Introduction: Nine Mile Canyon is referred to as "the world's longest art gallery" and is home to hundreds of archaeological sites, 63 of which are listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. Located outside of Price, Utah, it was home to various indigenous peoples as early as 6,000 A.D. with occupation continuing through historic times. Even though laws protect ancient artifacts, the rock art in Nine Mile Canyon continues to be at risk of vandalism. We believe that education is paramount in helping to prevent these types of destructive activities and protect the archaeological treasures, not only in Nine Mile Canyon, but everywhere they exist.
Our collaborative initiative believes young adults are key to the preservation and protection of our collective cultural resource legacy, and that we need to do a much better job at explaining why it is important. Project Discovery takes important steps toward that goal. We share the excitement of discovery, the intrigue of hands-on science and our collective stewardship of these resources with high school students, impacting their lives in immeasurable ways.
Project Discovery: Project Discovery is an archaeology-based program that works with high school age students and their teachers. It has three distinct phases: phase one begins with specific themed after school labs. Phase two begins in early summer where we conduct a weeklong Field School in Nine Mile Canyon. Phase three begins in September with a community-wide "open house" called Nine Mile Canyon Stewardship Day.
Nine Mile Canyon Stewardship Day: This event is designed to attract visitors to Nine Mile Canyon and provide them with an opportunity to learn about its natural and cultural history from site stewards. We purposefully overlay elements of history, preservation and protection, art, canyon advocacy, and experiential learning activities in situ. We strongly feel that by providing an experience for people that allows them to be in the immediate presence of a demanding landscape, actively participate in the ethereal wonderment of petroglyphs and pictographs, engage with canyon advocates and historians, discuss concepts and ideas with archaeologists, college students and high school age students, makes for a completely unique, rich and rewarding experience. The outcome we achieve is a visitor that has had a fun and fulfilling day, had a deepened sense of who the people were that came before them, and to begin to be able to formulate why it important to them to protect and preserve these types of human landscapes.
As visitors drive into the entrance to the canyon they will be greeted at a 'Welcome Table.' Here visitors receive a map of the canyon with correlated sites, a survey form, and their first chance to talk with Carbon County High School students. Visitors will then stop at seven different cultural sites where site stewards provide them with interpretation and educational activities that focus on the prehistoric peoples and the history and natural resources of the canyon. Visitors also learn how vandalism occurs, proper etiquette when visiting cultural sites, and steps they can take to ensure the protection of these sites. The stewardship team is composed of a Project Discovery student, an anthropology student, and a volunteer professional archaeologist or other canyon expert.
At the Nine Mile Canyon Ranch "hands-on" educational activities will further support and deepened the visitors' understanding of prehistoric peoples and their lives. Experts from the Antiquities Section of the State History Office will be on-hand to show visitors artifacts in education collections from the region and to talk about their significance, the Nine Mile Canyon Settlers Association will have a table set up where they talk about the canon's early pioneer and ranching history, the Nine Mile Canyon Coalition members will be present to talk about their work.
Visitors can engage in conversations about efforts to remove graffiti, and why it isn't removed in other places. Visitors can also take on the challenge of throwing an atlatl and grinding corn - daily tasks of the ancient inhabitants of the canyon. Visitors will have the opportunity to climb up a rocky slope, to sweat, to breath deeply, to observe the plants and evidence of animal life, and immerse themselves in the Canyon.
At each site visitors will encounter 'hosts' or interpreters. One of the hosts will be a Project Discovery high school student from Carbon County High School. That student will be mentored and supported by Project Discovery alumni and an anthropology grad student. A professional archaeologist, or other canyon expert will, in turn, mentor that group. The pairing of student/professional hosts is intentional. We do not want to put the high school students in any situation where they would be apprehensive, and we didn't want to invite the public to an event like Stewardship Day without offering them an expert with whom to talk with.
Public Education: An important aspect of the public benefit of Stewardship Day is the leadership role of the youth. Visitors to the canyon, youngsters and older adults alike, will interact with these non-traditional canyon advocates. They are compelling, and they are convincing. The youth have an ability to guide and direct others on a course of action, and they have a desire to influence the opinions and behavior of others. These are the credible qualities of educating for change.