Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Exploring Colonization and Ethnogenesis through an Analysis of the Flaked Glass Tools of the Lower Columbia Chinookans and Fur Traders
by Simmons, Stephanie Catherine, M.S., Portland State University, 2014, 155; 1560956
Abstract (Summary)

This thesis is an historical archaeological study of how Chinookan peoples at three villages and employees of the later multicultural Village at Fort Vancouver negotiated the processes of contact and colonization. Placed in the theoretical framework of practice theory, everyday ordinary activities are studied to understand how cultural identities are created, reinforced, and changed (Lightfoot et al. 1998; Martindale 2009; Voss 2008). Additionally uneven power relationships are examined, in this case between the colonizer and the colonized, which could lead to subjugation but also resistance (Silliman 2001). In order to investigate these issues, this thesis studies how the new foreign material of vessel glass was and was not used during the everyday practice of tool production.

Archaeological studies have found that vessel glass, which has physical properties similar to obsidian, was used to create a variety of tool forms by cultures worldwide (Conte and Romero 2008). Modified glass studies (Harrison 2003; Martindale and Jurakic 2006) have demonstrated that they can contribute important new insights into how cultures negotiated colonization. In this study, modified glass tools from three contact period Chinookan sites: Cathlapotle, Meier, and Middle Village, and the later multiethnic Employee Village of Fort Vancouver were examined. Glass tool and debitage analysis based on lithic macroscopic analytical techniques was used to determine manufacturing techniques, tool types, and functions. Additionally, these data were compared to previous analyses of lithics and trade goods at the study sites.

This thesis demonstrates that Chinookans modified glass into tools, though there was variation in the degree to which glass was modified and the types of tools that were produced between sites. Some of these differences are probably related to availability, how glass was conceptualized by Native Peoples, or other unidentified causes. This study suggests that in some ways glass was just another raw material, similar to stone, that was used to create tools that mirrored the existing lithic technology. However at Cathlapotle at least, glass appears to have been relatively scarce and perhaps valued even as a status item. While at Middle Village, glass (as opposed to stone) was being used about a third of the time to produce tools.

Glass tool technology at Cathlapotle, Meier, and Middle Village was very similar to the existing stone tool technology dominated by expedient/low energy tools; however, novel new bottle abraders do appear at Middle Village. This multifaceted response reflects how some traditional lifeways continued, while at the same time new materials and technology was recontextualized in ways that made sense to Chinookan peoples.

Glass tools increase at the Fort Vancouver Employee Village rather than decrease through time. This response appears to be a type of resistance to the HBC's economic hegemony and rigid social structure. Though it is impossible to know if such resistance was consciously acted on or was just part of everyday activities that made sense in the economic climate of the time.

Overall, this thesis demonstrates how a mundane object such as vessel glass, can provide a wealth of information about how groups like the Chinookans dealt with a changing world, and how the multiethnic community at Fort Vancouver dealt with the hegemony of the HBC. Chinookan peoples and the later inhabitants of the Fort Vancouver Employee Village responded to colonization in ways that made sense to their larger cultural system. These responses led to both continuity and change across time. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ames, Kenneth M.
Commitee: Anderson, Shelby, Wilson, Douglas C.
School: Portland State University
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Oregon
Source: MAI 53/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International
Source Type: DISSERTATION
Subjects: Archaeology, American history, Native American studies
Keywords: Archaeology of contact, Chinook, Flaked glass tools, Fort Vancouver, Northwest coast fur trade
Publication Number: 1560956
ISBN: 9781321049787
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