Historic Preservation leveling up equipment to see below
BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
TAHLEQUAH – A new piece of equipment will soon make finding shallow remains, funerary objects and other culturally significant items easier than ever for the United Keetoowah Band’s Historic Preservation Department.
The GSSI UtilityScan, a state-of-the-art ground penetrating radar machine, has now joined the arsenal of tools at the department’s disposal to help investigate culturally significant sites to the tribe.
“This machine costs us about $20,000 and will be able to detect any underground objects. It’s real high tech. People even use it in big cities when they have fallen buildings to find people trapped underneath debris, things like that,” said Historic Preservation Director Whitney Warrior.
The UtilityScan can search up to depths of 35 feet and features HyperStacking Technology for high-resolution data and increased depth penetration.
It was purchased using both departmental funds and a Tribal Heritage Grant with the National Park Service. Its capabilities will specifically be used to help the department on its Section 106 consultations and to build up a database of sites for the tribe.
Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act requires federal agencies pursuing building projects funded with federal monies to include tribes in consultations in areas that could be of significant cultural interest.
“Section 106 of Historic Preservation law basically states that tribes have the right to protect their traditional cultural properties, or TCPs,” said Warrior. “Anytime there’s work being done by companies, such as putting up new buildings or cell towers or malls, they have to contact everyone who has an interest in that area. When they want to do that, they have to notify us that there’s going to be a project so that we get a chance to review and assess the area to make sure that there’s nothing of significant cultural value to us. This includes in our aboriginal homelands or areas of interest, which ours range from Georgia, North Carolina all the way passing over the Trail of Tears into Arkansas.”
Once a consultation is triggered in one of these areas, Historic Preservation examines the area with the help of its heritage paraprofessionals.
“They are our monitors. When we send them out and they are there to do the work with archeologists to protect our TCPs,” said Warrior. “With this UtilityScan, they can go out and use this ground penetrating radar and we’ll be able to see what’s underground in real time.”
The equipment will play a vital role in assuring the department they have thoroughly searched an area.
“We don’t have to just constantly dig and hope to find something. It will give us a better range of what’s in the area before we even dig,” said Warrior. “We can see if there are bones there, or if there’s funeral objects or weapons or cultural items that would be significant that wouldn’t require a lot of digging. We are really going to push the equipment and that program to be at a higher level to protect our TCPs the best way we can.”