The goal of the collaboration between CIRI, the U.S. Forest Service, and SCA was to provide an opportunity for young people to do work on a National Forest cultural resource project which is relevant to their history, their culture and their tribe. It’s a timely partnership; the mission of the Student Conservation Association is to create the next generation of conservation leaders.
SCA is a national non-profit that has been around for sixty years. Director Jeff Samuels explained, “Here in Alaska I like creating opportunity for Alaskan youth to get involved with land management. What we do at SCA is determine where internships could be, whether part of a trail crew, doing cultural resource preservation, or interpretation. How we typically do that is by reaching out to federal partners, such as Chugach National Forest, and making connections with staff there.”
The need to preserve the archeological history of the Kenai Zone of Chugach National Forest is strong. The archaeological record indicates that Alaska Natives have lived in, fished and hunted in the area for thousands of years, with the Kenaitze Dena’ina influence dominating the last thousand years.
“In Cooper Landing, there are tons of cultural resource artifacts in the whole area,” says Samuels. “The whole Russian River in Cooper Landing has thousands of years of history on it. There’s the potential to put a shovel in ground and come up with something that’s historically significant to the Kenaitze Tribe and Alaska.”
Intern Ruby Willoya-Williams loved the internship, stating, “I got the privilege of working with SCA and the USFS. My partner Julianne Wilson and I worked on the Russian River campground for most of the summer going out and locating Alaska native house pits, cache pits and possible burial sites. We had to go out and survey the sites that we found and make a new site report. We had to measure and give a small description and what needed to be done to preset these old native house pit sites.”
“Archeology and agriculture weren’t the only departments we got to dip into with the Forest Service.”