In my previous life as an auction professional I would walk into a house, sort, evaluate, and catalog every material thing. From pencils to pictures, everything was assessed as to whether it held value or not. I found myself examining those homes and speculating on the life of the persons who inhabited them as told by the way they arranged and constructed their space as well as the things they accumulated over their lifetime.
It’s amazing how much you can tell about a person based on what is in their daily living space: What values did they hold? What was their socioeconomic background? How did they shape their cultural identity?
My undergraduate degree in religious studies and courses in anthropology added layers to my analysis that further shaped the hypothetical life of the person or people. Now that I am a graduate student at the University of Missouri I have been able to use these skills to deepen the understanding of how religion and material culture work together.
The focus of my research is on what material objects categorized as religious do in the context of Native American traditions, but also describing, identifying, and placing objects within their historical context. I often find myself walking a line between art history and anthropology. Through this work I hope to contribute to changing attitudes toward indigenous communities and help undo the perpetual misrepresentation of Native Americans as well as aid in efforts to reunite communities with their tangible and intangible cultural heritage.
My current research project centers around religion’s role within indigenous knowledge systems and the post-colonial effects of salvage anthropology in the Pacific Northwest.
As a participant in FIMA this year, I am excited to incorporate low-impact archaeological methods into my reseach, working with the Grand Rhonde community. But…I really miss my furbabies back at home in Missouri.