Can You Dig It?
by Micki Panttaja
“I just love to dig. This is actually my vacation, so I just volunteered to come up and help out” says Theodore Charles, “I’m like a kid in a candy store – You never know what you are going to find.”
The same could be said for the eclectic group of students and volunteers working on the Kooskia Internment Camp Archaeological Project.
Charles, a second year anthropology graduate student from Blanchard, Washington, is the type of person you would expect to find face down in a meter by meter pit scraping at the dirt and brushing away pebbles in hopes of uncovering a historic treasure. After all, he plans on making archaeology his life’s work. But, on this particular dig, he may be more of the exception that the rule.
Professor Stacey Camp, who is the lead researcher and faculty member in charge of the Kooskia field school explains that although a majority of the people who work on this and other archaeological projects for the University of Idaho are indeed anthropology majors or minors. However, many are not.
“Anyone can volunteer,” she adds. “They just need to contact me first, because you can have too many people on a site. Because you still have to oversee to make sure everything is done correctly and proper collection methods are used.”
One of Camp’s volunteers on the dig is Brianna Lelieur, a high school student from San Francisco. Staying for several weeks with her grandmother who lives in the area, Brianna had the summer homework assignment of writing a seven page paper. She decided to focus on the history of the Kooskia area.
“I did a bunch of research, and wrote five pages. But I got stuck. Then my mom heard about this project and said I should check it out. . . . So I contacted Stacey and she gave me one of the volunteer spots.” When Lelieur was asked if working on the dig helped her with her paper, she responds, “Yeah. Now have nine pages.”
Another team member, Morgan Bingle, is also motivated by academic reasons. A UI undergraduate studying Political Science and Technical Theatre, he enrolled in the field school because he needed an upper division credit.
“I thought this would be better that taking another lecture class, and I had taken an anthropology class while I was studying abroad at a Semester at Sea . . . so I thought it would be good.”
One of his favorite finds so far has been a sealed bottle that he discovered while clearing part of the rock slide which covered part of the site.
Camp says that it is helpful to have a variety of people with different backgrounds on the site, even if they can only volunteer for a couple of days.
“It’s good to have new people come out. They see things that we sometimes miss. We’ve been out here for weeks . . . looking and looking at it, and having new eyes on the site brings a fresh perspective.”