Grand Ronde School Timelines

When Briece Edwards, Principal Archaeologist for the Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO), mentioned the idea of archival research to develop our knowledge and differentiate between the many historical schools on or near the Grand Ronde reservation, I jumped at the chance. As part of the Field Methods of Indigenous Archaeology (FMIA) Field School we had been working on an excavation at one of the Grand Ronde schoolhouses, so it was an excellent opportunity for some research that aligned with the FMIA projects.

The Grand Ronde Reservation has been home to a number of schools, and those schools have went through changes in ownership, and location, some even being burned and rebuilt more than once. Understandably this can create confusion, when someone says that they “went to school at Grand Ronde” it could mean many different things.

The solution was to begin work on research using the THPO’s Laserfiche database. Laserfiche is a software to navigate a keyword searchable archive of digitized scanned documents. Among these documents were newspaper articles, transcribed interviews with tribal elders, and handwritten correspondence between the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) agents assigned to the reservation and the Department of Interior (DOI). Using all of these documents, I gathered a list of names used for Grand Ronde schools and the dates associated with each and created individual timelines for each name on a graphic.

The timelines can be found here: Timelines – Grand Ronde Schools

As you can see there are a lot of different school names, and many of the timelines are very fragmented. Further research, including the schools name in the search keywords, will hopefully fill gaps in the timeline.  Some schools, such as Chemawa have had excellent records and are always named explicitly and are distinguished from the other schools in the area. There is also an extensive Catholic history in the area that is well recorded. However the Catholic histories were much more specific with regards to dates and names of individuals, such as Father Croquet, than they were with the names of the schools – this is evident in the many different names for schools in my timeline associated with the Catholic Church.

Doing the archival research for this project has been surprising. This was my first time doing research in an archive, rather than in a library catalog or peer-reviewed journal index. The database was a terrific source of personal correspondence between members of the BIA and DOI that provided a day to day, wonderfully mundane, account of life in the reservation schools. There were transcribed interviews with historically important members of the tribe that held excellent stories and personal experiences.

The database proved to be a surprisingly human source of information, which fit well into the community based framework of acknowledging the history and experiences of people in the tribe. A week prior to starting my research we had lunch with some of the elders, and they were kind enough to share their stories with us. Both experiences were very positive and will absolutely influence the way I will conduct research in the future, where I look, and what information I choose to privilege over others.

There is still a lot of work that can be done on the project, and I aim to continue working on it through the summer. The next step is to try to consolidate the many timelines using the personal stories and descriptions I can find in primary sources in the archives.


Works Cited

All documents accessed from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Archives using Laserfiche, August 2016.

“1851 November 7, Introduction To Treaties”. 1851. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“1863-1947 Preliminary Inventory Of Records”. 1925. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

Hurtado, Albert L and Peter Iverson. 2001. Major Problems In American Indian History. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

“Interview With Gertrude Mercier”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Interview With Vincent Mercier”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Itemizer Observer – October 3, 1979”. 1979. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

Leavelle, Tracy Neal. 1998. “”We Will Make It Our Own Place”: Agriculture And Adaptation At The Grand Ronde Reservation, 1856-1887″. American Indian Quarterly 22 (4): 433. doi:10.2307/1184835.

“Letters To Superintendent Of Grand Ronde Indian School”. 1901. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

Munnick, Harriet. 1973. “Umpquas In Exile – Report From Grand Ronde”. Report. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“News Register – Willamina Middle School Closes It’s Doors”. 2016. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Sheridan Sun – September 22, 2004”. 2004. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Sisters Benedictine Grand Ronde History”. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Smoke Signals – December, 1997”. 1997. Grand Ronde, OR. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

“Smoke Signals – January, 1980”. 1980. Grand Ronde, OR. Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde.

“Smoke Signals – March, 1984”. 1984. Grand Ronde, OR. The Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.


FMIA 2016 Schoolhouse Excavation Progress

This year, the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology field school had the opportunity to continue excavation where 2015’s FMIA had left off. We found ourselves working in quite the site — a privy, or outhouse, is a dream for historical archaeologists and an oddity to everyone else. In their day, privies were a common place to throw trash and are now great places to find historical artifacts.

This year we uncovered the previous layers’ excavation by removing back-fill down to a tarp they had placed to save their position and prevent contamination of deeper layers. As we moved deeper we had to open up adjacent units to accommodate excavation of the privy and minimize the danger of a wall collapsing. Aided by the boons of clear stratigraphy and soil changes, we eventually unveiled the privy cap further, and uncovered the gravel path that students walked from the schoolhouse to the privy.

Working at a historic site has been a privilege. Through meetings with the community and the work of our field schools archival efforts, we’ve been able to put the stories and experiences of people in the community to the work we have been doing makes their histories tangible. It brings a very human connection to the archaeology.

Special thanks to the FMIA 2016 Field School photographers!

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.

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.