Meet Our Speakers: Robert Templeton

Robert Templeton is an ornithologist and a passionate student of archeology and steward of its artifacts. A longtime resident of Dixon, New Mexico and neighbor to author Stanley Crawford, Robert is Stanley’s point-person for local lore about the area surrounding the Acequia del Bosque. Robert toured the Westies around a pueblo archeological site a few minutes away from his home. Not much is known about this site beyond a survey of the thousands of artifacts visible on the surface, Robert explained, because no graduate student has taken it on for a research project. The style of painted and textured pottery shards suggests the pueblo may have been inhabited for 30-40 years within 1250-1325, the time of the Pueblo 3 people. The site may have been spiritually significant because the culture’s sacred mountains are in its viewshed, one in each cardinal directions. To preserve the site for future research, the Westies took care to leave no trace and keep the clues intact as they explored the many pottery sherds, petroglyphs, and other artifacts found at the site. Robert continues to explore and learn more about this site and its significance in the bigger story of southwest pueblo peoples.

By: Elizabeth Greenfield

Meet Our Speakers: Joe Pachak

Ever since he looked at arrowheads with his father as a small child Joe Pachak has been interested in rock art. Now Joe confidently strides over sandstone and offers detailed descriptions of complex panels. Differentiated primarily by the pottery shards and petroglyphs associated with the site there are four different historic groups of people that inhabited the area around Bluff, UT: Basketmakers and Pueblo 1, 2, and 3. The sites display different styles but with reoccurring motifs of concentric circles, spirals, serpentine lines and anthropomorphs. Each symbol has an important meaning that can help modern viewers learn about these ancient cultures.  As an artist, Joe helps document rock art sites around the Southwest by making precise illustrations of the panels and artifacts. While visitors often feel like they are in the middle of nowhere, Joe is adamant that “the prehistoric people lived there and that was their home and it was not in the middle of nowhere.”

Joe is also involved in the Bluff Arts Festival, organizing events and telling stories. Each year he makes a large sculpture to burn on winter solstice and this year he is in the process of constructing two immense great blue herons.

By Willa Johnson

Meet Our Speakers: Jason Nez

As the evening light fades into the Milky Way at Kane Ranch Arizona, archeologist Jason Nez pulls into our camp for dinner.  His clothes and face are spotted with black soot—evidence of a long day in the field.  Jason and his colleague Toby have been surveying nearby archeological sites that were recently revealed after the area burned.  Once dinner plates are cleared away, we gather to hear Jason’s stories. He speaks in measured rhythm, spinning words both animate and raw.  One of his stories recounts the night he encountered a skinwalker on an empty forest service road.  Another is about Coyote, the Navajo trickster who feeds on chaos and leads people astray.  Jason explains that in order to combat Coyote, we must collectively “develop the understanding and knowledge to see though the blame he’s (coyote) casting and all of the fear he instigates…we get past it through science, we get past it through study, we get past it through communication.”

Jason first joined the Park Service in 2001 as a ranger at Navajo National Monument.  Since this time, he has become a vocal presence within the field of Native American archeology, giving presentations and promoting cultural outreach throughout the Southwest.  For Jason, the work is of particular significance.  He has spent most of his life on the Navajo Nation, but his genetic lineage is more in line with ancient civilizations he studies.  In his words: “I am Zuni Edgewater, I am born for the Orabi Salt Clan, my mother’s father was tangle people and my father’s father was Mexican people… I’m Navajo culturally, I speak Navajo, I look Navajo, I live Navajo, but genetically, I’m not Navajo.  I can walk in these ruins and know that these used to be my ancestors.” 

By: Maya Aurichio