view of the landscape the interns surveyed: a brown plain with mountains in the distance.
This is the area that the traditional cultural specialist interns surveyed this summer.

The weeklong training taught the Tribal interns how to locate and record archaeological sites and the importance of identifying native plants that have traditionally been used. Sites confirmed to be sacred to the Ft. Peck Tribes were documented, along with stone effigies identified as having clear ties to the night skies.

The training was important because it provided a new ecosystem for the interns to study. Instead of the high plains environment surrounding Fort Peck, the interns ventured into an intermontane sagebrush basin that represents traditional lands utilized by the Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes.

Five interns sitting under a large rock on a grassy surface.
The interns were from the Sioux and Assiniboine Tribes.

The TCS training idea was conceived by BLM Archaeologist Natasha Keierleber and Fort Peck’s Tribal Historic Preservation Officer Dyan Youpee. They spoke about the Between the Mountains Landscape and how Tribes and the BLM can assist each other in identifying sacred and respected places.

Keierleber applied for a grant to pay for the interns’ travel and per diem money. However, it became clear that no means to transmit payment to the Tribes had been established at the federal level. This posed a potential roadblock to the training program. Ultimately, Keierleber was able to have guest travel profiles set up through Concur.

Three interns can be seen in the far distance on a grassy plain with mountains in the background.
On the final day, the four budding traditional cultural specialist interns ventured out alone to practice identifying stone features and artifacts within the sacred landscape.

The goal is that the momentum from this training will be carried forward each summer, allowing Tribes to send representatives to train on BLM-managed land.