Patterns from the past : exploring gender and ethnicity through historical archaeology among fur trade families in the Willamette Valley of Oregon Public Deposited

http://ir.library.oregonstate.edu/concern/graduate_thesis_or_dissertations/0z708z59h

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  • This thesis examines archaeological material in order to explore gender and ethnicity issues concerning fur trade era families from a settlement in the Willamette Valley, Oregon. Ethnohistorical information consisting of traders journals and travelers observations, as well as documentation from the Hudson's Bay Company, Catholic church records, and genealogical information helped support and guide this research. By using historical information as well as archaeological material, this research attempted to interpret possible ethnic markers and gender relationships between husbands and wives among five fur trade era families. Families of mixed ethnicity, including French Canadian, Native, Metis and American, settled the valley after 1828 bringing with them objects and activities characteristic of their way of life. Retired fur trade trappers, of French Canadian and American decent, married either Metis or Native women. Of 53 identified families, four French Canadian/Native families have been chosen for this project, as well as one American settler, and his Native wife. Little is known about how these women interacted within their families or whether they maintained certain characteristics of their Native culture. It was hoped that these unique cultural dynamics might become evident through an analysis of the ceramic assemblages from these sites. Due to the extensive nature of the archaeological collections, and time constraints related to this thesis, only ceramics have been examined. Information concerning the cultural characteristics of these Native cultures was included along with family biographical information and a history of the fur trade culture. This background information was then examined in reference to the ceramic analysis. All data associated with ceramic characteristics was placed into an Excel file. The information was processed using frequency charts, and examined for the presence and/or absence of certain ceramics, specifically looking at variations in color and pattern. These data were then compared to information compiled by Judith Sanders Chapman (1993) in regards to the Harriet D. Munnick Archaeological Collection, another French Prairie ceramic collection. This analysis identified few differences in pattern and color specifically among transfer-printed ceramics, however, other types of ceramics were analyzed. No ethnic markers were identifiable when the historical material was examined against the ceramic analysis, suggesting that perhaps these Native and Metis women did not make consumer choices based on ethnicity, or that their ethnicity or cultural affiliations were incorrectly established. There was also insufficient evidence supporting the hypothesis that these women actually made consumer purchases at all or even traded for ceramics. However, this study does contribute to the sparse body of knowledge that we have on French Prairie and the family and cultural dynamics that guided this group of settlers. It also suggests that any future study concerning ethnicity or tribal affiliation, may be difficult due to the multi-cultural atmosphere of the period.
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