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Annual Youth Archaeology Workshop gives children an up close and personal look at history

Four children playing inan archeology dig site
Participants having a blast learning about history and historic preservation during the Youth Archeology Workshop on the Chippewa National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

MINNESOTA – Area students got their hands dirty at the third annual Youth Archaeology Workshop hosted by the Chippewa National Forest at the Eagle Nest Lodge near Deer River, Minnesota.

The group of eight middle-school aged students spent three days working alongside a USDA Forest Service archaeologist, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Heritage Sites Program archaeologists as well as other Forest Service staff. They were introduced to techniques of archaeological excavation, data collection and artifact analysis.

The Youth Archaeology Workshop is hosted annually by the Chippewa National Forest’s Heritage Program and the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe Heritage Sites Program. A goal of the workshop is to teach local youth to respect the social practices, belief systems, and values of peoples and cultures through the study of the material objects they left behind.

“The workshop went quite well, the students seemed to take to the process of archaeological excavation and had a good handle on things by the third day. They did a great job overall and exceeded our expectations as to what they might accomplish,” said Sean Dunham, archeologist for the Chippewa National Forest. “At least one of the youths said they want to come back next year and another may consider pursuing archaeology in the future. The workshop was also fun for the adults!”

The archaeological site the children worked on dates to between 2500 to 500 years ago. The group found chips or flakes of stone that were the result of making and maintaining stone tools, a scraping tool made of stone, and fragments of pottery. Also found were fire-cracked rock which is associated with cooking and maintaining fires on archaeological sites. The site was likely a camping site where Native American people lived for at least part of the year. Besides archaeology, the children had the opportunity to experience throwing a spear with an atlatl (a tool that allows the spear to be thrown harder and farther than with your arm alone), learning to make a fire with flint and steel, and making a chipped stone tool. The stone tool exercise allowed the children to see how the flakes they were finding at the site were made.

The purpose of the annual workshop is to offer local youth an opportunity to learn about archaeology and the fascinating history of the Chippewa National Forest through hands-on experience working with professional archaeologists engaged in archaeological research.