Mapping and Making Sense of Space

As a part of our field work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, each student was asked to step up and take the helm on a personal leadership project. Students chose subjects related to their specific fields of interest: Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey, magnetometry, the Chinuk Wawa language, cultural practices of Pacific people, and many more. I chose to take a lead role in the process of mapping and spatial cataloging of points at the Molalla Encampment. I worked closely with PhD candidate Ian Kretzler, who helped me understand the equipment and larger project goals.

Aerial view of the Molalla Camp site. Photo: Ian Kretzler

Aerial view of the Molalla Encampment. Photo: Ian Kretzler

For indigenous communities and the archaeologists who work alongside them, place and people are necessarily connected; they are inseparable, and deeply intertwined. A visitor might not be aware of or have context to understand the immense cultural significance and depth of history that a landscape has, inextricable from its people. This is very much the case with the Grand Ronde community. During our project, we lived in the middle of a complex landscape consisting of many culturally significant sites. Often we were able to get a piece of the history and cultural narrative from community members and Grand Ronde’s Senior Archaeologist Briece Edwards. For guests such as ourselves, the importance of this sort of communication cannot be overstated.

Prof. Sara Gonzalez and grad student Ian Kretzler "troubleshoot" the drone. Photo: Celena McPeak

Professor Sara Gonzalez and grad student Ian Kretzler troubleshoot the drone. Photo: Celena McPeak

With this emphasis on landscape, mapping and representation in the digital realm became a subject I found rich and fascinating. Not only that, but I saw how mapping could be valuable to both CTGR and our archaeological field school. In learning techniques and making maps to guide our work and research, we would produce a lasting interactive document that the tribe could use for whatever future purposes they might have. In that spirit, I hoped to be an integral part of mapping the Molalla Encampment, where we were doing a variety of low-impact surveys including GPR, magnetometry, aerial photography via drone, and catch-and-release surface collection.

FMIA students setting up the Total station. Photo: Tiauna Cabillan

FMIA students setting up the Total station. Photo: Tiauna Cabillan

To begin, we divided the site into a series of 20x20m grids. This grid system allowed us to be systematic with our GPR and gradiometer surveys. In order for these tools to image the subsurface environments properly, they must be walked along narrow North-South transect lines that subdivide the 20×20 units further. This is a painstaking process, but it is important to capture the entire area of the grids in order to image the whole area and combine our GPR and gradiometer data with the GPS and other map data back in the lab. This allows us to create a vertical map with multiple layers of data that can be selected on or off, depending on the needs of the map user.

The Molalla Encampment was mapped with both GPS satellite points and a Total Station — even if you don’t know the name, you’ve almost certainly seeing survey crews on roads and construction sites using a Total Station and reflective prism to calculate precise distances, elevations, and angles. To make a map, one must establish a permanent point in space to which all others are relative, known as a datum. Along with a second fixed point — the backsight– this allows all individual points in the map to be triangulated and measured easily in relation to each other.

Surface collection units that have been completed and taped off. Photo: Tiauna Cabillan

Surface collection units that have been completed and taped off. Photo: Tiauna Cabillan

For the Molalla Encampment, we chose to map out a variety of types of points. These included the corners of our 1×1 meter surface collection units, grid points for our magnetic resonance and GPR survey, and other permanent and semi-permanent features. Capturing these more stable points allows future field teams to orient themselves precisely to where we did our work. We also chose to record a large number of points of topographical variation. Though they may be hard to distinguish when standing in the field, averaging out these small changes in elevation over the larger site in our digital mapping suite allows us to get a picture for what sort of anomalies might exist beneath the surface. Even a small variation on the Z-axis (up/down) might indicate subsurface features if they are consistent over a larger area.

After gathering all this raw data in the field, it was then Ian’s task to stitch together the various layers of points. He produced a map that overlays the data points we recorded over aerial photographs taken above the Molalla Camp site in May 2016, creating a real-world map integrated with our recorded points.

In organizing and presenting our research and data, the maps we produce will be invaluable tools, providing documentation, guidance, and visual context for audiences to understand our work. Maps are an important creative part of what we do, as they are uniquely generated, rather than recorded — one must produce a map. Making these maps was an exercise in learning new skills and building capacity for us as field school students, and it is our hope that they will be useful and valuable to the Grand Ronde community for the same reasons as well as their goals of management of resources and historic preservation.

FMIA 2016 Story Map

For my leadership project, I have utilized the Environmental Systems Research Institute’s (ESRI) story map program to document and describe the significant places that the FMIA 2016 crew visited during field school. The story map includes ten slides detailing the various activities, discussions, and research associated with specific places and sites related to the FMIA project. Below is the link to explore the FMIA 2016 story map.

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.


“Just what is it that you all are doing out there?”

This is a question that our team members have been asked many times about the work we are doing with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. As we left our respective homes, friends, and families for six weeks to live and work here in Oregon, the notion of “archaeology” no doubt brought forth some vague assumptions and images. Popular culture has informed public perception of archaeology and (for better or worse) brought a lot of interest to the field; tired images of pith helmets, enormous rolling boulders, and colonial museum collections all amalgamate to create a picture of a discipline that often misunderstood. We are often asked by our peers, relations, and the general public about what it is we are doing — the more important question in archaeology today is “how is it being done?”

American archaeologist William Duncan Strong (1899-1962)

American archaeologist William Duncan Strong (1899-1962)

The history of archaeology is complex, often at odds with its own best intentions, and at its worst, oppressive, highly unethical and deeply regrettable by the standards of today. The development of the discipline in the 19th century was in tandem with many of the worst, most damaging and demeaning tendencies of colonialism to deprive indigenous people of agency, dignity, cultural practice and property. Sometimes this was a consequence of cultural ignorance on the part of anthropologists; at others, it was sadly very deliberate.

Today, thankfully, the practice of archaeology, especially with indigenous and descendent communities, is becoming more conscious of the mistakes of the past, and more sensitive to the needs of the present. If archaeological investigation is to continue at all, and to be of any use, it must be necessarily cooperative, collaborative, empowering, and respectful. In our work with CTGR, this is of the highest emphasis.


FMIA Methods & Low-Impact Workflow. Poster presented the 2016 Northwest Anthropological Conference in Tacoma, WA by Sara Gonzalez, Ian Kretzler, Scott Adams, Karl Bloomberg, Daisy Jaime, and Kandice Joyner.

We work closely with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) and tribal members to gain a sense of what is important to the community, and also what methods are appropriate. As the history of archaeology has so often been disrespectful to beliefs and practices, our goal is to use methods that are as minimally invasive as possible. We seek to build knowledge with community, rather than about. Guided by this idea, we use a “low-impact” workflow. The particular series of methods we are using was designed by our project director, Dr. Sara Gonzalez, alongside former collaborators from the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians and the Kashaya Pomo Interpretive Trail Project (Gonzalez 2016). Our field school is formally known as FMIA — Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology, and this is the second season of our work with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde.

The very nature of anthropological work is human, and we seek to engage the communities with which we work on a respectful level that is enriching for everyone. Much archaeological work of the past has separated material culture from the individuals who produced it. In museums and academic writing, it is often sterilized, removed from cultural context and practice; it is put in a box, seemingly fixed in time. FMIA recognizes how this idea is misguided, and that these things cannot be separated from their communities of origin. Our project, therefore, seeks more to build lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with the community — not just to dig for stuff. Our methods and practices owe a great debt to the ideas of Community Based Participatory Research, or CBPR (Atalay: 2012). In her writings, Atalay pioneers CBPR methods and approaches in archaeology that seek to redefine the interactions archaeologists typically have with communities, with an emphasis on respect and relationship building.

When our work season is done, and we’ve packed up and left, we hope to have built on and added to the Tribe’s extant body of cultural knowledge, and also to have built capacity in archaeological survey methods and historic preservation for all involved — students, tribal community, and faculty alike. With our low-impact workflow guided by the ideas of CBPR, we hope to be a model for how archaeology can be respectful and appropriate, collaborative, and empowering. Doing this has required change in the discipline’s approach, which involves some soul-searching, as well as reinvention and creation of new methodologies. If archaeology and anthropology in the larger sense are to have a relevant future, it is in being aware and mindful of the past, with an emphasis on the present, and an eye toward what growth is possible in the future.


Works Cited

Atalay, Sonya (2012) Community-Based Archaeology: Research With, By, and For Indigenous and Local Communities. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Gonzalez, Sara (2016) Indigenous Values and Methods in Archaeological Practice: Low-Impact Archaeology Through the Kashaya Pomo Interpretive Trail Project. American Antiquity 81(3):533-549.

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!

Archival Research



For my leaIMG_0143dership project I was in charge of doing archival research on the school house associated with the Confederation of Grand Ronde. For this project I went through the archives downloaded on a program called Laserfiche. I was able to find documents from 1863-1920 relating to different aspects of school life during the time period in which the agency school was in operation. I found documents on the people the school hired, stories written by people who attended and taught at the school, and official documents and communications between the US Secretary of Interior and the Grand Ronde BIA Superintendent.

Archival research is based upon people’s testimony and provides interesting information about practices we might not see in the archaeological record, like how the school ran and how it affected people’s’ experiences while attending the schoolhouse. I divided the letters into categories that provided a way for people to see the documents in a way that allows future researchers to answer questions about the school. I also categorized the documents into a section on stories people have about the school, materials found in and around the school, policies enacted by the school, and food.

Archival work is often the place that archaeologist start in order to come up with a project. To find a site archaeologists may look through maps and documents to discover its location and history. Archival work also provides a framework of what you may find in a site and provides context of an area. However, it does have its limitations. Only people who are literate can write, and often the only documents that are archived are ones that are deemed “important.” These documents are usually written by people in power who write about Native Americans in a negative light. So it is important to understand the context of the documents themselves, and to read them in light of the biases and prejudices of the documentary record. In doing archaeology alongside archival work, there is an added opportunity: you may be able to trace individuals’ and community traditions in a culturally restrictive atmosphere such as that of the schoolhouse setting.

I provided information on the food at the school based correspondence between the superintendent of the school and the US Secretary of Interior. Since we are excavating a privy we may be able to observe coprolites inside and compare the written documents with the archaeological record to answer research questions about the school. In one of the documents, a teacher mentions how she was having a problem with students skipping school to go berry picking and hunting game. It would be interesting to see if there is any evidence of berries or fauna remains inside the privy. Looking at the archaeological evidence along with archival records can help get a sense of how students helped keep traditions alive despite living in a culturally restrictive environment. Check out my blog post at

Works Cited

Lonner, A. C. “Department of the Interiors, Office of Indian Affairs.” Letter to The Superintendent, Grande Ronde School, Oregon. 7 May 1901. MS. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR. Finance 23825/1901 Reproduced at the National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle)

United States. Office of Indian Affairs Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1863 G.P.O., [1863]

Chinuk Wawa or English


When looking for the stories of the past there are many places to look. We can observe cultural material and try to figure out how they were used in the past. We can look at the writings of people in the past through historical archives. We can look at plants to understand past uses of places. We can also look at the the etymology of words. These words provide us with a narrative. In English, these words are often associated with introduced materials into our culture. Pizza is borrowed from Italy. Anime is borrowed from Japan. These words show a narrative of trade, not trade of just items, but trade of ideas and cultures.

Chinuk Wawa was the language franca of trade along the Columbia River. It was heavily influenced by all the languages of people who used it to communicate. Prior to European contact, the language was influenced by Kalapuyan, upper Chinook, Salishan, and many other languages. After contact with European and American explorers, traders, and settlers elements of French and English became incorporated into the language.

Most commonly, English and French words entered the vocabulary that were associated with each of those communities or were unique to the trading relationships established with them. For example, the Chinuk Wawa word for ship is ‘Ship’. This may be because ships were introduced to the Chinook by the British.
The word for book in Chinuk Wawa, is ‘buk’. Along with these words, these products—buk, K
hetəl (kettle)—entered into trade and the daily lives of Indigenous peoples in the Pacific Northwest. By bringing the English word into the language it provides an element of metalanguage into the word.  For example, a kettle is associated with English culture that brings to light a narrative of kettles in the language.

Other words introduced or adapted into Chinook Wawa from English are gul (gold), hickchəm (Hankerchief), fitəl (fiddle), haws (house), shush (shoes), lishat (shirt), stakhins (stockings),  and Shakholat (chocolate).

The word bridge is another term and concept the Chinook people borrowed from English. Before contact with the Europeans, bridges weren’t present within the Chinook territories. In a story Vincent Mercier recorded an interview with John B. Hudson. Hudson says “Hílu uk ‘bástən ‘brích’ínatay uk tsəqw.” Which translates into “there was no such thing as what whites called a “bridge” going across the river. This demonstrates how the words came into being within the Chinuk language.

Language provides a different way for us to observe a culture. It allows us to see influences of others into a culture without having to excavate. Through language we can see how trade was used to change the Chinuk world and language. If you wish to learn the Chinuk Wawa language there is an app called “Chinuk Wawa.”


A Thornton Media Production Chinuk Wawa App Thornton Media, Inc. Grande Ronde Departments of Land and Culture, 2014.  

Zenk, Henry B., Comp., Chinuk Wawa (Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Community of Oregon) University of Washington Press, 2012.

The Importance of Playing Games in an Archaeological Field School

Mychaela  slowly pulls a  two  of  diamonds  towards  her,  no attention drawn her way. That  was the last of the set of twos in the deck of cards. Now she has to signal to her partner,  Ian,  to win the game. Almost instantly  Ian yells “KEMP!” And the other team flings their cards on the table and shouts “How are you so  stealthy!?”

This example is somewhat  exaggerated,  but I want to give a  snapshot of our life in camp. Kemp is one of the many games that we play after dinner and on the weekend. The games we play  are important because they are a key component in building a functioning  archaeological  team. Through verbal and non verbal communication in the games  facilitate, we are able to learn about and bond with our teammates. For example, we know from this little short story that Mychaela is very stealthy (I don’t know how that’s going to help in the field but it could come in handy?). We use this knowledge of our teammates to learn how to communicate with one another. Games also serve another important role.  We are able to lower our inhibitions enough to not only to show those around us who we are as individuals, but to also to abandon the biases we might have about other people. Our own hesitation and the biases we hold color our perceptions and judgments and stand in the way of creating open communication. The type of learning and knowing that happens through games like Kemp or Werewolf or CatchPhrase helps to break down these barriers.

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The FMIA team playing CatchPhrase. Photo by Tiauna Cabillan, FMIA student.

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Photo by Tiauna Cabillan, FMIA student.

The reason I am writing about this today is because I have anxiety and these components allow for a comfortable space where I can speak out instead of freaking out. I had so many professors and teachers that did not know how to make a comfortable work space, which always led to a terrible experience, not to mention an unbelievable amount of attention on how I should ask a question rather than clarifying my confusion. That is why building a community through the use of games is so important to me and I hope this blog will influence others to try to make a safe work environment for their students.

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Photo by Tiauna Cabillan, FMIA student.

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.