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Oklahoma student, WKU professor conduct archaeological monitoring

Dr. Darlene Applegate, an associate professor of Folk Studies and Anthropology at WKU, spent part of her summer conducting archaeological monitoring at Mammoth Cave National Park with Staci Hesler, a student from the University of Oklahoma.

Staci Hesler conducted archaeological monitoring at Mammoth Cave National Park this summer under the direction of WKU faculty member Darlene Applegate. (Photo by Vickie Carson)

Hesler participated in a six-week internship program this summer through the Student Conservation Association under the direction of Dr. Applegate on the park’s Site Stewardship program.

A member of The Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology, Hesler is seeking her master’s in Native American studies with a focus on archaeology.

From June 27 to Aug. 8, Hesler surveyed archaeological sites searching for disturbances caused by humans, animals and natural processes. “Disturbances can vary from humans simply walking through the site to intentional manipulation of the area, animal burrowing, animal rooting and water erosion,” Hesler said.

Mammoth Cave National Park has more than 1,000 archaeological sites and works with seven Native American tribes regarding preservation.

The tribes are the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians of North Carolina, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Working with the tribes and considering their cultural differences can be challenging, Hesler said.

Staci Hesler worked with park volunteer Rex Henry during her summer internship at Mammoth Cave National Park. (Photo by Vickie Carson)

“One of the concerns is how to maintain a working relationship with (in this case) seven tribes that could have various perspectives on preservation issues,” she said.

Dr. Applegate has been mentoring Hesler in her research, especially regarding teaching certain techniques used while working on an archaeological site.

The internship required Hesler to do field work with Dr. Applegate, giving her excellent hands-on experience, Hesler said.

Patrick Reed, superintendent at Mammoth Cave National Park, says the park wants to continue offering this internship in the future.

“We see this internship as a connection between Native Americans and their heritage here at Mammoth Cave,” Reed said. “Ms. Hesler’s training in archaeology was a perfect match, and she approached the work with genuine curiosity and enthusiasm. She was a great asset to the park this summer.”

Contact: Staci Hesler, (918) 381-7145.

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