Rural Alaskan Students Dig Into Archaeology

Posted on September 12, 2013 

Rural Alaskan Students Dig Into Archaeology

Fairbanks, Alaska – Eight rural Alaskan high school juniors and seniors recently returned from a two-week field school experience at an archeological dig near Healy Lake, Alaska. The program was a collaboration of Tanana Chiefs Conference archaeologists and the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI) at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  The program in its second year is funded by a special grant from the National Science Foundation to educate various groups of young people who are moving towards college and adult life.

The students completed nine college credits during RAHI in June and early July along with other RAHI students at UAF. The field school experience was an additional opportunity for some of the students learn first-hand about archaeology through hands-on learning in a remote field setting and earn college credit.

Students flew into Healy Lake village to work at the Linda’s Point prehistoric site.  Alaska Native people have used the site for at least 13,000 years. Students were closely mentored in excavation techniques by professional archaeologists. “The work these high school students did is what you’d expect out of advanced undergraduates at the University,” said Tom Gillispie, staff archaeologist at Tanana Chiefs Conference.

“Students  also  participated  in  a  living  archaeology  practicum  centered  on  capturing  food animals using ancient weaponry (atlatls) and processing the catch using stone tools (flint knapping) to emulate the activities the prehistoric people living at a site like this would have taken,” said Gillespie.  Evenings were spent learning Alaska Native song and dance as well as story-telling.

"Field research is an incredibly valuable opportunity for students because the opportunity to work alongside professional mentors allows students to not only gain important practical skills, but also build relationships with scientists and learn how their careers have been shaped,” said Denise Wartes, Program Manager for the Rural Alaska Honors Institute.

 Funding for the expedition was provided by the National Science Foundation - Arctic Sciences Program, the Tanana Chiefs Conference, The Rural Alaska Honors Institute at UAF and New York Life.

About the Rural Alaska Honors Institute (RAHI):   RAHI is a program of academic enrichment and preparation for traditional undergraduate life at a university campus. Students selected for the six-week academic adventure work at the limits of their capabilities to develop a strong work ethic, build self confidence, acclimate to dorm/undergraduate life, and earn 8-10 college credits. RAHI was founded at the request of the Alaska Federation of Natives in 1982, and established to prepare rural and Alaska Native high school students for academic excellence and college success. More information can be found at

About Tanana Chiefs Conference:   Tanana Chiefs Conference provides a unified voice in advancing  sovereign  tribal  governments  through  the  promotion  of  physical  and  mental wellness, education, socioeconomic development, and culture of the Interior Alaska Native people. More information can be found at:


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