Catching up with GRIC Graduates
August 4, 2017
Gila River Indian News
As part of our series following up with college graduates a year after graduation, we take a look at one Community member, who is digging her way to success.
Raquel Romero, who is an Archaeological Technician with the Cultural Resource Management program, is unearthing the ancient past of the Community.
Last May, Romero received a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology from Arizona State University. Like a history detective, she is using her education and experience to piece together the history of the Huhugam.
While working out at one site in District Four Upper SanTan, Romero and the rest of the excavation crew work the soil under the rising summer sun.
“I always liked to be outdoors and I like history, so that’s why I got involved with [this],” said Romero, watching a backhoe remove layer upon layer of soil from the ground in front of her.
Romero comes from a diverse background of Akimel O’otham, Filipino and San Carlos Apache, which has added to her interest in learning more about each culture.
She said, “I didn’t grow up out here, so working here has been a great opportunity, because I got to know the people and more about the culture and about the history.”
After the backhoe finished digging a trench, Romero and her fellow workers start the meticulous task of uncovering the layers of history that lie beneath the surface.
Each time Romero goes out into the field with her crew there is a sense of excitement she explains happens when they uncover pieces of the Community’s ancient history.
“As a crew member with the Cultural Resource Management program, on a daily basis I go out and excavate with a crew of maybe five different people,” she said, “More often than not, [we] find artifacts, whether it be old homes or canals and pottery…sometimes we will find human remains, which are handled as respectfully as possible and are buried elsewhere, not to be disturbed again.”
Many of the artifacts that are found are recorded and collected and are cleaned back at the CRM facilities where they are handed over to the Huhugam Heritage Center for storage.
“Its interesting when we find houses, just to see the outline and imagine how the people lived and to see the fire pits where they would have cooked, its pretty fascinating,” said Romero.
The traces of pottery left by the Huhugam, that are uncovered date back hundreds of years and show distinctive patterns of the period of ancient history it was made in.
Her interest in ancient American Indian history was also driven by her curiosity to learn outside of what was taught to her in high school.
“When I went from high school to college and started learning about American Indian history…just the difference of what [they] taught us in high school and learning the real side of it in college inspired me to learn about the prehistory…that’s where everything started,” she said.
What makes Romero’s job unique is not only the ability to discover new things each day, but what she is capable of doing beyond the present.
In the fall, Romero will be attending Northern Arizona University to start her graduate program to work towards a Master’s Degree in Archaeology.
Although Romero has her sights set on a graduate school, she’s still figuring out her future and what that will entail.
She said that there is still some exploring to do, but that she would like to work for the Community in the same capacity, but in a supervisory role.
“I always planned on going for my masters, but I didn’t know how soon I wanted to do it and when I got here I learned, I realized I could do more with my education,” said Romero, “When I got into the field I wanted to contribute more, so I thought I better go back to school and work towards that next degree.”