By Emily Trautwein, Anthropology Teen Science Scholar 2015.
I embarked on my trip with little knowledge on how to read a field compass and returned with an all new mental North bearing that I anticipate will influence my perspectives and decisions for the entirety of my life. I have been exposed to so many diverse opinions and found myself surrounded by a plethora of passionate individuals at the top of their fields who share a sole mission of learning from previous cultures, preserving the memory of prehistoric peoples, opening up conversations about the sustainability that these people prioritized in their daily lives, and paving the way for a far more informed and prepared future existence.
Furthermore, Anthropology is essential to the sustainable wellbeing and preservation of humanity. In my mind, Anthropology encompasses all that we are, all that we have ever been, and all that we will ever be. All of the answers are lying around on some untouched land in the Southwest waiting to be stumbled upon, or otherwise somewhere within the direct and indirect relationships that make up or planet; Anthropology has the power to save us from ourselves and we are too busy digging our graves to notice. Anthropologists of all divisions have devoted their lives to creating a relevancy between the patterns & mannerisms that make up humankind and the path of evolution & active change. This relationship is critical to humanity’s growth, whether it is positive or negative.
Moreover, our impact on the world around us has taken a dramatic turn for the worse in the past few generations as anthropologists have noted. People don’t behave and grow up the way they once did and this change has dangerous impacts on our lives and futures. I believe that the missing link in our negatively evolved society is respect. Respect for our planet, respect for ourselves, respect for our elders, for our cultures, for our teachers, for our parents. To me, respect acts in two major capacities: it unites and preserves.
Primarily, respect provides unity and acceptance of other cultures and perspectives. Respect is a vehicle for trust & engagement and trust & engagement provoke a deep love and even a protective nature in people of all backgrounds. A local woman that I met in New Mexico led me to this realization when she recalled the behaviors of her horse. She related that her horse is easily provoked in unfamiliar situations especially upon interactions with dogs. However, since she has earned his respect, she can stroke him, feed him from her palm, and even ride him bare backed without issues simply because he trusts and admires her. I think that people are similar. People like comfort and familiarity and tend to avoid all contact with the things that they don’t understand. However, when people become engaged with foreign ideas, they begin to warm up to new people and develop a trust for their positive intentions. Once this trust is gained, the next step is acceptance. When people accept the perspectives of diverse mindsets, they become comfortable with new and untraditional thoughts. Finally, they reach the final stage: respect. These individuals or groups of people start to recognize and appreciate the ideas and behaviors that they once considered foreign and unrealistic and consequently unite cultures and people of all backgrounds.
Furthermore, respect is the driving force that protects and preserves cultures and sacred spaces. Respect indicates an honor and power that should not be tempered with. Where there is respect, there is control and order. Because of this, global influences can be avoided in some capacity due to the devotion and respect for traditional practices that some cultures possess. Their languages, traditions, beliefs, and ideas can weather the course of time relentlessly, whereas the lack of this preservation is what destroys cultures and nations. Everything about our globalized culture is so temporary and ever changing. We are constantly growing and evolving in various positive and negative manners and these unpredictable patterns can both move us forward and set us back. To compare, if traditional cultures increase at a steady linear rate, then modern cultures increase exponentially. There is a drastic amount of variation in the perspectives and mindsets among generations in our society and that variability puts a wedge in our relationships with the people who are older than us. Due to the radically different environment that each generation grows up, it is hard to find an appreciation and common ground with our elders. This difficulty limits our respect for people from other generations, setting us back immensely in the long run. In more traditional cultures, the elders serve as mentors and the younger individuals hold a great deal of respect for them. That provides a far more consistent lifestyle for these cultures allowing them to pass on information efficiently, develop fully over the course of their lives, maintain personal relationships with their elders, and constantly be learning & growing.
Throughout my experience, I had the immense privilege of getting to learn from a variety of individuals of whom I developed a very deep respect for. As a teenager, I am a kitchen sponge, constantly absorbing information that I can soon implement into the present and the future versions of my life as well as the lives of others. I had such an extraordinary field experience thanks to all of the people who possess the powerful passion to educate others and share the exquisite beauty of the Southwest. I gained so much insight into the function and purpose of Archaeology that I otherwise would have been oblivious to. I feel like so many people my age are completely ignorant to the power and relevancy of Anthropology and that truth needs to be corrected. All people should be made aware and informed of this beautiful study—it is the study of us after all.
In conclusion, without the Teen Science Scholars program, I would be at a total loss. This program has helped me to fall in love with the small intimacies that make up humankind as well as the undeniable raw beauty of prehistoric art. Our modern society can learn so much from these impressive and complex ancestral beings. These people can provide us with the ingredients for a far more cohesive and successful civilization: one made up of effective communication, a deep level of respect, active preservation, honest sustainability, vast knowledge, and a healthy dose of reflection. A consistent balance between all of these elements is critical in moving forward. We are miraculous beings bound together by interaction and self-expression and that is what makes Anthropology so special.