“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 https://wp.me/p61aD2-s8.

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]

Assess & Re-adjust a Short Digital Story

I was first thinking of doing my digital short story on the gradiometer’s setup, use, and data analysis, but while filming the gradiometer, the team encountered a lot of issues. By accident I got the opportunity to film those problems and ultimately I decided that documenting how they assessed and re-adjusted to the situation was a better story, and relatable within any profession. “Assess and Re-adjust” tells the story of how the FMIA gradiometer team met challenges through the prospective of the survey leader, Alejandre Barrera.


Revisiting Fort Yamhill

Inspired by the idea of agriculturally managed landscapes also known as Food Forests, this video explores the possibility of Fort Yamhill as a Food Forest. This concept of landscape is to decolonize and prioritize indigenous perspectives in how the land managed and used. Digital Story by Tiauna Cabillan

Food of the Agency School house between 1863-1905

This video outlines the food offered at the Agency School House according to the archival documents written about the time (1863-1905). It includes letters written to the Superintendent, Andrew Kershaw, reports written by Andrew Kershaw, and reports by C.M Sawtelle. If the video is paused you can see how food was being used and the importance it had on the interpretation of “civilizing” the Native Americans.


Works Cited
Accessed from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Archives using LaserFiche, July 2016.

J., M. S. “Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.” Letter to Superintendent Indian School. 19 Feb. 1901. MS. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR. Finance An.est. 1902. Reproduced at the national Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle)

Larrabee, C. J. “Department of the Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.” Letter to Superintendent, Grande Ronde School, Oregon. 15 Apr. 1905. MS. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR.

Lonner, A. C. “Department of the Indian Interior, Office of Indian Affairs.” Letter to The Superintendent, U. S. Indian School, Grandronde, Oregon. 20 Aug. 1900. MS. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR. Finance 38675/1900 Authy 66909 Reproduction at the National Archives-Pacific Alaska Region (Seattle).

Lonner, A. C. “Department of The Interior Office of Indian Affairs.” Letter to The Superintendent Grand Ronde School, Or. 13 June 1902. MS. Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, Grand Ronde, OR.

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).

Kershaw, Andrew. Report Concerning Indians in Oregon, Report of Superintendent in Charge of Grande Ronde Agency. Rep. no. 352. Grande Ronde:, 1900. Print

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

United States. Office of Indian Affairs Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1902 Part I G.P.O., [1902]

United States. Office of Indian Affairs Annual report of the commissioner of Indian affairs, for the year 1905 Part I G.P.O., [1905]

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.

Indigenous Methods in Archaeology: Catch-and-Release

This video explores an intensive surface collection method that Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology is implementing in its assessments of tribal cultural resources on the Grand Ronde reservation. Referred to as the Catch-and-Release method, it maximizes our ability to collect relevant site data while minimizing ground impact. Catch and Release is designed as part of a low-impact archaeological methodology that attempts to reduce harm to both tribal cultural resources and the contemporary tribal community by integrating cultural protocols and values into our field practice.

The Molalla Encampment as a Food Forest

When ethnoecologist Dr. Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook came to visit FMIA at Grand Ronde, she led a wonderful plant walk around the edges of the Molalla Encampment Site and showed us all the edible plants that surround the site. I had no idea that so many edible and medicinal plants were so close to where we had been working for weeks. During the plant walk she mentioned that the Molalla site was a permaculture Food Forest, which are permanent agriculturally managed places where people have access to food. I became really interested in the concept of Food Forests.
According to the Permaculture Institute, Food Forests are designed to meet the needs of the community as well as produce a habitat beneficial for wildlife and increased ecological resilience and diversity. The website discussed how Food Forests are not necessarily “natural” but are specifically designed and managed. One of the goals of permaculture is to regenerate degraded landscapes to their former health. An example of permaculture put into practice is the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle, Washington. Their goals are similar to that of the Permaculture Institute in that they want to rehabilitate the local ecosystem while bringing the community together to grow their own food. The Beacon Hill Food Forest strives to follow permaculture methods while planning to plant for the needs of the diverse community. It also hopes to combine native plants with a mixture of other edible gardening plants.
Nisqually tribal member and Chairman of the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Billy Frank Jr. also discusses the idea of Food Forests in his article Every Forest Once a Food Forest on Northwest Treaty Tribes. He discusses that for indigenous people, “all of Western Washington was once a food forest.” He also writes about how projects like the Beacon Hill Food Forest in Seattle are important because they are trying to repair the landscape from a condition that doesn’t allow for natural food forests and first foods to thrive. He hopes these projects include plants that have long been used by indigenous communities.
The Molalla Encampment Site is similar to what Billy Frank Jr. describes. While it is a public place that is frequently used by campers attending Grand Ronde powwows, it is in a fairly natural area and produces a large variety of co-existing edible plants that need minimal management. With its meadow-like managed state, the site also provides a productive environment for plants and animals (Joyce Lecompte-Mastenbrook). Molalla also includes Indigenous plants as well as introduced plants. For example, the site has Indigenous plants like trailing blackberries, service berries, and native crab apples but also has introduced Himalayan blackberries and pear trees. It’s interesting to think about how long these plants have been growing around Molalla and who might have planted and used them in the past.
Working on the topic of edible and medicinal plants at the Molalla encampment showed me that every forest can be a Food Forest if you know what you’re looking for and how to use it. It has made me think even more about how resources are everywhere and occur naturally. I definitely will keep this in mind when looking at landscapes in the future.
Check out some of the edible/medicinal plants at the Molalla Encampment in the video below:

Works Cited
Beacon Food Forest
N.d. Beacon Food Forest Permaculture Project. Beacon Food Forest. Beaconfoodforest.org, accessed July 19, 2016.

Frank, Billy Jr
2016 Every Forest Once a Food Forest. Northwest Treaty Tribes: Protecting Natural Resources for Everyone. Nwtreatytribes.org/every-forest-once-a-food-forest/, accessed July 19, 2016.

Lecompte-Mastenbrook, Joyce
2016 Molalla Encampment Site Plant Walk. Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology Field School.

Permaculture Institute
N.d. Permaculture Resources. Permaculture Institute. www.permaculture.org/resources, accessed July 19, 2016.