Indigenous Methods in Archaeology: Catch-and-Release

This video explores an intensive surface collection method that Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology is implementing in its assessments of tribal cultural resources on the Grand Ronde reservation. Referred to as the Catch-and-Release method, it maximizes our ability to collect relevant site data while minimizing ground impact. Catch and Release is designed as part of a low-impact archaeological methodology that attempts to reduce harm to both tribal cultural resources and the contemporary tribal community by integrating cultural protocols and values into our field practice.

The Molalla Encampment as a Food Forest

When ethnoecologist Dr. Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook came to visit FMIA at Grand Ronde, she led a wonderful plant walk around the edges of the Molalla Encampment Site and showed us all the edible plants that surround the site. I had no idea that so many edible and medicinal plants were so close to where we had been working for weeks. During the plant walk she mentioned that the Molalla site was a permaculture Food Forest, which are permanent agriculturally managed places where people have access to food. I became really interested in the concept of Food Forests.
According to the Permaculture Institute, Food Forests are designed to meet the needs of the community as well as produce a habitat beneficial for wildlife and increased ecological resilience and diversity. The website discussed how Food Forests are not necessarily “natural” but are specifically designed and managed. One of the goals of permaculture is to regenerate degraded landscapes to their former health. An example of permaculture put into practice is the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle, Washington. Their goals are similar to that of the Permaculture Institute in that they want to rehabilitate the local ecosystem while bringing the community together to grow their own food. The Beacon Hill Food Forest strives to follow permaculture methods while planning to plant for the needs of the diverse community. It also hopes to combine native plants with a mixture of other edible gardening plants.
Nisqually tribal member and Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Billy Frank Jr. also discusses the idea of Food Forests in his article Every Forest Once a Food Forest on Northwest Treaty Tribes. He discusses that for indigenous people, “all of Western Washington was once a food forest.” He also writes about how projects like the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle are important because they are trying to repair the landscape from a condition that doesn’t allow for natural food forests and first foods to thrive. He hopes these projects include plants that have long been used by indigenous communities.
The Molalla Encampment Site is similar to what Billy Frank Jr. describes. While it is a public place that is frequently used by campers attending Grand Ronde powwows, it is in a fairly natural area and produces a large variety of co-existing edible plants that need minimal management. With its meadow-like managed state, the site also provides a productive environment for plants and animals (Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook). Molalla also includes Indigenous plants as well as introduced plants. For example, the site has Indigenous plants like trailing blackberries, service berries, and native crab apples but also has introduced Himalayan blackberries and pear trees. It’s interesting to think about how long these plants have been growing around Molalla and who might have planted and used them in the past.
Working on the topic of edible and medicinal plants at the Molalla encampment showed me that every forest can be a Food Forest if you know what you’re looking for and how to use it. It has made me think even more about how resources are everywhere and occur naturally. I definitely will keep this in mind when looking at landscapes in the future.
Check out some of the edible/medicinal plants at the Molalla Encampment in the video below:

Works Cited
Beacon Food Forest
N.d. Beacon Food Forest Permaculture Project. Beacon Food Forest., accessed July 19, 2016.

Frank, Billy Jr
2016 Every Forest Once a Food Forest. Northwest Treaty Tribes: Protecting Natural Resources for Everyone., accessed July 19, 2016.

Lecompte-Mastenbrook, Joyce
2016 Molalla Encampment Site Plant Walk. Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology Field School.

Permaculture Institute
N.d. Permaculture Resources. Permaculture Institute., accessed July 19, 2016.

Fort Vancouver Visit

Whenever I talk to my family while at the field school they always ask me what I am doing and what I am learning about. If I tell them that we went on a field trip that day they always seem shocked like they thought we would always be working outdoors learning about archaeological methods and strategies of excavation. While a big part of the field school is learning about these techniques, a large part is also about when and how to use archaeology to both include and benefit the wider public. Recently, we visited Fort Vancouver to learn more about this approach to archaeology.

At Fort Vancouver we met a team of archaeologists and their students who were practicing public archaeology. They were doing work in what is believed to be a WWI Spruce Mill. They explained their excavation methods to us. I noticed a lot of similarities and differences between the excavations being done at the schoolhouse and the mill. For example, logistically our excavation techniques are very similar. Their units consist of 1 x 4 meter trenches and larger 3 x 3 meter open area excavations. While our project with the Grand Ronde THPO emphasizes low-impact methods, we are using similar open-area excavation units to investigate a privy at the Grand Ronde School.

While the techniques of excavation are similar, the communities for which we are doing this work are different. The archaeologists of Fort Vancouver do their work to educate the public, while the work being done at the schoolhouse is part of an indigenous approach to archaeology. Therefore, the work we do through FMIA is directly informed by the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s needs and cultural values. This means that all of the knowledge that is gained from working at the schoolhouse site would not be possible unless the tribe, THPO, and the archeologists doing the work had a respected trustful relationship.

Fort Vancouver uses different methods to inform the public about what they are doing. All of their work is on display to the park’s visitors and they regularly host family fun activities. Both the open lab display, where there is a large window that allows people to observe the students processing artifacts, and excavations outside the fort allow anyone to walk by and see what the team is doing and ask questions.

I thought it was interesting that Fort Vancouver has a children’s dig. It was explained that the artifacts were organized within mock excavation units by time. As the children dig in these units they first encounter mostly trash. As they dig further they find older items like a grenade, representative of the fort’s history a US Army base, and finally a hearth associated with the early fort. They explained how after the children have dug up the artifacts, they are returned and not kept. I thought this was an effective way to get children and the community involved with archaeology, and to learn at a young age that archaeologists do not keep what they find. An important aspect of public archaeology is engaging the general public and letting them know what’s going on. Fort Vancouver does this by working with the local news to help spread the word about what they are doing.

It was nice to see archaeological work in a different setting, and to see the methods being used to include the community.

Expanding Our Sea of Islands

In Our Sea of Islands (1994), Epeli Hau’ofa proclaims that in the Pacific, we are not defined by the smallness of our islands, but the greatness of our ocean. The Pacific being a unifying trait that connects us all, an idea that departs from the western gaze of islands as isolated lands trapped by the ocean. Moana, our grandmother ocean is the one that breathes mana (spiritual force) into us and is the source for our many ways of life. It is through her that I connect our sea of islands to Turtle Island.

(ALL RIGHTS) July 2013. Canoe families representing Native American tribes from around the Pacific Northwest (including British Columbia, Alaska and Washington) travel from La Push to the Hoh River on Washington's Olympic Peninsula for the annual Canoe Journey. This year, canoeists paddled from their respective home villages and will finish at Point Grenville on the Quinalt Reservation. Photo credit: © Erika Nortemann/TNC

(ALL RIGHTS) July 2013. Canoe pullers set out from LaPush on the northwest coast of Washington  Photo credit: © Erika Nortemann/TNC

In Tongan culture, we practice tauhi , which translates to nurishing space. This space is cultivated by shared ancestors or kin-like relationships that bonds us together. In order to sustain for generations to come, our traditions tell us to perform‘ofa (love), faka’apa’apa (respect), and fetokoni’aki (mutual assistance) for one another.

As I’m becoming more involved at Grand Ronde, I notice the ways that the community here views the ocean, as important and powerful. This similarity between our peoples is something I cannot ignore because we share the same ancestor, the Pacific Ocean. Therefore, I must nurture that space between us. During the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology field school, I have chosen to explore fishing and voyaging traditions at Grand Ronde to connect Indigenous coastal peoples of the Northwest to Pacific peoples.

Canoe Journey is an inter-tribal voyage centered around healing and recovery of culture, traditional knowledge and spirituality. Contemporary practices like Canoe Journey help Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest maintain ties not only  to their ancestors, but Moana herself. Practice is situated in time and place informing traditional lifeways that connect people to places as well as ancestors. (time) and(space) are essential components that Pacific cultures are anchored within. ‘Ōkusitino Māhina, describes tā-vā theory as “the plural, cultural, collectivistic, holistic and circular nature of [Oceanic] thinking and practice about time and space” in which, “people are thought to walk forward into the past and walk backward into the future, both taking place in the present, where the past and future are constantly mediated in the ever-transforming present” (Māhina 2010:170). In Tongan culture, we view vaka (canoes) as vehicles of connection both to ancestors and the sea. In conversation and dialogue with Moana through vaka, features or places are thought of as ancestors themselves. Therefore, a genealogy is created through practice.

I would like to extend this understanding of navigating the ocean to link both Canoe Journey and the Kanaka Maoli (Hawaiian) Hōkūleʻa as indigenous seafaring practices that bind our peoples together. Past participants of Canoe Journey have also included Kanaka Maoli and Māori as well.

As Maui cast his hook to pull up Tonga into creation, my research culminates the in the production of Indigenous hooks in order to forge stronger ties between our peoples.



Hau’ofa, Epeli

1994. Our Sea of Islands. The Contemporary Pacific 6(2): 147-61.

‘Ōkusitino Māhina

  1. Tā, Vā, and Moana: Temporality, Spatiality, and Indigeneity. Pacific Studies 33(2): 168-202.

Rapport in Archaeology

I write this having just ate my second dinner for the night, full of salmon – The first salmon harvested by the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde at Willamette Falls in over a hundred years, as they negotiate their hunting and fishing rights with an assortment of government agencies.

As I sat in the plank house, I couldn’t help but feel honored to be a part of a historic moment of healing and restoration. But opportunities such as these aren’t built from nothing. As part of the second year of the University of Washington’s field school, Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology (FMIA), I am able to benefit from a relationship built over several years between the university, the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), and members of the Grand Ronde community.

Guided by Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) methods, the FMIA field school developed a research partnership with the THPO and members of the Grand Ronde community that contributes to the capacity of the THPO to care for tribal cultural resources on the Grand Ronde reservation. This partnership is based on the values of respect and reciprocity in order to cultivate a meaningful and lasting relationship between all parties. The viability of our research is assessed based on its potential contributions to everyone involved. While archaeology has a deep rooted colonial and extractive past, the CBPR framework (Atalay, 2012) encourages a long term positive exchange with indigenous communities. Who stands to benefit from our work as archaeologists, and how to involve the community, as well as their perspectives and ways of understanding are critically important.

Although the concept of building rapport in the field is not foreign to anthropology, its important in archaeology is often overlooked. Community-based and indigenous approaches to archaeology illustrate how forming long term, meaningful relationships with and to a community is a critical part of creating a respectful archaeological practice.

At this point, at the end of week five in the FMIA School, we have had opportunities to participate in important cultural practices fostered by the Grand Ronde community. We’ve taken a trip into the woods to harvest maple bark, an important resource for the manufacture of clothing.  The maple bark we were peeling, in this instance was going to be used to make maple bark skirts for the young dancers in the tribe. We learned how to peel the bark from the tree in a single piece, inserting our fingers between the bark and the trunk of the tree, and how to separate the flexible inner bark from he fragile outer bark that is prone to cracking and breaking.IMG_0100

IMG_0096We were also invited to the plank house for the opening ceremonies of the annual veterans powwow. This was our first time in the plank house, and as the tribe sang, danced, and pounded drums, learning how to act appropriately (what songs to stand for, and when to remove my hat) has largely been a crash course in mimicry. We’ve even been provided the opportunity to set up our field camp on the powwow grounds themselves.  These are opportunities grown out of the equitable relationship that the FMIA field school has built with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Experiencing culture as it is practiced, understanding it as living, gets us away from a reductionist history produced by Western science and archaeology that sees Indigenous cultures as timeless and stuck in the past. We’ve been provided the opportunity to experience Grand Ronde tribal culture as it is today, as a living, changing thing, not the static history of a textbook.

Experiences such as these, in addition to being fun, exciting, and a welcome break from the labors of field work, enlighten our perspectives and make us better archaeologists. Mutually beneficial, long term relationships aren’t just useful, they’re sustainable.

Works Cited

Atalay, Sonya (2012) Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Archaeology Connecting to the Landscape


When I was looking around at archaeological field schools, the last thing I expected to find was a field course that included working with a community not only to learn about their stories and history but to do archaeology in a way that benefits them. So far the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology field school has not only taught me a lot about archaeology, but also about the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde community. We have done site visits at least every week where we drive to tribal cultural landscapes and learn about their significance to Grand Ronde.

One of my favorite trips so far has been to Mount Hebo. We drove to the top and when we got there, the first thing I noticed was the view. Not only could we see the coastline features like Haystack Rock and Cannon Beach, but we could also see as many as six mountain peaks. In addition to the view, I really enjoyed visiting Mount Hebo because I got to learn so much about why people in the area came here in the past and continue to visit this amazing place today. Not only can you see important places on the landscape from this high viewpoint but there are also a lot of resources on Mount Hebo. When we were walking up we found wild strawberries, thimble berries, and mountain huckleberries. We talked about how Mount Hebo would have probably been a more temporary summer settlement as part of the seasonal rounds where people had access to resources such as trees, mountain animals, berries, and other summer mountain plants.

I thought this was very interesting because I had never looked at a landscape this intensely with so many layers. I love looking at and identifying different plants but thinking about them in a larger cultural context really started to bring everything together for me. It connected the landscape to the community and culture. It also prompted me to think about how archaeology can play a role in the landscape and working with communities through the archaeological approach called “Community-Based Participatory Research.” For example, in Sonya Atalay’s book Community-Based Participatory Research she defines community-based participatory research (CBPR) as an approach that involves communities meaningfully as equal partners and that uses multiple knowledge systems to construct knowledge (Atalay 2012:3-5). She also stresses the importance of CBPR for creating research that addresses the questions and needs of both archaeologists and communities. Framed as such, community-based archaeology is not solely focused on what archaeologists are interested in, but also what questions the community want answered (Atalay 2012:7). In Grand Ronde, we have been looking at the wider landscape through multiple knowledge systems to better understand the Grand Ronde community and their cultural traditions to inform our archaeology, allowing us to do better work that benefits everyone.

I thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Mount Hebo as well as the other site visits we’ve done so far. I am excited to learn more as we continue to do site visits this summer. Learning about the landscape in a new and comprehensive way will stay with me long after this field school finishes in August.

Here is the link to Sonya Atalay’s blog at UMass Amherst:

Works Cited
Atalay, Sonya
2012 Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and       Local Communities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

[“We Are the Champions” playing in the distance]

Road's End 1

Pictured above, from left to right: Yoli, Celena, Ale, and Mychaela. Photo by Tiauna Cabillan.

This past Fourth of July weekend, I spent my Sunday out at Road’s End with a few teammates (thanks to Ale for inviting us all, and for Celena, Michaela, and Yoli for coming along!). We journeyed to the coast in search of God’s Thumb (also known simply as The Thumb), a seaside hilltop that promised gorgeous views and a hike suited to all skill levels. After a brief trek up the road from the beach, past a litany of signs advertising beachfront rentals, we found ourselves at the trailhead. From then on we hiked upwards for a half-mile or so, enclosed by old-growth trees and ambitious shrubs. Thimbleberry, especially, seemed determined to crowd the trail at either side; anyone looking to experience the view from atop God’s Thumb will have to contend with thickets of it in order to get anywhere near the hilltop— as if the hill itself wasn’t enough of a challenge!

God's Thumb 1

(Just check out the slope on that thing.) Photo by Tiauna Cabillan.

In the end, the view was everything we were promised and more: in the north, the curve of another outcropping; to the east, the ocean; and to the south, a clean shot of the beach where we began.

God's Thumb 2

The view of Road’s End. Photo by Tiauna Cabillan.

In some ways, the footpath that led us to God’s Thumb resembled the slopes of Mount Hebo, a site our team visited earlier in the week, and the hills of the National Wildlife Refuge at Baskett Slough, which we visited in June. While Mount Hebo is home to some of the same vegetation we encountered on the trail—namely thimbleberry, salmonberry, and Sitka spruce—Baskett Slough was formerly a prairie where land management practices, particularly controlled burning, were key to maintaining the site’s ecology. Though God’s Thumb and the trail that led us to it hardly resemble the oak prairie landscape that once defined Baskett Slough, I wonder if the trail we hiked wasn’t previously (or perhaps currently) subject to Indigenous land management practices.

From what I’ve gathered, this portion of the coast was subsumed into the Coast Reservation established in 1856 (“Heritage and Culture”). By the late 1800’s, the coastal reservation had been greatly reduced after the U.S. government executed the Dawes Act, and the Road’s End region appears to have been excluded from what became the Siletz reservation (“Reservation Reduction”). Prior to any and all treaty negotiations, what is today Lincoln City was then part of the Siuslaw and Alsea tribes’ lands (“Aboriginal Lands”). Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate any information on Siuslaw or Alsea land management practices, or even much evidence that the Road’s End trail was extensively managed despite its seemingly abundant resources– not to say that that alone is proof that is wasn’t. In any case, I’m still interested in learning more about the landscape as it exists today and in the past. I’ll just have to keep searching!


“Heritage and Culture”. Oregon Coast. Web page, July 6, 2016.

Smith, Brady. “Aboriginal Lands”. Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Electronic Document, July 7, 2016.

“Reservation Reduction”. Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians. Electronic document, _area.pdf. July 7, 2016.

About Me – Eve Harene Dewan

I come to Oregon from the opposite coast, where I am a graduate student in Anthropology at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Classical Studies and Art History from Earlham College, a small Quaker school in Indiana. After graduating, I moved to Austin, Texas, where I briefly worked as a professional magician’s assistant before becoming a case manager for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Although I ultimately decided to return to archaeology, this experience shaped my interest in understanding how individuals experience institutional spaces, as well as my commitment to doing work that extends beyond the academic archaeological community.  

My research interests focus on the material culture of colonialism and resistance at schools for Native American children in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. I have previously excavated at the Mount Pleasant Indian Industrial Boarding School in Michigan, a collaborative project between Central Michigan University and the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. I have also done archival research at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, studying documents from the Phoenix Indian School. This multi-sited research led to my Master’s paper, which was about the role of sports and physical education at these federally-run, off-reservation boarding schools. My other archaeological experience has been in Greece, Romania, Virginia, New York, and, most recently, on the Caribbean island of Montserrat.  

When I’m not doing schoolwork, I love trying out new recipes–the spicier the better. I also try to make time for regular soccer games, solving puzzles, and playing any and all board games with friends. Although I am not allowed to own a dog in my apartment, I compensate with an amiable hermit crab, five colorful fish, and countless plants. They help keep my home lively and get me through the cold New England winters!

About Cody

Cody is a senior at Western Oregon University pursuing a B.S. in Anthropology. When he heard about the FMIA field school he jumped at the opportunity to take part in the archaeological collaboration with the nearby Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

His general interest in anthropology grew from his experiences working in partnership with other cultures in the U.S. Army and his desire to protect important cultural heritage sites after many were damaged or destroyed during recent conflicts.

In his free time, Cody enjoys movies, particularly atmospheric horror films – His favorites being The Thing (1982) and Alien (1979). He also loves hiking and camping in the Pacific Northwest.

The Great Ale!!!

My name is Alejandra Maritza Barrera-Pallares, most commonly known as Ale or Alejandra. I was born and raised in Michoacan, Mexico and moved to the USA in 2002 to join my dad that migrated a year before. I love to read, listen music, dance, play the guitar and watch movies in my free time. One of my new hobbies is to go on hiking trips around Washington and Oregon, with the goal to expand to other states.

I am a recent graduate of the University of Washington, with a major in Archaeology, Human evolutionary genetics, and medical & global health. My interest for archy started when after my first year at UW I decided to change my major of pre-medicine to anthropology disciplines, especially since I am interest it in forensic anthropology as a future career.   This interest guided me towards archaeology because forensic anthro requires skills that can be acquired through archaeology, thus archy seem like an excellent choice. This decision made it possible for me to explore different scenarios that occur while doing fieldwork, since archy is a changing and evolving field that requires flexibility, patience, open mind, and many other concepts that expose me to the outside world. By being able to attend UW I was able to acquire skills that I would have never imagine; surveying, mapping, cataloging, archiving, research, ethnoarchaeology, Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR), and fieldwork are among that many skills I was able to obtain, among all the knowledge and history I learned. Therefore, being able to participate in this fieldschool is excellent and such a great opportunity, because I am able to expand my knowledge in CBPR, and learn about the challenges and opportunities of working with indigenous tribes.

While doing this fieldschool I hope to experience archaeology first hand, while learning its impact and use in Indigenous groups and other communities. In addition, my goal is to learn\expand my skills and gain experience in order to work as an archy technician or CRM.