By Lillian Bowe
PNT staff writer
Eastern New Mexico University graduate student Trish Byers has been in Portales for two years and finds the archaeological sites here fascinating.
Byer’s interest is in preserving archaeological sites, including historic buildings and places, trails, neon signs, bridges and structures. She is originally from Maryland.
On Saturday, Byers joined the New Mexico SiteWatch, an organization which is about preservation. New Mexico SiteWatch held their stewardship training at the Roosevelt County Chamber of Commerce hosted by Norman Nelson, SiteWatch coordinator and archaeologist.
Some 18 people interested in becoming stewards attended, many of them ENMU students.
SiteWatch is a statewide volunteer program coordinated by the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Division. It has chapters across the state and the training helped kick start a local chapter in the Northeast region.
“There are many sites in this area that are very interesting, but no one is watching over these places and that is where our stewards come in,” Nelson said.
Stewards regularly monitor sites and prevent culture resource destruction from theft, vandalism or acts of nature.
Watching over the site from high ground with binoculars, taking pictures, taking notes on the site and reporting vandalism to authorities are some of the duties of a steward.
Steward candidates heard from Rebecca Procter, assistant coordinator and archaeologist from the New Mexico Office of Archaeological Studies.
George Crawford, director of the Blackwater Draw National Historic Landmark, was also there to discuss unique local artifacts found around the Portales area.
Stewards were told not to take artifacts from a site to watch over and prevent damage.
“There are always people out there…(who) will take artifacts from a site, which destroys the integrity of the site,” Procter said.
Even if they witness people at a site causing damage, they must not make contact but must immediately call the police, she said.
After a morning of class work and training, the group visited a site. They went over procedures, observation techniques, protecting evidence, identification of natural and man-made damage, and taking photographs and other recording methods.
“I really want to protect the sites as they are important for us to understand the past,” said Byers.