Jaye Smith, Archaeology Southwest member and volunteer

(February 16, 2016)—Volunteerism—I have thought about this word and its true meaning many times over the past 4 years, and when I originally decided to devote my remaining time on this magnificent planet to volunteer full time in the archaeological sciences. Dictionary.com defines volunteerism as “the policy or practice of volunteering one’s time or talents for charitable, educational, or other worthwhile activities, especially in one’s community.” I have found throughout the years that I needed to add to this definition the words “to make a difference” as my personal mission statement. Archaeology Southwest’s current project at BLM’s Painted Rock Petroglyph Site, under the direction of Preservation Archaeologist Aaron Wright, allows our volunteer team to fulfill this entire meaning of volunteerism.

Our team comprises five extremely qualified volunteers assisting Aaron, each bringing with them special talents, educational backgrounds, and life experiences that create a cohesive atmosphere conducive to Archaeology Southwest’s mission of preserving and protecting the special places of the past. We work together like a well-oiled machine as we produce data and photograph the petroglyph boulders and archaeological features. For me, it is not just another volunteer position or assignment; it is an honor and privilege to spend time at this site working with an amazing group of colleagues and learning from Aaron about the peoples who visited this place for many hundreds of years.

Jaye Smith at Painted Rocks

Me beside Boulder No. 394. Image: Aaron Wright.

Another highlight for me has been camping in a tent under the stars every week. To fall asleep as the moon makes it ascent and lights up the site in a special, sacred kind of way and then to wake up in the morning to the sunrise over the petroglyphs brings me closer to what the site and its archaeological record is telling us. And there is the Grey Fox family that lives at the site and likes to get into mischief during the nighttime—dragging anything movable around the campsite, Mama Fox scolding her babies and marking their territory on items that are left on the ground—experiences only really appreciated in their truest form as a volunteer.

Our team is helping Aaron and Archaeology Southwest move forward toward the ultimate goal of having this site become the foundation for the potential Great Bend of the Gila National Monument. It is a lofty goal, one that absolutely must succeed to protect and preserve the amazing cultural resources of the Lower Gila. To say that I have been a part of this endeavor at the Painted Rocks Petroglyph Site makes me so proud—it will make a difference, and that is what volunteerism is all about.

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