For thousands of years people have called what is now Oklahoma home. Its natural history has shaped their way of life. Its lands and animals have undergone many changes, and underneath its soils are priceless treasures waiting to be unearthed for study.
Among those charged in the safekeeping of these yet unearthed artifacts are a few dedicated and highly trained Chickasaw Nation technicians.
Four workers within the Chickasaw Nation Environmental Services Department are licensed by the federal government as heritage resource technicians. Heritage resource technicians oversee archeology surveys in the field, record potential archeological sites and safely catalog and store finds.
Archeological surveys are important for many reasons. They are used to learn about the natural and diverse cultural history of the area.
Original Native Americans who lived in what is now Oklahoma did not have a written history, and many Native Americans relocated from the east did not read or write. Much of what historians know of these people and how they lived has literally been dug up from the earth.
More than 20 archeological surveys are conducted each year by the Chickasaw Nation within its boundaries. These surveys preserve the cultural heritage and natural history of its lands, according to tribal environmental specialist Brandon Prince.
“We conduct archeological surveys and environmental impact studies whenever we have ground disturbances caused by tribal construction,” Mr. Prince said. “Before heavy equipment is brought into a work site, we test to make sure impact will be minimal and we aren’t disturbing potential archeological sites.”
Chickasaw construction projects include building new homes, running underground utility lines, road projects and improvements to existing structures.
“By far the most archeological surveys we do each year is for new houses,” Mr. Prince said. “Septic tanks and storm shelters also have surveys done, even on previously developed properties. They are the easiest and quickest to get done because of the smaller impact area.”