Local students become junior archaeologists for a week

Middle school camp

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and The Fort Garland Museum (a History Colorado Museum), partnered for their third annual Junior Archaeologist Camp.

Middle school students participated in a three-day camp the week of July 10th. During the week of July 17th  the high school students have a week-long camp. Some of the sites they visited include the petroglyphs of Trinchera Creek, the Scott Miller prehistoric archaeological site, the Baca National Wildlife Refuge, Trujillo Homestead National Historic Landmark, and observation at an active archaeological survey in Punche Valley.

“It has been the funnest camp that I’ve ever been to. I paid to go to [another] camp and this was not only better, but free. I cannot thank you enough,”- Damion Garcia (middle school camp). Damion is from the Alamosa School District. He applied to the camp because he wanted to learn more about his ancestors and how they came to the San Luis Valley.

The camp is designed to expose students to the history, culture, and archaeology of the San Luis Valley, and to cultivate relationships between students from different school districts within the three counties of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area; Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla.

Nicholas Scarborough, Park Ranger at the Sand Dunes served as Camp Leader. He helped the students to recognize their personal strengths, develop a sense of social responsibility to care for our area’s heritage and historical artifacts. He also introduced them to the concept of constant reflection about the meaning and purpose of what they were learning.  Learning new and exciting things during this camp has been a rewarding adventure for camp students.

Students learning to use an ancient atlatl

“I had never been to those sites before and it was really cool learning more about the history of the Valley,” Adrian Churder (High School camp). Adrian is from the North Conejos School District. He applied to the camp in an effort to learn more about archaeology.

The Scott Miller site, located on the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge, was a favorite for the camp participants. This site is usually closed to the public. However, owners granted permission for the camp to access the site. While at the site, students saw some of the artifacts dating back 10,000 years or more, including a mammoth tooth. Students were surprised to learn that these majestic beasts used to roam the San Luis Valley. The site holds more than 1,000 identified artifacts.

Latino Heritage Intern, Marissa Ortega, who is a shared intern between the Great Sand Dunes National Park and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area had the opportunity to assist with the middle school camp. “One site that was of particular interest to me was the Scott Miller site at Monte Vista National Wildlife Refuge. I was able to hold ivory tusks, a whole intact tooth, and an arm bone! Talk about the coolest camp ever!”

High school camp

For more information about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at sdcnha.org

For more information about the Fort Garland Museum call 719-379-3512

For more information about the Great Sand Dunes National Park visit their website at nps.gov/grsa






Posted in News

Archaeological Survey of Rio Grande Natural Area and Punche Valley

Paleocultural Research Group, Archaeology Camp students, and SdCNHA Board Members near Lobatos Bridge


 The San Luis Valley has a long and rich human history, as the area served as a seasonal hunting ground to prehistoric and Native American cultures. Therefore, the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, History Colorado, and the Bureau of Land Management have partnered to fund the Paleocultural Research Group (PCRG) to conduct an Archaeological inventory in southeastern Conejos County.

The purpose of the project is to develop a dataset of the archaeological resources of the area. The area is rich in Native American rock art, historic homesteads, irrigation features, historic trails, Native American camps, centennial farms, ranch complexes, structures, fences, and other aspects of the cultural landscape.

Native American arrowhead discovered in Punche Valley

The fieldwork for this project is taking place in July, 2017. During the week of July 10 the middle school students of the Junior Archaeologist Camp had the opportunity to observe the work.  During the week of July 17 the high school students of the Junior Archaeologist Camp will have a more in depth experience with the professionals conducting the survey. The Junior Archaeologist Camp is a partnership between The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the Fort Garland Museum, and the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

Interest in the archaeology of the San Luis Valley has grown over the past decade, because it is one of the most unique and well preserved cultural landscapes in the nation. However, the Valley remains one of the least studied locations in Colorado.

Victoria Martinez, Executive Director of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area stated that, “unfortunately, some of the sites being surveyed show signs of disturbance by local collectors, and other sites have damage due to graffiti. We hope that educating locals and visitors about the historical and cultural significance of these sites will prevent future damage.”

Petroglyph Panel


The volunteer team will be using various methods to record the rock art in the area including photography documentation, sketches, and 1:1-scale tracing on Mylar. Ten rock art sites have been documented in the area, of these four have been chosen for intensive documentation during this project. The PCRG research group plans to archive any culturally significant finds at The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve in their repository vault.

PCRG’s Research Director Dr. Mark Mitchell, serving as principal investigator, stated that he is being assisted by Chris Johnston, Assistant State Archaeologist and State PAAC Coordinator, PCRG Project Archaeologist Amy Nelson, and PCRG Lab Supervisor Britni Rockwell. In addition, PCRG hired two additional paid staff to supervise the survey and evaluation crews. “The crews together will include at least 10 volunteers per day; volunteers will include both professional and avocational archaeologists. Members of the Colorado Rock Art Association supervised by at least one paid crew chief will be dedicated to rock art documentation.”

For more information about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at sdcnha.org



Posted in News

Impact of National Heritage Areas

National Heritage Areas expand on traditional conservation approaches by supporting large-scale, community-driven initiatives that engage communities in heritage preservation activities. National Heritage Area entities, such as the local Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, collaborate with stakeholders to determine how to make heritage relevant to local needs and interests. These entities serve as catalysts for community and economic development.

In 2016 National Heritage Areas leveraged $45.5 million in cash and in-kind support to carry out heritage projects and programs, greatly increasing the impact of the $18.8 million in federal Heritage Partnership Program funding they received.

Partnerships are essential to National Heritage Areas. Through community outreach efforts National Heritage Areas engaged 1,929 formal partners and 5,000 informal partners in heritage area activities. Local communities benefited from 41,135 volunteers, these volunteers contributed over 660,401 hours for heritage area projects – that is a $14.6 million value.

National Heritage Areas fall under the National Park Service, which is a part of the U.S. Department of the Interior. These entities utilize place-based, community-driven conservation efforts and preservation activities for economic development to preserve the country’s Heritage. In 2016, across the country, National Heritage Areas and their partners are reviving historic downtowns, preserving battlefields and industrial sites, and sharing the nation’s history through the arts.

Through the National Heritage Areas 211 historic sites and 10,442 acres of cultural landscapes have been preserved and maintained across the country. Locally, the Nassario Gallegos house in San Luis, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Center, the old Train Depot in Antonito, along with other archaeological sites, and historic buildings were preserved for future generations.

Each National Heritage Area contributed to a total of 72 community development projects, including streetscape improvement and art projects like the local mural restoration project in Conejos County.

Nationally, there were 80 collections projects, including the conservation of artifacts and the creation of oral histories through the Voices of the Valley project initiated by Dr. Benjamin Waddell (former professor at Adams State) and Victoria Martinez (executive director of Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area).

Awarding community grants is a large part of the work conducted by National Heritage Areas. In total 73 historic preservation grants were awarded in the amount of $1 million.

Conservation activities led by National Heritage Area entities and their partners improve air and water quality and support healthy ecosystems: 7,572 acres of land were restored and maintained via invasive species removal, replanting and toxic site clean-up. In addition, 44 conservation grants were awarded in the amount of $743,664. Through recreational projects such as land and water trails. National Heritage Areas are improving connectivity and accessibility, and creating more vibrant and healthy communities.

Community recreation, was also part of National Heritage Area work. In the past year 110 recreation projects were undertaken. For example, 395 miles of trails were maintained and 25 new miles of trails were developed. In addition, 50 recreation grants were awarded in the amount of $1.7 million.

It is also important for National Heritage Areas to educate current and future leaders. Through programs such as the Summer Junior Archaeologist Camp, which is a partnership between Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and History Colorado. National Heritage Areas and their partners are providing meaningful and inspirational connections to our nation’s heritage and exploring the qualities and skills of leadership.

There were also 198 educational programs offered, such as the Summer Latino Teacher Workshop. This workshop was a partnership between the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and CU Boulder. Local teachers were trained on how to create curriculum incorporating oral history videos about local culture and heritage. A total of 341 grants to support educational programs were awarded this past year, by all the National Heritage Areas in the amount of $1.2 million.

To learn more about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at sdcnha.org

Posted in News

A New Place-based Curriculum for Valley Teachers

                                                          Colorado teachers at the Summer Latino Teacher Workshop


The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA), in partnership with the University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder), has launched a place-based program to train local teachers on creating lessons and curriculum about local culture, history and heritage.

On June 18th, local teachers from the North Conejos and South Conejos school districts were sponsored by the SdCNHA to attended the Summer Latino Teacher Workshop hosted by CU Boulder. The teachers’ travel, lodging, and fees were covered by the SdCNHA. Sixty teachers from Boulder County, and the San Luis Valley attended the workshop. Teachers received CEU credits and graduate credits for the work done during the workshop to create specific lessons for K-12 students.

CU Boulder originally launched the teacher workshop as part of their Boulder County Latino History Project, now in its fifth year. The purpose of the Boulder project is to highlight the Latino contributions that have been almost invisible in standard histories of Boulder County and in the American history taught in local schools. Many families (whether deeply rooted in the community or more recent arrivals) have their own stories about the past, but these memories have rarely been recorded and are in danger of being lost.

Similarly, through placed-based learning, the SdCNHA wishes to highlight the diverse ethnicities and contributions in the San Luis Valley that are also in danger of being lost. Toward that effort, Victoria Martinez and Dr. Benjamin Waddell have worked diligently to collect, record, and preserve over 80 oral histories of Valley locals in video form. These oral history videos are in the process of being made available to the public via the heritage area’s YouTube channel (Sangre NHA). The lessons local teachers will create will be available to Valley teachers and teachers throughout Colorado via the heritage area’s website (sdcnha.org).

                                                      Victoria Martinez presenting at the Summer Teacher Workshop

There are two dimensions to place-based learning worthy of highlight, as they relate to K-12 schools in the San Luis Valley. Dimension one empowers schools to recognize the value of local knowledge and experience by promoting learning within local communities as a means of forging a deeper connection between students and residents, and in this manner, validating local knowledge and experiences.

Dimension two calls for firm investments in human capital at the local level in order to promote quality leadership within Valley communities. The SdCNHA is interested in investing in local teachers to assist them in creating place-based curriculum that meets Colorado state standards, without adding an additional component to their already hectic teaching schedules.

Possible lesson topics explored by the teachers include: art, music, remedios (remedies), Hispanic migration, agriculture, rural women, conservation, Native American traditions, food traditions, the Spanish dialect of the upper Rio Grande area, and poetry.

Any local teachers within the three counties of the SdCNHA interested in participating in this program who are willing to create K-12 curriculum are urged to contact the SdCNHA at info@sdcnha.org.


Posted in News

New Tour Launched Through Colorado’s Three National Heritage Areas

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, in collaboration with Colorado’s two other National Heritage Areas, has created a new tour highlighting Colorado’s rich culture and heritage.

The Cache la Poudre River, South Park, and Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Areas have worked diligently with the Colorado Tourism Office on a coordinated tourism effort, that showcases the importance and accessibility of these unique areas. A new website (coheritagejourney.com) includes a map that connects travelers to all three areas while providing information on recreational and educational opportunities available in each area.

Sangre de Cristo offers historical and culturally immersive experiences through train rides, outdoor excursions, summer festivals, and cultural events. In Sangre de Cristo you can sand board down the highest dunes in the country, fish in the pristine rivers, spend the day on a train riding the narrow gauge railroad, or take a drive on Los Caminos Antiguos Scenic Byway. For the artfully minded, come experience a new type of art scene with a mural tour. While the spiritually inclined, can take a tour of the old mission churches.

South Park showcases education through recreational themes, interpretive exhibits, and heritage trails. In South Park you can enjoy nature along alpine hiking trails, have an immersive experience on a dude ranch, or take in the art scene at several galleries.

Cache la Poudre River highlights how local industry can play a role in National Heritage Areas through railroads, ranching, and beer. In Cache la Poudre you can enjoy nature on a walking or biking tour, or take in the sights on a driving tour.

Cultural heritage tourism can provide visitors with a more authentic experience. Revitalized main streets allow visitors the opportunity to enjoy the ambiance of historical settings. Whereas, cultural preservation on historic buildings allows visitors and residents alike a glimpse into life as it was during the building’s construction. Visit the new website (coheritagejourney.com) to discover some of Colorado’s hidden treasures and plan your next vacation as a heritage tour through colorful Colorado.

For more information, please contact:

Kathleen Benedict, Executive Director Poudre Heritage Alliance 970-295-4851 kbenedict@poudreheritage.org

Victoria Martinez, Executive Director Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area 719-580-4070 tmartinez@sdcnha.org

Andrew Spencer, Executive Director South Park National Heritage Area 719-836-4298 aspencer@parkco.us


Posted in News

Plan Your Summer Road Trip along Los Caminos Antiguios Scenic and Historic Byway


Alamosa – A new partnership between the Colorado Byways Program and MyScenicDrives.com is offering a new way to explore Los Camnios Antiguios Scenic and Historic byway, along with Colorado’s 26 Scenic and Historic Byways – just in time for the summer season.

MyScenicDrives.com provides detailed information about Colorado’s system of 26 spectacular touring routes – 2,565 miles – throughout the state. MyScenicDrives.com includes features that showcase electrical vehicle charging stations, visitor amenities and a road-trip planner that can be printed or exported to a GPS device. Here is the link for specific information on Los Caminos Antiguios https://www.myscenicdrives.com/drives/colorado/los-caminos-antigous.

Additionally, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) furnishes a free Bicycling and Scenic Byways map that is available at Colorado Welcome Centers or by mail upon request. CDOT also provides online bicycle route maps at https://www.codot.gov/programs/bikeped/information-for-bicyclists/colorado-bicycling-maps.  The Colorado Byways program web site includes a resources page with additional tourism materials, and wayfinding information.

“We encourage visitors and residents alike to take advantage of these free resources and explore Los Caminos Antiguios Scenic and Historic Byway, along with Colorado’s other byways,” said Colorado Scenic Byways coordinator Lenore Bates. “Whether you are an outdoor enthusiast, history buff, nature lover, tourist or conservationist, Colorado’s byways provide a “wow” factor that can’t be denied.”

Los Caminos Antiguios is located within Alamosa, Costilla, and Conejos Counties and provides access to The Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, the historic town of San Luis, Stations of the Cross Shrine, the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, Colorado’s oldest church in Conejos, and many other natural and historic sites.

The Colorado byways are located in 48 of Colorado’s 65 counties and provide access to eight National Forests and two National Grasslands; eight National Monuments; two National Historic Sites; two National Heritage Areas; two National Wildlife Refuges; two National Recreation Areas; 13 National Recreation Trails; and four National Parks—Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Great Sand Dunes, Mesa Verde (a World Heritage Site) and Rocky Mountain National Park.

Twenty-three state parks are located on a Colorado Byway, and byways connect hundreds of thousands of acres of Forest Service, BLM lands and state wildlife areas. The CDOT-administered program is widely recognized as the strongest in the nation with 11 byways awarded the national designation of America’s Byways®, more than any another state.

In 2014, 3,010,000 visitors to Colorado accessed the state’s well-known scenic beauty, historical sites and recreational areas through “touring trips,” the second-highest activity after “outdoor trips” (3,220,000) among Colorado’s “core ‘marketable’ overnight travel segments.” (Marketable trips are those most subject to influence by marketing and promotion.) Two-thirds of touring travelers come from outside Colorado.

“The tourism generated by Colorado’s byways is often the key supporting financial source to many of our historic designated sites as well as to the local businesses along the byways,” said Bates. “Exploring the byways is a great way to support small businesses and communities along the byways.”

For more information about Colorado’s Scenic and Historic Byways, visit www.ColoradoByways.org.

For more information about Los Caminos Antiguios Scenic and Historic Byway request a brochure from the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area info@sdcnha.org


Los Caminos Antinguios Scenic and Historic Byway is overseen by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area and is a partnership with the Colorado Scenic and Historic Byways program. This statewide partnership is intended to provide recreational, educational and economic benefits to Coloradans and visitors. This system of outstanding tourism routes in Colorado affords the traveler interpretation and identification of key points of interest and services while providing for the protection of significant resources. Scenic and Historic Byways are nominated for their exceptional scenic, historic, cultural, recreational and natural features.


Posted in News

Sangre de Cristo NHA thanks community for their support


The staff and Board Members at the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) want to express our gratitude for a successful turnout of nearly 200 people at our Celebration of Cultural Music event on April 22nd.

We started the evening by honoring our Board Members who have passed away. Family members for Joe Gallegos and Felix Lopez were present to receive a bouquet of flowers and printed memorials. Other board members honored included Stuart Hilwig, Emirta Romero-Anderson, Marianne Dunne, and Ubaldo Francisco Padilla.

Attendees were then entertained by traditional Hispanic performances from Mariachi San Luis, Semillas de la Tierra folklorico group, Los Vecinos Bailadores colonial dance instructors, and the night ended with a dance featuring the UZ Band.

Mariachi San Luis and Semillas de la Tierra kicked off the evening of cultural music by performing together. The haunting sounds of violins, trumpets, and guitars filled the hall. These traditional instruments of the Mariachi date back to the 1800’s. Mariachi San Luis wore the traditional Charro suits.  The silver buttons called botonaduras that lined the sleeves and legs of their costumes glistened under the ballroom lights.

The accompanying Mexican folklorico dance group, Semillas de la Tierra, had several outfit changes for each unique dance performance. The bright colors of the women’s dresses created a moving rainbow as they tap danced their way across the dance floor.

“I love the old dances, they are so fun and elegant” Irene Duran.

Los Vecinos Bailadores “The neighbors that dance” provided traditional dance instruction as attendees joined in on the fun of La Marcha, and other colonial dances.

The photo booth was a big hit allowing everyone to try on Sombreros (Mexican hats), and strike a pose with other props in front of a life size backdrop of dancers and musicians.

Tori Martinez, the Executive Director for the SdCNHA said, “We are very happy with the support we felt from the San Luis Valley community regarding our event.  We are also very grateful to the many volunteers from Adams State University’s Cultural Awareness and Student Achievement Center (C.A.S.A.), as well as our board members, staff and their families, without whom we would not have had such a successful event.”

Dennis Lopez, Board Vice President, greeted attendees; Nick Saenz, Board President, did the welcome and introduction; Kimba Rael, Board Member, operated the photo booth; Donald Valdez, Board Member, handed out memorials to the family members present; and Helen Sigmond, Board Member drew the winner of the raffle prize, which was two tickets to the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad.

Additional sponsorship for the event came from The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, The Colorado Trust, City Market in Alamosa, the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, and the Knights of Columbus. Proceeds from the food sales benefited the Antonito Senior Center.


Posted in News

Photo Contest Winner

Sangre de Cristo NHA Announces Photo Contest Winner

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) is pleased to announce Veronica “Annette” Martinez-Mascarenaz from Romeo as the winner of our 2017 photo contest.

The SdCNHA Board of Directors chose Veronica’s photograph of Bighorn Sheep, near the Magote area because the photograph represents the beauty of the natural rock formations and the diverse animals that locals and visitors can enjoy in our heritage area.

We received 59 photo submissions for this year’s contest. Submissions came from all three counties in our heritage area, which includes Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla Counties. The winning photograph stood out to our board as the most memorable.

We hope to make the photo contest an annual event. Anyone interested in submitting for next year’s contest can visit our website to see this year’s contest information and guidelines. We look for photo’s that represent the lifestyle, history, culture, and unique beauty of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area.

You can meet Veronica and see her beautiful photograph at our upcoming fundraiser “A Celebration of Cultural Music” on April 22nd. The fundraiser will be held at the Knights of Columbus in Alamosa and starts at 6:30 pm. Tickets in advance are $25 or $35 at the door. All proceeds go toward the work of the heritage area for cultural preservation, natural resource protections, youth education, and local student scholarships.

For more information visit our website at sdcnha.org

Posted in News

Underserved Community Grant

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area with a substantial $43,000 grant from the National Park Service and in partnership with History Colorado Preservation Planning Unit will be able to increase representation of the San Luis Valley and its Hispanic heritage in the National Register of Historic Places.

The grant funds will be used to hire a consultant to prepare nominations to the National Register of Historic Places for four properties in the San Luis Valley area. The four properties have been selected and are awaiting approval, History Colorado anticipates research and recordation to begin later this summer.

“With a backdrop of the imposing Sangre de Cristo mountain range, the San Luis Valley—now largely overlaid by the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area in Conejos, Costilla, and Alamosa counties—features thriving early Hispanic cultural traditions and practices, including language, architecture, and crafts,” stated Astrid Liverman, National and State Register Coordinator. “Designation can celebrate the stories of the Valley and complement regional heritage tourism.”

This grant is through the National Park Service’s Underrepresented Communities program, which provides support for the designation, inventory, and survey of historic properties that have an association with communities that are underrepresented in the National Register of Historic Places.

This grant complements the History Colorado Heritage Diversity Initiative, which seeks to crowdsource information on historic buildings and resources related to Colorado’s African American, Asian American/Pacific Islander, Hispanic/Latino, LGBTQ, Women’s, and Urban American Indian history, with the goal of getting more of these significant places listed in the State and National Registers of Historic Places.

This grant it also in line with the goals of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area to preserve and protect the unique cultural heritage of the San Luis Valley.

For more information about the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area visit their website at sdcnha.org

Posted in News


The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area invites the community to “A CELEBRATION OF CULTURAL MUSIC!”  6:30 PM, Saturday, April 22, 2017, at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 1112 8h Street, Alamosa, CO.

This friend raising event will feature performances by Semillas de la Tierra, Mariachi San Luis, and Antonito Senior traditional dance group, who will demonstrate traditional dance styles and invite the audience to participate. Throughout the evening past grantees will offer short presentations about their work which was partially funded by National Heritage Area grants, and videos of local oral histories will be presented. The UZ Band will perform and a community dance will begin at 9 PM until 11:30PM. The UZ band offers a variety of modern and traditional dance music.   Antonito Seniors will offer food for purchase.

Advance tickets are $25 and are available at; SDCNHA office, 623 4th st in Alamosa, Old Fort Market, Fort Garland, CO; Ventero Open Press, San Luis; Chavez Southwest Market, Antonito, CO; and CASA Center at Adams State University. Tickets sold at the door will be $30.

The Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is a local non-profit organization with the mission of promoting, protecting, and interpreting local historic, religious, environmental, geographic, geologic, cultural, and linguistic resources in Alamosa, Conejos, and Costilla counties. The Heritage Area strives to partner with local organizations to develop heritage tourism; tell the stories of the Heritage Area; and cultivate management which provides excellent leadership, reflects community values, and works toward sustainability.

Please join us for a fun evening of music and dance!

Posted in News
// adding googl analytics here