For many members of Friends of the Forest Sedona (FOF), teaching the public about this area’s archaeological sites, and protecting them, is why they volunteer. When you visit one of the Red Rock Ranger District heritage sites, Palatki, V Bar V or Honanki, there is a good chance that you’ll meet a FOF docent who shows visitors these fragile and interesting sites.

FOF is particularly active during March, when Arizona State Parks sponsors Archeology Heritage Awareness Month. Organizations throughout Arizona participate, holding events that entertain and educate about our Native American and pioneer history.

During March, the Red Rock Ranger District of the Coconino National Forest is sponsoring special events that you can participate in at V Bar V Heritage Site which is located 2 miles south of I-17 at Exit 298, on Forest Road 618, and at the Red Rock Ranger District visitor center. The events are free and open to the public. A Red Rock Pass or equivalent entrance fee is required per vehicle at V Bar V.

At V Bar V Archeology Discovery Days, you can learn more about the lives of both early European settlers and of the Native Americans who lived in the Verde Valley. This event will take place at V Bar V on Saturday and Sunday, March 24 and 25 from 9:30 am to 3:00 pm. Demonstrations include making fire by friction, throwing darts with atlatls, and spinning cotton. You can learn how beads, bows and arrows, and yucca fiber sandals were made by the ancestors of the Native Americans of this area. While at V Bar V, you’ll want to visit and learn about the petroglyphs that the Sinagua carved into a sandstone wall nearly a thousand years ago. Be sure to bring walking shoes, hat, sunscreen, and snacks.

The highlight of your day may be tasting roasted agave and learning about how native people used this amazing plant. The agave roast is only rarely offered by the Forest Service at V-V Discovery Days. Plants are specially selected for harvest only if bloom is imminent, after which the plant dies. They’re trimmed prior to being slow cooked for days in order to become sweet and tender. The roasting pit will be prepared on Tuesday the 20th, with the agave hearts placed in it that afternoon. The cooked agave will be uncovered on Saturday at approximately 11:00am as part of the activities. All attendees will be able to sample the agave stem (and the resulting quid), as well as the heart.

By holding these special events, the Forest Service hopes that visitors will gain respect and knowledge that will help protect the fragile archaeological resources of this area.
For more information, call the Red Rock Ranger District at 928-203-2900 or visit the Friends of the Forest Sedona web site.

Our heritage sites have lasted in excellent condition for hundreds of years, allowing us to imagine what life was like for the ancient Sinagua. To keep them preserved so future generations can also marvel at the ingenuity and creativity of the Sinagua, the Forest Service reminds us to follow a set of simple site etiquette guidelines.

Please don’t climb, sit, or stand on walls. They’re fragile and continue to deteriorate. And when you walk, try to keep from kicking up dust. There is concern that dust from foot traffic and vehicles may be sticking to the rock art, degrading it over time.

Graffiti destroys rock art and is disrespectful to contemporary Native Americans. Drawing, scratching, carving, and oil from even the cleanest hands harms the images. Please assist scientists trying to unravel the meaning of the symbols painted and pecked on stone, and refrain from touching rock art.

Artifacts tell a complicated story. If they’re moved, a piece of that story is lost forever. Removing artifacts or piling them destroys the story they can tell. Cultural deposits, including the soil at a site, are important for reconstructing ancient environments. Adding anything to a site, such as offerings, destroys the dating potential. Look, but don’t touch.

Never make a fire at an archeological site. Fire destroys prehistoric organic materials and the dating potential of artifacts, and damages rock art by covering it with soot. Camping is not allowed at our heritage sites and is discouraged at all archaeological sites.

Also, please stay on trails and keep your pets at home. Fragile desert plants and soil are destroyed when you or your pets wander off trail. While pets are not permitted at cultural heritage sites, we encourage you to visit them and to learn about the history of native peoples in the Verde Valley.

Serving Sedona, written this week by Craig Swanson of Sedona Friends of the Forest, appears Wednesday in the Sedona Red Rock News.