2011 PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP Vecinos de Rio - Mesa Prieta Petroglyth Project

2011 PUBLIC PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP Vecinos de Rio - Mesa Prieta Petroglyth Project
Vecinos del Rio (Neighbors of the River) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of archaeological resources and traditional communities of northern New Mexico. By working with youth from local pueblos and surrounding Hispanic communities, Vecinos del Rio has organized the Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project, a rock art and archaeological documentation project on Mesa Prieta. Mesa Prieta is a rugged, steep-sided mesa about 12 miles long and two to four miles wide, adjacent to the Rio Grande between Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. Mesa Prieta contains tens of thousands of petroglyphs scattered over some 24,000 acres of land. About 6,000 acres of land on Mesa Prieta are public lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Taos Field Office. The Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project, utilizing a partnership among Native American and Hispanic youth, private landowners, a non-profit community organization, and archaeological organizations, is an exemplary project that engages local youth in the conservation of their cultural resources while providing the BLM with comprehensive data that would otherwise not be available for this culturally rich area.

Each year 12 to 15 youth are selected to participate in the Mesa Prieta Petroglyth Project, four alumni of the program are also selected and serve as mentors. After a day of intense training in GPS use, digital photography, mapping, compass use, metric measurement, accurate complex forms completion and scientific drawing, the students are divided into four working teams. On the second day, the teams begin recording petroglyphs on BLM areas on the mesa. These petroglyphs were made a few hundred to several thousand years ago, many by the ancestors of the youngsters recording them.

The students work under the supervision of BLM archaeologist Paul Williams, Dr. Richard I. Ford, University of Michigan Professor Emeritus, and archaeologist Janet MacKenzie, who is also the Coordinator of Mesa Prieta Petroglyth Project. Several other adult volunteers, who are trained recorders, also participate. Several hundred petroglyphs from the Archaic, Puebloan and historic time periods were recorded in 2011. The information gathered by these students will become part of the BLM database – The Mesa Prieta Petroglyth Project database and will be archived at the New Mexico State Laboratory of Anthropology in Santa Fe. Ohkay Owingeh, the home Pueblo of several of the students, will also receive a copy of the information. The archaeologists impress upon the interns that they are creating the official record of the archaeological features that they find.

The Mesa Prieta Petroglyph Project has demonstrated vision and excellence in preserving culture by recording history while encouraging youth to get outdoors and care for the land and its resources. Since 2001, 150 youth and over 50 adult volunteers have taken part in the annual project. Nearly 6,000 acres of BLM lands have been inventoried for petroglyphs, and over 5,000 petroglyphs have been located, recorded, and added to the GIS database.