A group of Oneida Nation young people spent the past week
excavating an archaeological site hidden back in the woods which
was once home to their tribe hundreds of years ago.
archaeological dig at the Vallaincourt site is part of the six-week
Youth Work/Learn summer program run by the Oneida Nation.
gives them a little bit of an understanding of who they are and
an understanding of where they come from," said Clint Hill,
Oneida Nation Men's Council member. "Just to give them
overall more of an understanding of themselves and the things that
they can do."
found quite a few artifacts," said Oneida Nation Historical
Resources Specialist Jesse Bergevin.
group has unearthed pieces of pottery and arrowheads along with
other objects like deer bones.
said the first few days are spent teaching the group what they should
be looking for and how to dig the square excavation units.
fun finding the different bones and stuff," said 15-year-old
Michael Pawlikowki, of Verona.
said he has been learning a lot about the history of the Oneidas.
site was occupied around 1550 to 1575," Bergevin said. "This
is one of the Oneida villages. So this would have been possibly
the main village during that time period. This would have been where
the vast majority of Oneidas were at that point. For all the Oneidas
today, these would have been direct ancestors."
Youth Work/Learn program began in 1991 and is open to young people
from ages 13 to 20, according to the Nation's website.
want them to know that there's more to summer than sitting
around the house and watching TV," said Hill. "We want
to get them outside and into the woods which is something that most
kids don't do nowadays."
program also includes hour-long Oneida language classes.
need to understand the history of where they came from which is
something I was taught when I was young," said Hill. "As
I was growing up around here I noticed a lot of these kids didn't
know their language, didn't know the history of where the Oneidas
came from. All they knew was that they were Oneida. I think as a
Nation and as a council we wanted to make a change in that. So,
20 years ago we started the youth program."
said the archaeological dig is one way to find that identity.
gives them, first of all, kind of a hands-on opportunity to re-experience
their past," he said. "Also, to have a chance to look
at the artifacts and interpret their own history. Typically, for
the past couple of hundred years, it has been Europeans and European
descendants that have been interpreting the history and the archeology
of the area."
said with sites like these the kids have a chance to get "involved
in actually having a hands-on understanding and appreciation of
what the history is and to have complete control over what's
going on. It's no longer being told what history is because
they actually get to experience it and have it right at their finger
said the artifacts will be curated by the Oneida Nation.
have an archival facility that they go in once they're looked
at, analyzed and recorded," he said. "We use that to add
to the information that is already available on this site."
Work Crew Supervisor Dana Smith has been working with students in
the program for a few years and said every year is different.
work with different kids and you really have to adjust to get to
know them," she said. "You have to adjust to their personalities
and work styles. You can never assume that they know how to do a
specific job so there is a lot of teaching and instructing going
said she likes the program because it provides the opportunity to
do things many people do not get the chance to do such as studying
the Oneida language and being part of an archaeological dig.
said it is important that the program continues because it gives
students "a sense of history and a sense of belonging."