Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996 Page: 21
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the introductory course at the University
of Texas at El Paso. The first chapter was
a brief overview of the history of the Lower
Valley. Stephanie was amazed. "I never
thought our history was important enough
to be in a book!" she exclaimed.
A little more than 100 years ago, in the
early 1880s, San Elizario was the county
seat and the economic center of El Paso.
For 200 years previous to that the Lower
Valley had been the productive agricultural
center of northwestern Mexico; it
had become a rural backwater only after
the railroad linked the region east and
west to the juggernaut of American empire.
It was among the first settlements of
Northern New Spain in the 17th century
and the principal colonial stronghold following
the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. These
historical "facts" produced a landscape
reflecting the products of many cultures
acting out their lives in the arid landscape
of the Chihuahuan desert, where adobe
ruins and placitas now survive as elements
in an emergent landscape of sprawling
colonia developments. The challenge we
face in preserving this historical landscape
is not just to restore a few crumbling
adobes but also to enhance the sense of
Archaeologists used subsurface interface radar to study the mission site at San Elizario, near El Paso.
social connectedness and historical self-consciousness
of the present community. The
history of the Lower Valley is not only important
enough to be in a book, it is important
enough to preserve for those who live here.
Archaeologist John Peterson is an assistant
professor in the Department of Anthropology
at the University of Texas at El Paso. He was
the leader of the archaeological project at San
Teaching Texas Archaeology
In Today's Classroom
Texas teachers have an opportunity
to bring archaeology to life and in to
their classrooms during April, which has
been designated Archaeology Awareness
Month in the state.
Materials prepared by the Office of
the State Archaeologist, Texas Historical
Commission, provide lesson plans,
activity ideas, and other instructional
materials designed to incorporate archaeology
into classroom studies such as English,
math, geography, and history.
Activity ideas, including displays; field
trips to museums, exhibits, or actual archaeological
sites; contests, and research
projects are all outlined in various teacher
booklets. The materials also provides instructors
with insight into teaching archaeological
time periods and makes a
clear distinction between the work of
professional archaeologists and the looting
of the "pot hunter".
Closer to home, teachers can engage
their students in an activity that calls on
them to identify Texas place names that
are derived from Indian words and to make
a map of Indian place-names in Texas.
Examples of actual sites that students might
identify include Anahuac, a town in Chambers
County, which was either named for
an Indian word meaning "high plain water,"
or from an Indian chief, Anahwa, or
from an ancient Mexican Indian place
name. Waco, the city in McLennan County,
north of Austin, is named for the Waco
Indians, a Wichita group that entered Texas
in the early 18th century and occupied this
region in the following century.
For younger students in grades 4 through
7, "Texas Archaeology in the Classroom"
suggests preparing a heritage meal. Following
a discussion of vocabulary and background
information about the origin of
common foods in this country, teachers are
directed to prepare a sheet listing 25 to 30
edible Old and New World plants from
the "Plant List" and ask students to group
the food according to their origins. Recipe
suggestions and ingredients, including
Old World Garden Salad and Tolocano,
a Native American beverage, are provided.
Teachers are encouraged to close
out the activity by asking students to
share their reactions to the various dishes
and to discuss how their own family would
be changed by having to rely on a limited
selection of ingredients.
Other instructional materials available
from the Texas Historical Commission
include an eight-page coloring book
and a four-page guide to historic site
parks and museums relevant to archaeology
and Native Americans.
Request these and other teacher materials
from the Office of the State Archaeologist,
HERITAGE * WINTER 1996 21
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 14, Number 1, Winter 1996, periodical, Winter 1996; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45404/m1/21/: accessed August 18, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.