Bertha “Birdie” Parker – First Female Native American Archaeologist

Of Abenaki and Seneca decent, Bertha was born in New York in 1907. Her father was an archeologist and the first president of the Society of American Archaeology. In 1914, she moved to LA with her mother and she performed in the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus as a teenager. 

She began her archaeological work with her uncle. In 1929, she was at the excavation site for the Mesa House and discovered a Pueblo site which she named “Scorpion Hill.” She excavated the site herself, and her documents and photos were exhibited in the Southwest Museum in LA.

Three years later, Bertha worked at Gypsum Cave site in Nevada. There she discovered Corn Creek after she found a camel bone sticking out of an eroding lake bed. 

Since she was smaller than her colleagues, she was able to access new areas. Bertha found ancient human tools, and more importantly, the skull of an extinct giant ground sloth. 

She worked as an Assistant in Archaeology at the Southwest Museum from 1931-1941 and published several archaeology and ethnology papers. 

In later years, she became a technical advisor and consultant on TV shows and movies depicting Native Americans. She even hosted her own show about Native history and folklore throughout the 1950s. 

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