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Pemayetv Emahakv students explore the past during archaeological dig

Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School sixth-graders sift through dirt of a pre-reservation European homesite Dec. 17. The class traveled to the Brighton Reservation pasture being excavated by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office as part of a school field trip.
Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School sixth-graders sift through dirt of a pre-reservation European homesite Dec. 17. The class traveled to the Brighton Reservation pasture being excavated by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office as part of a school field trip.

BRIGHTON — Fortified with the spirit of adventure, 33 Pemayetv Emahakv Charter School sixth-graders approached an archaeological dig like treasure hunters. But instead of gold, they found evidence of human life from before Brighton became a reservation in 1935.

The Dec. 17 field trip marked the second year PECS teacher Mindy Wells took students to a pasture under excavation by the Tribal Historic Preservation Office. The site, a pre-reservation European homestead, was probably a two-room wooden house with a brick chimney.

Tribal archaeologist Maureen Mahoney said students enjoyed digging up old relics, which included animal bones and bricks. They were assigned to clean the artifacts and determine what type of bones they found to know what the homeowners ate.

“It’s always interesting when you find things someone left behind years ago and you try to piece together their lives,” Mahoney said. “We wanted the students to learn archaeological techniques which would help them to interpret the site.”

The site was divided into three stations: one for cleaning and sorting objects; another for digging and screening dirt; and a third for examining soil and mapping found bricks. Armed with small paintbrushes, chopsticks and skewers, students carefully cleaned and sorted the fragile artifacts.

“I always thought this was just a pasture, but then they found all this stuff there,” said Karey Gopher, 12.

Angelie Melton, 11, discovered a 2-inch long cow’s tooth while shaking dirt through a screen. According to several of her classmates, it was the coolest find of the day. Students also found plenty of turtle shell pieces, animal and fish bones, pieces of glass and old bricks. The house backed up to a pond, which accounts for the abundance of fish bones and turtle shells, the students concluded.

“They used to eat turtles and fish and left the bones where they ate,” Angelie said. “It looks like they sat anywhere to eat.”

Students learned about historic features of the time. Aleah Pritchard, 11, found a brick embossed with a date of 1875.

“They seemed to be civilized,” she said. “I liked learning about the layers of dirt and the different time periods. The deeper you went, the older the things were.”

Longtime Brighton resident and historian Willie Johns talked to students about growing up on the reservation and hunting with his friends in the pastures.

“He walked a lot and his mom let him shoot,” said Jaytron Baker, 12. “It would be hard to walk everywhere.”

The dig was more than just a fun outing for students; the lesson included all parts of the curriculum, including math, writing and science. The lesson will culminate in May with a trip to Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, where students will visit the archive rooms and witness how artifacts are preserved.

 

 

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Beverly Bidney
Beverly Bidney has been a reporter and photographer for The Seminole Tribune since 2012. During her career, she has worked at various newspapers around the country including the Muskogee Phoenix in Oklahoma, Miami Herald, Associated Press, USA Today and other publications nationwide. A NAJA award winning journalist, she has covered just about everything over the years and is an advocate for a strong press. Contact her at beverlybidney@semtribe.com.
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