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SHIPROCK – The ways Navajo people and non-Navajo people relate to the archaeology of the Four Corners region served as the center of discussion during Friday's Navajo Nation Archaeology Meeting in Shiprock.

The theme for the meeting was "Cultural Heritage: Then and Now." The meeting's purpose was to share archaeological research relating to the Navajo Nation and the Four Corners region. Topics ranged from ancestral Puebloan sites to how modern projects, such as the Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project, can impact archaeological sites.

The Navajo-Gallup Water Supply Project has been in the works for five years and is designed to construct a pipeline to convey drinking water from the San Juan River to the eastern Navajo Nation and Gallup.

Jason Chuipka, the principal investigator at PaleoWest Archaeology, said the pipeline will include two laterals. PaleoWest Archaeology has identified 134 cultural resource sites that could be impacted by one of the laterals and 476 cultural resource sites that could be impacted by the other.

"Avoidance is really unrealistic," he said.

It is not uncommon for development to impact archaeological sites. Paul Reed, a preservation archaeologist for Archaeology Southwest, spoke about how oil and gas development could potentially impact Chaco Culture National Historic Park. The Farmington office of the Bureau of Land Management is in the process of amending its resource management plan after an increase in oil and gas development took place near the park.

Another common topic discussed during the meeting was how non-Navajo archaeologists interact with Navajo people. Ora Marek-Martinez of the Navajo Nation Heritage and Historic Preservation Department spoke about the history of archaeology on the Navajo Nation and urged further collaboration.

"From a tribal lens, archaeology has served to displace and dismantle tribal beliefs, traditions and histories," Marek-Martinez said.

For example, many archaeologists assert that the Navajo people have only lived in the Four Corners area for a few hundred years, which conflicts with Navajo oral tradition. She urged archaeologists to consider Navajo oral tradition as a type of evidence in archaeological research.

"Our history means something to us," she said. "It's an important part of who we are."

Jason Nez, a freelance archaeologist, touched on similar themes during his speech about trying to live in balance.

"We're living among the ruins," he said. "We're living among the pottery sherds of these people."

Nez said people need to understand their history and relationship to the past.

That sentiment was echoed by Shiprock Historical Society CEO Eugene Joe, who stressed that parents should teach their children about their heritage and history.

"The teaching comes from inside the hogan," he said.

Hannah Grover covers Aztec and Bloomfield, as well as general news, for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4652.

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