2019 marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Friends of the Forest (FOF).  During our first quarter century, FOF has worked diligently to help protect our Native American heritage and to introduce residents and visitors to the rich ancient cultures that inhabited the Verde Valley.

FOF volunteer docents staff both the Palatki and V Bar V Heritage Sites, explaining the ancient cliff dwelling and pictographs at Palatki and the incredible petroglyphs at V-Bar-V.  If you’re a resident of the Verde Valley but haven’t yet visited these sites, March is a perfect time to do so.

Each March, Arizona State Parks sponsors Archeology Heritage Awareness Month.  Groups throughout Arizona participate, holding events that provide education about our Native American and pioneer history.

On Monday March 4th, Dr. Ka’imiloa Chrisman will be in front of the V Bar V Heritage site visitor center from 9:30 to 3:00 demonstrating how stone tools were made and utilized prehistorically.  On Monday March 11 and Monday March 18, Bob Erb will be demonstrating a variety of prehistoric tools at V Bar V.

On both March 23 and 24, The Powderhorn Clan and Les Miserables Mountain Man Camp will demonstrate how early non-native settlers lived on the land.   Also on March 23, Susan Wilcox will demonstrate ancient technology spinning and weaving.  These events will also take place at V Bar V.

In addition, on Friday, March 1st at the Red Rock Ranger Station Visitor Center from 10:00 a.m. to 2.00 p.m., Al Cornel and Michael Campbell will be demonstrating five techniques of making fire by friction.  At that same time, Dr. Chrisman will be demonstrating how stone tools were made and utilized prehistorically.

Between approximately 600 AD and 1450 AD, the Sinagua culture flourished both in the Verde Valley and in the Flagstaff area.  The Sinagua inhabited the Palatki and Honanki cliff dwellings and painted many of the pictographs at both sites.  They also carved the petroglyphs at V Bar V.  The Palatki Heritage site is open seven days a week, from 9:30 AM to 3:00 PM.  Reservations are required, and may be made by calling 928-203-2900.  No reservations are required at V Bar V, and the site is open 9:30 AM – 3:00 PM Thursday through Monday.

The Sinagua also built the structures at the Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monument sites. Both are quite close to V Bar V, and can all be visited easily in a day.  If you’re up for a slightly longer day, you can also take in Tuzigoot National Monument in Cottonwood where you can explore the reconstructed pueblo walls and learn about Sinagua culture by examining the exhibits at the wonderful Tuzigoot Visitor Center.

To gain an even better appreciation for our area’s ancient heritage, take a day trip up to Flagstaff.  There, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery and the numerous cliff dwellings at Walnut Canyon National Monument, located 10 miles east of Flagstaff off of interstate 40.  The Island Trail is a somewhat strenuous 1-mile round trip walk that descends 185 vertical feet into the canyon, and takes you by a number of reconstructed cliff dwellings.  There is also an easy .7-mile round trip rim trail that provides you with beautiful views of the canyon and some of its’ cliff dwellings.

Wupatki National Monument is located north of Flagstaff, off of Arizona Hwy 89, and holds the remains of five separate Sinagua pueblo complexes.  Of particular interest is the ceremonial ballcourt, thought to be the northernmost ball court in the ancient Southwest.  Artifacts found at Wupatki attest to the extensive ancient trade networks: copper bells from Mexico, turquoise jewelry, shell ornaments from the Pacific Ocean and the remains of 41 scarlet macaws.

Closer to home, the Verde Valley Archeology Center (VVAC) also provides information and exhibits that explain Sinagua culture.  In addition, VVAC has a Yavapai-Apache Nation Exhibit that introduces you to the cultures that thrived in the Verde Valley subsequent to the Sinagua.  VVAC is located at 385 S. Main Street in Camp Verde and is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm.  During Archeology Month, VVAC will be offering classes on the archeology and prehistoric astronomy of the Verde Valley, and on dendrochronology (tree ring dating).  You can learn more about their offerings by visiting their web site, www.verdevalleyarchaeology.org.

If you’re interested in becoming a docent for Friends of the Forest, and helping introduce visitors to our Native American heritage, or if you just want to learn more about Friends of the Forest, you can contact us via our newly redesigned web site: www.friendsoftheforestsedona.org.