By Published: Nov. 30, 2021

The competitive scholarship recognizes students who ‘want to contribute an Indigenous voice in the field of archaeology’

Chance Ward, a graduate student in the University of Colorado Boulder’s Museum and Field Studies Program, has received an award from the Colorado Council of Professional Archaeologists (CCPA) to support his studies.

Ward, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota and a member of the Mnicoujou and Hunkpapa bands of the Lakota Nation, won a scholarship to fund book purchases, travel and materials for his master's studies that include museum curation, collections management, artifact analysis, cultural preservation laws and tribal preservation programs.

"It means a lot for me. It’s a very competitive scholarship among other highly qualified applicants," Ward said. "Getting this award means that I’m on a career trajectory that I am passionate about and I know that I will be able to do well. It’s nice to see that effort be recognized."

Chance Ward

At the top of the page: A Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe flag. Above: CU graduate student Chance Ward studies horse bones in the museum's Archaeozoology Laboratory.

Bridget Ambler, chair for the CCPA’s Native American Scholarship Committee, said the CCPA offers scholarships up to $1,500 annually to Native American students to fund travel, archaeological field studies, training and certification programs associated with archaeology, anthropology, museum and related fields of study. 

Ambler added that it was clear to the committee that Ward "wants to contribute an Indigenous voice in the field of archaeology, and his application reflects the intentions of the CCPA Native American Scholarship fund."

Ward, who was born and raised on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation, earned his associate degree from Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and his bachelor’s degree from Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

During his time at CU Boulder, he has used archaeozoology, the study of ancient animal bones, along with indigenous knowledge in his research to understand ancient horse use in North and South Dakota.

"Being raised on the reservation, I naturally had access to horses," Ward said. "My father’s side of the family is locally known for being great rodeo competitors. So being well experienced on a horse came very easy for me. I used to ride horses without saddles in high school. But also, just being Lakota, I just remember listening to stories about horses in our culture and how they were important for hunting, emotional, spiritual connections and ceremonies."

Ward is also studying the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), Archaeological Resources Protection Act, National Historic Preservation Act and the National Environmental Policy Act to better understand the laws surrounding tribal cultural preservation. Additionally, during his studies, he has worked in several cultural heritage roles including in the Southern Ute Tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation office, a cultural resource management firm and on the Fort Lewis College NAGPRA Committee.

Ward credits these experiences, and the skills and knowledge he’s accumulated, with well-positioning himself as a future leader in tribal cultural preservation. Eventually, he hopes to work on the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation as tribal historic preservation officer.

Ward said the preservation officer position is a partnership between tribes and the National Park Service to preserve and protect resources and traditions important to native tribes in the United States.

"A tribal historic preservation officer assumes the same duties as the state historical preservation officer but works within tribal boundaries," he said. "It would mean a lot to me to go home, re-engage in my community of friends and family, and use my education to work hard to represent my Lakota people in all matters concerning tribal, cultural and archaeological preservation."

Ward added that the Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation currently has a tribal historic preservation officer, "so this is an ambition for the future. In the meantime, I can use my experience to work as a tribal archaeologist, and as a grant writer to bring in funding. I just want to be able to help, contribute, and give back to my community in any way that I can."