A New Way of Thinking About Things

The first time I was introduced to thinking about the things archaeologist find, the things we see in museum exhibits, even the things we buy and sell in thrift stores and auctions differently was during the FIMA group tour of the collections housed at the Confederate Tribes of Grande Ronde’s collections facility at Chachalu Historic Preservation Offices. Instead of referring to the items stored neatly on the collection shelves as “artifacts” or “objects” the Cultural Collection Coordinator Sybil Edwards explained that those things are “belongings”. What an interesting concept to consider a slight change in wording could have such a profound effect on the way we think about the things archaeologists dig up.

Belonging has a much more personal and deeper connotation than merely labeling everything with the scientific coldness inherent in “artifact.” Belonging implies that the things archaeologist find, or those items that are donated to the collections, are connected to a person that there is a narrative and a story that the item has to tell. A belonging has had a life of its own and formed connections with people and places.

Chachalu Museum and Cultural Center

The traditional questions that researchers ask of material culture are questions such as “How was it made?” “What was it used for?” “What is it made out of?” But, changing the word from artifact to belonging in describing these objects also changes the questions we ask. Instead of asking standard scientific questions associated with an artifact or specimen, “belonging” not only reflects the way the community understands objects, but also helps researchers think of things in a different way. Instead we are more likely to ask more personal questions of a belonging such as what are the stories behind these connections and what can we learn about its journey of belonging? We begin to focus on who. Who did this item belong to? Who were they and what was this item to them?

Youth Archaeology Day

Aguilar, Flintknapping 2019

On Thursday July 18th, the FMIA team along with Chris Bailey and the HPO staff facilitated Youth Archaeology Day with the Youth Ed students. The activities took place around Chachalu and included a variety of stations. The two that I primarily worked were flintknapping and the bow and arrow station. My experience with bow and arrows was exclusively with compound bows so it was really interesting to learn along with the students on how to properly shoot the more traditional type. It took a lot of trial and error but I was able to shoot off three arrows.

After the bow and arrow station I went over to flintknapping with Sara. This was my first time participating in flintknapping. I have always thought the process was incredible so it was a privilege to be able to participate as a student and to also teach the students of Youth Ed. The materials we used at our flintknapping station included obsidian, antlers, gloves, leather pads, safety goggles, and a tarp to catch falling flakes. The method Sara Gonzalez (our Field Director) taught us was pressure flaking. This involved using the leather pads for protection against the sharp obsidian as we used the antlers to apply pressure and pop off flakes and shape our points.

One student was was able to craft an Ishi1 point in roughly 45 minutes.

Ishi Point Example, Puget Sound Knappers

Seeing his dedication and expertise was inspiring and motivated me to continue working my point even after slicing my knuckles twice. The closing activity took place in the mini plank house and focused on the students asking us questions they had about archaeology and us as individuals. This included our inspiration and education journey that led to us being here at Grand Ronde. One of the questions we were asked was when we knew we wanted to be an archaeologist. I shared that it had been a passion of mine since childhood and my love for it continued to grow through the years as I read anthropology and archaeology related books and spent time in museums.

The mutual learning environment that was created during Youth Archaeology Day solidified my desire to focus my leadership project on creating curriculum for junior high through high school students to work in the collections and archives in the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO). In having a background in both anthropology and education, I think it’s vital to listen to what is important to the students when crafting a curriculum. Understanding their strengths and skills and learning from them is just as important as any lesson plan I could craft and teach with my expertise. I look forward to creating a collaborative learning space at Grand Ronde that can be used for years to come.

Ishi Point Photo CreditPuget Sound Knappers

For Additional Information on Ishi: “Ishi, the Last Yahi”