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.

Ground Penetrating Radar at the Molalla Encampment Site

During our six week stay in Grand Ronde for the FMIA field school, we each had to pick something that interested us for our leadership project. Students focused on the magnetometer, GPS, keeping the public informed of the project through the FMIA Facebook page, and more.  When I first started thinking about what my leadership project would be, I couldn’t decide because there were just too many topics I was interested in.  Then one of the FMIA TAs Ian suggested I focus on ground penetrating radar (GPR) for my leadership project and it seemed like the perfect topic.

First, I started to learn what the does and how it is used in archaeological survey.  The GPR consists of a radio antenna that, while it is dragged across the ground surface, sends radio waves into the ground.  The GPR’s data logger records the time it takes for a signal to be reflected back to the ground surface, measuring the depth and location of each reflected signal (Conyers 2012:28-31). The data logger shows this data in real time on the screen and also records the data to be downloaded and processed later. The Grand Ronde Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) owns a GSSI data logger and carriage with a 400 MHz antenna, which FMIA used as part of our low-impact archaeological methodology.  We were interested in using it to get an idea of what might be underground at the Molalla Encampment, one of the initial settlements on the Grand Ronde Reservation.

GPR grids molalla

FMIA 2016 Molalla Encampment site GPR grids

The Molalla Encampment site filmed from the north looking south. (Video Credit: Katy Leonard-Doll)

In order to do this, we split the Molalla Encampment site into 12 grids and operated the GPR over about five days.  We started by operating the GPR over 20 x 20 m grids but had to modify the dimensions of each grid based on the unique shape of the Molalla Encampment site.  Within each grid we ran the GPR in 0.5 m transects in order to get overlap of the antenna readings.  We also operated the GPR in a zig zag fashion moving north for one transect and then south for another.  When operating the GPR we needed a team of at least three people, one person as the operator and two people moving the tapes every 0.5 meters.  Our team rotated through these positions as we collected data for the 12 grids.  In the data logger we set the GPR to take readings one meter below the ground surface and set the scan unit (the number of reads per meter) to 50 so it would take a reading every two centimeters.  Each team member recorded information such as the file numbers, dimensions, and operational pattern for each grid in our notebooks to make sure we had that data backed up in case any was lost on the data logger.

FMIA 2016 student Katy Leonard-Doll operates the GPR at the Molalla Encampment site.(Video credit: Tiuana Cabillan)

Operating the GPR wasn’t too difficult but when it came to processing the data I had no idea where to begin. Briece Edwards, Senior Archaeologist for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, walked me through it.  He told me that when viewing the data it was a good idea to come with an idea of what you’re looking for but at the same time not making your eyes see something that isn’t there.  We started by looking at the raw (unprocessed data). Briece said he likes to look at the raw data because you get a picture of all the data before anything useful gets filtered out. With the unprocessed data we played around with different gains which shifts where the zero is up the scale, and the color transforms which change the colors of the grids to make certain data stand out. Also when viewing the raw data, we created a Super 3-D file which makes it possible to view multiple grids next to each other.  For example we created a Super 3-D file which included grids 02-06 and could see them all lined up on top of each other.  To see these grids transitions from the ground surface to one meter down we hit the animation button which slowly moves down the one meter depth centimeter by centimeter.  The bright colored data are referred to as anomalies which indicate where the radio waves hit something in the ground that had a different reading than the radio waves right before it.

Here is an example of an animated super 3-D file of GPR grids 2-13:

In the video, the cursor highlights some interesting anomalies.  In grid 5 (NW corner of grids) there is a straight line running east to west which Briece identified as a drain pipe. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

Next, Briece showed me how to do the basic GPR data processing called “easy processing.”  The first step is to move the zero point of the data up and get rid of the surface grass area (which was about the top 18 cm of the data we collected) under the tab “time zero.”  The second step was under the “background removal” tab which filtered out data that wasn’t relevant to what we were looking for.  The next step was under the tab “test and apply filters” but we left the automatic settings alone because they worked for our purposes.  The fourth step or type of processing we used was called “migration” which allowed us to narrow a target in the data.  Once we did these “easy processing” steps we went back and looked at the grids in their 3-D mode again.  Once in this mode, we went to the properties menu and changed the transparency of the grids. This allows you to choose between showing all the depths stacked on top of one another or not which can make certain pieces of data stand out.  In this menu we also changed the background color of the grids from white to black to see if that made the data stand out more on the grids (Conyers 2012:40-43).  What I gathered from doing these easy processing steps is that it is mostly about making certain parts of the data stand out in their 3-D mode to better pinpoint interesting anomalies in the data to investigate further.

When looking at the GPR data, we were looking for right angles in the anomalies that could indicate a possible structure, and we were looking for anomalies that formed a circular feature that probably doesn’t form naturally.  Here are a few anomalies from the Molalla Encampment that Briece found interesting:

This data set is made up of grids 3 and 4.  In this video clip, the cursor highlights interesting anomalies in the NW corner of the grids as well as on the west side of the grids between the 50 and 80 meter markers.  (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

This second data set is of Molalla Encampment grids 9-11.  The cursor highlights an interesting curved line anomaly in the east side of grids 9 and 10.  The striping seen in grid 9 is probably from plowing or recent mowing of the area. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

In the clips above there are some striping areas that upon first glance, I thought were an indication of strong anomalies but Briece told me that these are actually operator error probably from switching operators in the middle of a grid. Everyone operates the machine slightly differently and this can manifest in the data.

In addition to locating anomalies in the GPR data that are of interest, we used the GPR data in conjunction with other methodologies as part FMIA’s low impact archaeological approach, which emphasizes doing the least amount of harm while still gaining the most amount of knowledge.  By using other intensive geophysical survey methods such as gradiometry along with archival research and mapping we can narrow points of archaeological interest before disturbing the ground surface.  We can then find specific places of interest to eventually do surface collection or set up an excavation unit.  For instance, Briece and I noticed an interesting rectangular anomaly in the southwest corner of grid 4 and then looked to other data sets (e.g., gradiometry data, surface collection data, surface topography) to see if they too showed a possible point of interest as well.  We looked at the gradiometer data and saw that there was a large dipole in the same location as the GPR anomaly.  We also looked at an aerial photograph of the area from 1955 and zoomed in on the Molalla Encampment. We saw a few structures located on the site that are not present today.  We noticed that one of the structures is in the same vicinity as a rectangular anomaly in the GPR and dipole in the gradiometer data.

This GPR data set is from grids 2-4.  The first anomaly the cursor highlights in the SW corner of grid 4 and NW corner of grid 3 is the anomaly that corresponds with the gradiometer data as the aerial photograph.  (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)

This is a zoomed-in video of the GPR data set grids 3 and 4 which better highlights the anomaly discussed above. (Video Credit: Briece Edwards)


This picture is of the gradiometer data set in the same location as the anomaly discussed above which can be seen here located along the west wall of the data set as a highlighted red anomaly.  (Photo Credit: Dr. Sara Gonzalez)


This is a zoomed-in aerial photograph of the Grand Ronde area from 1955. You can see the location of the previous Molalla Encampment site circled in red.  (Photo Credit: Briece Edwards and the Grand Ronde THPO archives)


Zooming in further, the red circle is the area of the anomaly we are interested in. A possible structure the GPR and gradiometer are picking up on is shown in blue.  (Photo Credit: Briece Edwards and Grand Ronde THPO archives).

There is no way to know for sure if the geophysical survey data points to the anomaly and dipole as this structure but this demonstrates how using different methodologies can help to locate points of interest before breaking the ground.  Now Briece, Dr. Gonzalez, University of Washington (UW) graduate student Ian Kretzler, and the tribe can decide whether this anomaly warrants further archaeological investigation.  Using this approach of comparing data from different methodologies while in the FMIA field school in Grand Ronde emphasized to me the value of using intensive geophysical survey methods along with other complementary methods to find specific points of interest not only to archaeologists but to the community who can then decide if excavation is desired or necessary.  Working with Dr. Gonzalez, Briece Edwards, and Ian Kretzler showed me how minimizing harm while maximizing the amount of information gained can be accomplished in a respectful and beneficial way and that something as technology-based as GPR can fit right in to that approach and its accompanying methodology.

Works Cited

Conyers, Lawrence                                                                                                                 2012 Interpreting Ground-penetrating Radar for Archaeology. Walnut Creek: Left Coast       Press.

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.


Leadership Project

Like everything we learned this quarter, everyone’s knowledge grew with experience and practice. This was seen through all of the methods and tools we were all introduced to in the past six weeks, even the global positioning system (GPS) receivers.

Remembering back to the first time we used the Trimble Pro6H GPS receiver and data logger with ArcPad (the accompanying program) we had a difficult time. We started with a short practice session outside the Tribal Historic Preservation Office. Following along with a tutorial we were given, we were able to set up a practice file and start taking points. When it came to making a polyline and polygon we had trouble, and later all of our points were erased. This was not the first (or last time) we were able to assess and readjust. We figured out that we had more than one feature selected and that we had been using the wrong arrow to save. Once we went back outside to try again everything went smoothly and we were able to successfully take points, polylines, and polygons.

After our practice round we “leveled up” and began recording the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Powwow grounds and the Molalla encampment site. We recorded several points, polylines, and features. We used points to record things like trees, poles, and building corners. Polylines were used for boundaries, clearings, and points of interest like flower patches and elevation changes at the Molalla site. At the Molalla site we also used the GPS system to save the points of the grids we had created for our geophysical survey of the site with the gradiometer and GPR. This will help future field school years to find the points we were working with and so they will not have to create new grids. The GPS data will also be used in conjunction with the data taken from the total station to orient it, since all of the points it has taken are not georeferenced.

In the last week of being in the field I devoted my time and focus to the GPS. During, this time we had opened up surface collection units at the Molalla site and were doing more excavation work at the schoolhouse site. We used the GPS to save the coordinates of all 48 surface collection units’ southwest, southeast, northeast, and northwest corners, resulting in 192 coordinates. The most difficult task by far were the points we recorded at the Schoolhouse site. With ArcPad you can decide how many points are taken when taking a point. The larger the number of points used, the greater the accuracy and the longer we had to hold the rod level. With the surface collection coordinates we used 20 points per point. At the Schoolhouse we used 500 points to record the datum and backsight. This was tough because the wind made it difficult to hold the Trimble rod level and standing steady made your feet feel like they were burning. But, after completing it, you feel very accomplished.

For my leadership project I chose to focus on the GPS, because it is a tool people use everyday and do not realize the possibilities it has. Archaeologists use GPS in the field with practiced experience and the last six weeks have taught me that gaining this experience and practice helps to make the process go by much faster, and easier.

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]