Researching the Chewelah Band of Indians

For my research project I chose to study the Chewelah Band of Indians and how they have been largely excluded from history and show how their origin stories are provable. I was able to pull in research from many resources including historic, ethnographic, and governmental documents to support the oral history of the Chewelah Band of Indians.

Allan H. Smith was researching this group but did not end up publishing his research. Other ethnologists and Indian agents had made very short references to this group but have not discussed this group at length. So this research hopefully helps fill a gap in the record.

In my approach, I chose to combine oral histories and Allan H. Smith’s hypothesis that disease epidemics of the late 18th century resulted in the Colville Tribe leaving the valley and concentrating their population up at Kettle Falls. The Kalispel then moved into the Colville River Valley followed by a group of Spokane and then other tribes began to mix in with the Chewelah. Bob Sherwood and Antoine Andrews told two oral history accounts, with first account telling of conflict, and the second account told of a time of starvation. I then chose to revolve the ethnographic research around the oral history, thereby making this history the foci. In this respect, it really helped to ground the research in a different light. By combining Smith’s hypothesis with the oral history, it seemed as though both perspectives fit together perfectly. I then filled in the gap with ethnographic and historic references to support each perspective. This has been a fascinating project for me. I am currently continuing this research and hope to get an article published on this in the near future.

Why I am in this field

For my digital storytelling assignment, I chose to talk about me and my apa’urlaq (Yup’ik for grandfather).  He led an interesting and full life which had a huge impact on me and my education.  He was one of the first Alaskan Natives to graduate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  Taught himself French, German, and was fluent in several Yup’ik dialects.  Unfortunately I did not learn much about my Native roots from him and by the time I wanted to learn, it was too late.  This has really driven me to pursue learning about cultural traditions and cultural preservation.

Dating Bottles Based Upon Building History

In examining my bottle, the first inclination was to examine the bottle for a makers mark.

This was somewhat helpful.  From the makers mark, I was able to determine this was a Whitall and Company bottle produced somewhere between 1901 and 1924.  Whittal and Company made this pharmacy bottle for pharmacies across the United States and opperated between 1806-1938 in Millville, New Jersey  The real clue to the bottles age however was the embossing on the side of the bottle.  The side of the bottle reads, “Lee’s Parmacy Alaska Building Seattle Wash.”. Subsequent investigations led me to conclude the Mr. Lee operated his pharmacy from 1889 to 1914.

So that led me to investigate the Alaska Building.  The Alaska Building was Seattle’s first skyscraper.  At the time of it’s construction, it was Seattle’s first steel framed building and opened in the year 1904.  The Alaska Building was constructed around the Seattle boom around the time of the gold rush in Alaska.  The building can be directly tied to the Seattle gold rush, which makes this bottle an important object from this period in time.

Photo by Asahel Curtis of the Alaska Building 1908

Taking this into account, this bottle was then ordered either before the pharmacy’s opening in the Alaska Building… say an early date of 1903, to the closing of the pharmacy in 1914.  I have thus narrowed the dating of the bottle from a 23 year period to an 11 year period taking into account the multiple lines of evidence that this bottle has to offer.



A Walk Among the Tombstones

For our class assignment, we were asked to do a brief survey of the Calvary Cemetery in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. In terms of death frequency, the peak years were 1916-1960. Prior to this and after this period, in five-year increments, saw single digit plot usage. In and around war times, and for years after, you really see the importance that families have placed on military service and rank in male headstones.  What this is telling me, based upon a small sample of the whole cemetery, is that by 1960, as the city began filling up, the space at this cemetery began to become a premium, and plot cost probably began to rise to more unaffordable levels.

What you also see is a trend in headstones towards an in ground block style. The headstones also change in frequency of composition from marble and other materials to red granite becoming the dominant material. Of course, during the war years, especially during World War II, there was a strong trend of utilizing the bronze plated blocks that emphasized military service. Interestingly, there are no examples of women in service during this time, despite a documented War time record of women serving in various capacities during World War II. It would be interesting to explore this issue in an expanded survey focusing on World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam headstones emphasizing military service.

Es x̣ʷéʔeli

Over the last week, I have recorded every scrap of garbage that I had produced and analyzed another students’ garbage in the process.  While we sat and read about garbology from Little and Rathje and Murphy, we learned about the ongoing anthropology of modern garbage.  It was somewhat interesting and mortifying to see how much waste we produce, I wonder about today’s consumer culture and why everything we buy nowadays seems to come in copious amounts of packaging.  Even the fruit we buy we feel the need to put much of it in bags, which we throw away.

As a modern Indigenous person, I live in a typical American fashion while keeping foot in traditional Indigenous traditions.  In terms of garbology, I started thinking about the garbology of the Indigenous, i.e. Indigenous garbology (I may or may not have just coined a term).  What would Indigenous garbology entail?  In my case, I produce much of the same type of garbage that the typical American household produces, plus garbage produced from producing cultural objects.  In my case it is processing raw materials such as roots, working with feathers, beadwork, and carving wood and ivory.  It is important to note however that much of this does not make it into the garbage can.  Natural things I tend to dispose of in a respectful and symbolic manner.  If it is natural, I tend to put it back into nature.  Other things however, such as miscellaneous and malformed beads and nylon bead thread tend to go into the garbage.  I would imagine this would differ from one Indigenous population to another, but I wonder what we could learn about how we continue our Indigenous culture in the modern world from looking at our garbage?

Waqaa!!! Winga atqa Justin McCarthy

Nunalleq 2015 – photo by Sven Haakanson

Hello, my name is Justin McCarthy.  I am of Yup’ik and Sámi with roots going back to Bethel and Crooked Creek, Alaska.  I am a second year PhD student in ethnoarchaeology here at UW.  I have spent the last 8 years working with over 120 Indigenous communities at the Burke Museum.

I maintain close ties with communities in Alaska and with Plateau people in Eastern Washington.  I have spent a couple summers working at the Nunalleq site in Quinhagak, Alaska.  I have traveled to many museums across the United States and Canada to research Yup’ik objects.  In my spare time I like to carve and do beadwork.