The Right Team: Our Eyes and Ears on the Ground

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Left to right: Robert Prospere, Jessica Crawford ( SE Regional Director), and Smokye Joe Frank
Left to right: Robert Prospere, Jessica Crawford ( SE Regional Director), and Smokye Joe Frank

Update from the Southeast Regional Office:

Continuing on the subject of how we find sites to acquire from our Eastern Regional Office update last week, one of our most important resources are Conservancy members themselves. Because each region consists of several states, Regional Directors can’t be everywhere at once,  so we depend on others to be our “eyes and ears” and to let us know about potential acquisitions or when a site we’ve been interested in becomes available. One person in the Southeast Region who has been personally responsible for our acquisition of sites in both Mississippi and Louisiana is Conservancy member, and retired archaeologist, Smokye Joe Frank of Natchez, Mississippi. If you’ve been on our Peoples of the Lower Mississippi Valley tour through Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, then you met Smokye at our stop in Natchez. Smokye, along with another local expert and Conservancy member, Robert Prospere always entertain our tours with interesting stories about the sites and history of the area. It was Smokye who let us know that the DePrato Mounds site in Ferriday, Louisiana was for sale several years ago when we didn’t even know it existed.

Recently, he alerted us to another potential acquisition, one we looked at several years ago, but ended up not being available at the time. The site is located on a county owned industrial site which was once an International Paper facility, so it’s call the IP Site. The site is a French/Natchez Indian site dating from 1720 to 1729. So we were excited to get an email from Smokye with the “IP site is for sale” in the subject line. The local newspaper had just run an article about the county’s decision to sell the land containing the IP site. After the “heads up” from Smokye, we pulled the inactive IP site file and are contacting Adams county officials and requesting a meeting with them about the site’s significance and the potential for our acquisition through donation or purchase.

It isn’t unusual for us to attempt to acquire a site without success and then set the file aside for some time until finally, something changes and an opportunity like this presents itself. One thing we can always count on in site acquisition is situations often change and just because a site can’t be acquired as soon as we learn about it, doesn’t mean it’s a lost cause, and we need all the help we can get keeping abreast of developments with archaeological sites all over the country. Local experts like Smokye Joe Frank are indispensible when it comes to helping us do our job.

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