My research follows from the position that acknowledging archaeology’s role in the development and implementation of European and American colonial projects and associated dispossession of indigenous communities confers a scholarly responsibility to critically examine contemporary archaeological practice. To that end, I draw on indigenous, collaborative, and post-colonial archaeologies to explore how research may positively impact Native American communities.
This perspective informs my work with tribes in the Pacific Northwest, primarily Washington and Oregon. Since 2014, I have worked with the Tribal Historic Preservation Office of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon. Together we have developed the Grand Ronde Land Tenure Project, which tracks changes in land use and parcel ownership on the Grand Ronde Reservation from its establishment in the mid-1850s through the early twentieth century. Through GIS-based analysis of cartographic, archaeological, and documentary sources, the project has revealed disjuncture between the federal government’s view of reservations—as spaces in which Native peoples would be raised to “civilization”—and the on-the-ground realities of reservation daily life. Despite removal and sustained colonial oppression, the diverse peoples of Grand Ronde maintained pre-reservation practices, inter-group relationships, and connections to ancestral homelands all while developing new linguistic, cultural, and economic traditions. In doing so they contested the colonial underpinnings of the reservation, subtly refashioning it into a place of Native survivance. Further study of existing sources, combined with archaeological investigation as part of the Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology training program, will add to our understanding of the reservation community during this period.