Project Capstone: Re-writing Burien and White Center’s history with communicative narratives

 Re-writing Burien and White Center’s history with communicative narratives, and arming its people with resources to fight massive tenant evictions

After the amazing journey of having studied the differences between narrative community histories, and those official accounts, as well as looking at the wave of tenant evictions, these are the conclusions I’m taking with me, as well as the continuation of this project in collaboration with WCCDA and Future Wise:

  • We find ourselves in a smaller community on the outskirts of a larger metropolitan area that still harbors a predominantly old blue-collar, working class, white conservative population, which is similar to those earlier colonial settlers that started exploiting the land for timber.


  • This conservative community has clashed with the immigration waves from different corners of the world where the US started or collaborated on wars: According to some integration programs from WCCDA, even though POC and older white folks might get along when they live door to door, there is still a fear of being “erased” by those conservative folks: Leading to hate-motivated actions like the publishing of a list of “illegal and criminal immigrants” on a map that scared many people, where Hugo Garcia commented as well on several articles:
  • “After controversial flier, Burien neighbors fight back with ‘love letters’”


  • Negative stereotypes rooted in earlier late 1800’s days, still prevail, marking this area as “no the most desirable to live” and therefore, making prices low and habitable for these immigrant communities. However, I believe these stereotypes also give people in power the permission to remove them as gentrification advances.


  • These negative stereotypes could be used against targeted immigrant communities in times of Trump, following up to those hateful fliers depicting latinx people as “drug dealers, criminals etc”, and give more permission to “those in power” to displace people in larger numbers.


  • I believe that by collecting narrative accounts and putting all the different programs and resources that these associations do for the community in one single, attractive and easy to use website, people who are either moving in or afraid that they might be displaced, it will be beneficial!


“Religious Freedom”

The founding of America, as it’s taught in most public schools, says that one of the primary tenets of the immigrants travelling here was religious freedom, and that this has always been a land where everyone is free to practice their own faith. Of course anyone who’s been paying attention knows that this isn’t the case. Religion is more often used as a means of control rather than a choice freely made. Settlers pushed their Christian faith on the Natives already residing here and then did the same to the Africans brought here forcibly to work on plantations and in homes. Those Africans were prohibited from practicing their faiths not only because to be not Christian made one into a “heathen” but also because their new owners feared that access to this faith would unite them and make them more difficult to control. However, a brief look at the archaeological record makes it clear that telling someone to abandon their faith, even threatening them, does not always make it so.

At a number of different plantations there is ample evidence in the deposits found in the slave cabins that shows the Africans who lived there continuing to honor and practice their beliefs. At the Hume plantation, Hermitage plantation, Garrison plantation, and many others, deposits in and around around the slave dwellings show evidence of conjure bags intended for calling on protective spirits, items placed at doorways and under windowsills to keep the home safe, items representative of fire near the hearth and much more. There is even evidence of animal sacrifices at some of the sites. This continued following of the beliefs and religious practices they brought with them from their homeland shows a remarkable brand of persistence and subtle resistance even at times when the white slave owners appeared to have all the power. To me this information is extremely important to bring to light because it adds depth of character to the single story of African slave life in America. It’s a story of pride and strength even in the face of terrible adversity and it bears remembering.

Pre-Colonial New England

I chose to research Native American tribal life before colonization for a few reasons. The first being I grew up in Massachusetts, and every year in school we would visit important historical sites, and a lot of time in the subject of history was spent on the Pilgrims and Puritans, the Salem Witch Trials, and anything relating to the Revolutionary War – such as the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, and the Battles of Lexington and Concord to name a few. The second being that later on in life as I picked up more history books, I was amazed at how much Native American history is overlooked in schools – especially the time period before colonization. The legacy of what the first few colonists recorded of Native Americans is strong, and unsurprisingly – a little inaccurate. Even today in many public schools – if not the majority, Native American history is taught as if it begins in 1492, or 1603, or 1620, and Native Americans are compared to Europeans and characterized as primitive.

This is not the case however. A lot of what we know about New England Native American daily life pre-colonization is from archaeology, and it has taught us a lot. For example I didn’t know that Paleo Natives arrived in what is now New England around 12,000 years ago, or that tribes in New England had trade routes that went all the way to Wisconsin and the Dakotas in the West, and Virginia to the south. What I also found interesting was how much Native American material culture evolved, especially from 5000 years ago to 300 AD, to 300 AD up to the arrival of the Europeans. Farming tools became more effective, as did the move from using soapstone for pots to using clay pottery. Native Americans in not only manages to survive, but thrive in the harsh temperamental climate of New England for thousands of years. They were not simple hunter gatherers, nor brutal ‘savages’ as many contemporaneous primary accounts would have you believe. They had advanced farming methods which yielded successful and bountiful crops, as well as exceptional knowledge of the land and the animals that inhabited it.

I felt it was relevant to include the recent struggle of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe of Massachusetts. In 2015, they were approved to have 321 acres held in trust – which would become a reservation and they would gain the right to build a casino – which was not the main reason for the desire to re-acquire their land back. In October, this decision was reversed by the US government, despite them being a federally recognized tribe. I think if more people knew about the long and rich history of Native Americans in different regions of the United States, especially before colonization, movements such as the one in Mashpee would get more attention and more public support – perhaps even changing the outcome, and archaeology is a great tool for uncovering that deeper past and supporting a more truthful and accurate narrative.


Barboza, Robert. “History: Wampanoag Artifacts Offer Clues to the past.” July 26, 2016. Accessed November 16, 2018.

Bradford, William. “History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620-1647.” The American Historical Review18, no. 3 (1913). doi:10.2307/1835526.

Collins, Dave. “Archaeologists Dig Native American Fort Found in Connecticut (Update).” – News and Articles on Science and Technology. August 28, 2018. Accessed November 02, 2018.

Fogarty, A. (2018, March 17). Native voices, accurate history forge deeper, better understanding of American Indians in nation’s schools. Retrieved from

Fox, J. (2018, October 6). Mashpee Wampanoag protest Trump administration land ruling. Retrieved from

Mandell, Daniel R. King Philips War: Colonial Expansion, Native Resistance, and the End of Indian Sovereignty. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

Russell, Howard S. Indian New England before the Mayflower. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1985.

Shuffelton, Frank. “Indian Devils and Pilgrim Fathers: Squanto, Hobomok, and the English Conception of Indian Religion.” The New England Quarterly 49, no. 1 (1976): 108-16. doi:10.2307/364560.

“The Pequot War.” The Mashantucket (Western) Pequot Tribal Nation. Accessed November 02, 2018.

“Timeline.” Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe. Accessed November 02, 2018.

Wilbur, C. Keith. The New England Indians. 2nd Edition ed. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1996.

Winthrop, John.”What Warrant Have We to Take That Land?”England, 1629.

Five Points, NY

For my final project I did a neighborhood analysis on Five Points, New York. We did several readings for class that detailed prostitution in the area, but I wanted to get an in depth look at what this area was really like. Throughout my research, I kept coming back to the prostitutes and it finally dawned on me that there was a very large part of the community that took part in the industry. Young men who were interested in taking part in “sporting culture” would visit these lovely ladies and it was widely believed that if they focused their sexual energies on willing women, the men would be less likely to rape (insert eye roll here). I also found that a generous portion of the community were immigrants and African Americans. The African Americans would have their own community within the larger community of Five Points and it would be centralized around their church. The larges of which was St. Philips African Episcopal Church. During this time people were pouring in from Ireland to escape the potato famine and there was a clash of cultures, resulting in riots and drunken fights. It was difficult for people to get along, especially since everyone lived in extremely close quarters. With the influx of people moving into the neighborhood, the wooden houses that held single families were torn down and replaced with larger brick tenement buildings. These buildings were intended for a single family to use one apartment, but this wouldn’t necessarily be the case. Each apartment had two rooms, and if the family renting the apartment was smaller, say, two parents and one child, then they would sublease the extra space to other people. This resulted in extremely crowded and filthy living conditions. All in all, it was a very interesting subject to look into and I thoroughly enjoyed it!

Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery

For the capstone assignment this quarter, I chose to research the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery. It seemed fitting to look into something close to home, and the site of the Erie County Poorhouse is actually within walking distance to my family home.

Figure 1: Erie County Poorhouse and Hospital 1896 (Tokasz 2017)

Today, social safety nets are taken as a given- unemployment, social security, and medicare are institutions millions of Americans rely on, but less than a century ago these services didn’t exist.

During the 19thcentury, the United States population exploded and the nation’s urban centers ballooned. Buffalo was no exception, and the 1825 opening of the Erie Canal ushered in an era of unprecedented industrial and economic growth (Goldman 1983:34). With the growth of industry and population came a similar growth in the number of disabled, unemployed, and impoverished. Old systems of localized care (usually run by families or parishes) were unable to keep up, and the new system of poorhouses promised to rehabilitate those in need.

In its 97 years of operation, the Erie County Poorhouse treated over 180,000 individuals(Ledgers 1861-1952). During that time thousands died and were buried in the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery.

Figure 2: Hayes Hall 2002 (LaChiusa 2002)

In 2008, an infrastructure update on the University at Buffalo’s South Campus revealed human remains from the Erie County Poorhouse Cemetery, and following a 2012 NY Supreme Court order, researchers were able to excavate and study the remains. What they found gives us insight into the lives of people who are not mentioned in history books- the blue-collared immigrants who worked hard to make a life in a new country- the backbreaking labor they undertook to earn a living, the things they ate to survive, and the struggles they faced on a daily basis.

Projects like these help us reflect on our current society and help us realize our progress and our shortcomings. It helps us connect to the past on an emotional level and it helps us care about the people around us.


Goldman, M.

1983    High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, NY. State University of New York Press, Albany, NY.

LaChiusa, C.

2002    Buffalo Architecture and History: Hayes Hall.In University at Buffalo. Chuck LaChiusa with permission from the University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning, Buffalo, NY.

Ledgers, E. C. P. H.

1861-1952       Erie County Poorhouse Ledgers. Buffalo & Erie County Public Library, Buffalo, NY.

Tokasz, J.

2017 372 nameless dead, exhumed in 2012, are headed back to the grave. The Buffalo News. Buffalo NY.


Place Names in the Arctic and the Role of Archaeology Today

Scan your eyes over a standard-issue map of North America, and you will find names of European political leaders, explorers, and places repeated across the Canadian Arctic: Victoria Island, Melville Peninsula, Cambridge Bay. These names offer little acknowledgement of Inuit presence, which extends for millennia across the land, ice, and water today known as the Canadian Arctic. For my final project in Historical Archaeology, I explored community-based research on Inuit place names and how that can help us understand memory, identity, colonialism, and interpretation in the Arctic. Interwoven with place names are the politics of colonialism, the sovereignty of language, and the creation of historical narratives through interpretation.

The most striking result of my research was how colonial legacies continue to influence narratives of history, identity, and indigeneity today. Archaeologists have the ability to use their work to deconstruct colonial systems put in place to disrupt the communication of traditional knowledge––known as Inuit qaujimajatuqangit––and to advance social justice in the Arctic. For academics used to controlling every aspect of research design and execution, sharing authority with communities can be an unsettling. But I would argue that for archaeology to remain relevant in today’s world, the field can no longer hold itself apart and above the people in it.

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.

Chinese Railroad Workers

For my project I researched the Chinese migrant communities of the nineteenth century working on the railroads. I decided to revolve my research around the precarity and futurity of migrant worker from Barbara Voss’ framework. Precarity in this case is risk assessment and futurity is the individual’s view of the future from their point of view.

What I then found in my research is that the easiest thing to write about was either the ceramic material culture and faunal remains from the animals they ate. There was a lot of valuable information about dietary practices and trade networks but surprisingly few about daily life. The findings were generally the same things in many places like porcelain and other ceramics and beef, chicken, and pork popular in chinese cooking alongside fish (Kennedy 2015, Porcasi 2017). The list goes on into shark and bear as well (Kennedy 2018).

It was also important to note the social challenges faced at the time such as institutional inequalities like various exclusionary laws and discriminatory zoning and taxation (Chace-Evens 2015) and social discrimination like the mob in Mono Mills (Sunseri 2015)

When I presented my findings to the class I was surprised by how few people were working on the archaeology for Chinese migrant communities but it might’ve been that those were just the only ones available online. In Voss’ article on transnational archaeology in China, there are notably many challenges in studying these same phenomena hear and in China such as the obvious language barrier but also practices like the way archaeology is done. There’s hopefully a lot more in physical text. This was surprisingly difficult to write as much meaningful synthesis as I wanted but it only goes to show the importance of expanding the field of archaeology and looking into things in a variety of perspectives.

Chesapeake Clay Tobacco Pipes and Cultural Resilience

For my final research project I decided to look at how we can observe African cultural resilience in the new world during the 17th century through the use of Chesapeake clay tobacco pipes. To do this I first explored the pipe making traditions and decorative traditions of West Africa. I then compared this to the various styles and designs of Chesapeake clay tobacco pipes.

Tobacco was introduced to West Africa in the 16th by Europeans returning from the New World. However, prior to this pipe making industries and the cultural practice of smoking was widespread in We

st African states thanks to the medicinal, spiritual and recreational use of cannabis. Following the introduction of tobacco it quickly gained popularity and spread throughout the region. The pipe making industries responded by producing pipes for the sole purpose of smoking tobacco. By the mid-17th century the cultural practice of smoking tobacco and making tobacco pipes was well established in West Africa. Therefore, by the time Europeans began transporting slaves to the New World smoking was very much part of several West African cultural identities.

From left to right: Kwardata, Double Bell, Hanging Triangles and Cattle motif(Emerson, 1988)

In comparing West African cultural traditions with Chesapeake pipes it becomes clear that a number of the motifs used on the pipes have clear connections to West Africa. I focused my analysis on 4 such motifs: The Kwardata, the Double Bell, Hanging Triangles and the Cattle motif.  The Kwardata motif can be linked back to the Ga’anda people of Nigeria. The motif commonly found on beer vessels that were used in ceremonies that marked the transition between boyhood and manhood. The Double bell motif can be linked back to the Nsibidi language of the Ejagham people from South western Cameroon and Northeastern Nigeria.  This language is a unique form of ideographic writing that consisted of signs that encapsulate many powers including the essence of all that is valiant, just and ordered. The Hanging Triangle motif can be linked back to the decorative traditions of Ga’anda people. Finally the cattle motif can be linked back to the economic and religious importance of cattle in the pastoralist societies of Nigeria.

The presence of all of these motifs is a clear indication of the continuation of various West African cultural and religious practices. For example, despite not having the traditional objects for their ceremonies they members or descendants of the Ga’anda people were able to place the Kwardata motif on pipes and use it in place of beer vessels for their religious ceremonies.

Thanks for reading. If you want to know more about this topic I would highly recommend reading the article “Decorated clay tobacco pipes from the Chesapeake: An African Connection” by Matthew Charles Emerson.


Emerson, Matthew C. “Decorated Clay Tobacco Pipes from the Chesapeake.” University of California,Berkeley, (May), University of California Berkeley ,1988.


The role of whaling in past and present colonial relationships of the Northwest

For my final assignment in this class I decided to investigate the role that whaling has played in the ongoing colonial relationships in the Pacific Northwest. I focused on three groups from the region: the Makah of the Olympic Peninsula, the Nuu-chah-nulth of Vancouver Island, and the Alutiiq of Kodiak. Whaling has been practiced by each of these three groups for at least thousands of years and is a significant component of their cultural identities. Whaling was still practiced at the time of Euro-American arrival and whale oil, among other natural commodities, played a significant role in the development of colonial economies. Even though extensive whaling and trading of whale oil had taken place prior to European presence in the area, there was now increased hunting pressure on the animals and their populations began to decline. Makah whalers, for many years, were just as successful, if not more so, at hunting whales and processing the oil from them. However, once whale populations became depleted and moved farther from shore, colonial whaling ventures were able to take more whales and attempted to block Native access to this stock of whales. The last whale hunted by the Makah prior to recent times was in the 1920s. 

Makahs butchering a whale circa 1930. From Library Archives of the Makah Museum

In early 1970 a large storm eroded a bank and revealed five longhouses that had been buried by an earthquake in 1700. Excavations at this site in the village of Ozette, revealed a deep history of whaling by the Makah people. The vast quantity of whale remains along with ample whaling technology revealed that the Makah had been whaling for more than just subsistence. In order to store artifacts and share the knowledge obtained from excavations at Ozette, the Makah Cultural and Research Center was established. These excavations had renewed community interest in resuming the practice of whaling.

In the 1990s the gray whale was finally delisted as an endangered species and the Makah were allowed to hunt a whale in 1999. There was much opposition to this hunt from environmental groups. The hunt, however, was a major step in the cultural revitalization efforts of the Makah and has hopefully inspired other indigenous groups to renew their own cultural practices that were oppressed by colonial actions. 



Cote, Charlotte. 2010. Spirits of Our Whaling Ancestors: Revitalizing Makah and Nuu-Chah-Nulth Traditions.Seattle: University of Washington Press.

Miller, Robert. 2000. “Exercising Cultural Self-Determination: The Makah Indian Tribe Goes Whaling.” American Indian Law Review25(2): 165-273.

Reid, Joshua. 2015. The Sea is My Country: The Maritime World of the Makahs. New Haven: Yale University Press.