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.

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