Through a program run by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, a few veterans, many with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries, are combing through an enormous government archaeological collection. They are looking to identify, archive, and eventually return American Indian artifacts that were once found beneath major public works projects from as early as the 1930s. Items in the 47,000-cubic-feel collection (which would fill 30 semitrailers) include prehistoric pottery, tools, arrowheads, jewelry, and ceremonial items. The project is part of the Corps’ effort to return the American Indian culture items to their tribes or descendants, as all federal agencies must do under a 1990 law.
The veteran participants find the program has eased their transition into civilian life and provided new job skills. The relationships between the veterans is described as close, and one veteran said that the “work is therapy” as he is able to talk with others who have similar military experiences. Veterans work on the project for six months, learning data management and archiving. After the six months expires, the VA helps the participants find permanent jobs. The project has three centers across the country in areas with a high concentration of wounded veterans: St Louis, MO; August, GA; and Washington, DC.
For more information, see: