Removal Period Archaeology: The Historical Archaeology of Native American Strategies
At the end of the 18th century (in the late 1700's), Native American communities were widely scattered around the southern end of Lake Michigan. This portion of a map from the Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History (edited by Helen Tanner and published by the University of Oklahoma Press) shows the locations of Native American settlements in around 1800.
By the early 1820's, very few of these communities remained. As the era of the fur trade drew to a close, and the United States began to expand westward, Native Americans were removed from the region, often with force or more subtle types of coercion. However, many Native Americans were somehow able to resist removal. Research by the University of Notre Dame field school at the Bennac Village and the Pokagon Village sites is providing new information about the strategy that Native Americans used to resist removal. We are learning that these strategies were very diverse.
Field surveys during 2001 examined many of the other sites in northwestern Indiana, one of which has been chosen for investigation by 2003 field school. The McCartney Cabin site, the cabin of an early Euroamerican settler who was briefly married to Mary Ann Bennac (a metis, or mixed Potawatomi and French). Mary Ann was the daughter of Stephen Bennac, and she lived at the cabin site investigated during the 2002 field school. This will be a great opportunity to look at ethnic variation at early sites.
The McCartney cabin site surface has produced pottery sherds dating to the Removal period.
The Bennac Village Site:
The 2002 field school returned to the Bennac Village site at the Potawatomi Wildlife Park to gather a larger collection of artifacts from the location of Bennac’s cabin. Earlier field schools had worked at the Bennac Village in 1996, 1997, and 1999. The cabin site itself has apparently been destroyed, but the 2002 investigations still provided an good cross-section of artifact styles used at the site for comparison with other sites.
Earlier field schools have worked in several different parts of the The Pokagon Village:
In 2001, the last three weeks of the class were spent at the Pokagon Village site, a historic site that is now located on private property with several owners. This historic village was inhabited by the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians around A.D. 1830, one of many Potawatomi bandsthat inhabited the region at that time. The investigations at the site were conducted in cooperation with the Pokagon Band and were endorsed by the Tribal Council. John Warren, the Cultural Coordinator for the Band, really helped get the project off the ground.
The location of the Pokagon Village site was first recorded by land surveyors in the early 1830s. The village location was described in the surveyor's notes. He mentions that approximately 20 houses were scattered in a small valley, and gives the location of Pokagon's cabin and a Roman Catholic "church, school, or mission house."
Dave Alexis, a member of the Pokagon Band, found these notes describing the location of the village and several structures within it.
The site now lies in a combination of wooded areas, areas covered with dense brush, and cultivated field. Our first step was to reproduce the 1830s survey. This was done early in the spring so that we could see through the dense vegetation covering most of the area. At a later date, we examined the surface of a fallow corn field on the northeast corner of the village and found some scattered historic artifacts. The 1999 Field School investigated a fallow field in the on the extreme northeastern edge of the village. The 2000 field school investigated the Roman Catholic chapel and a trash dump by Pokagon's cabin.
The 2001 investigations expanded the sample of artifacts from the trash pit.
Father Stephen Badin was the first Roman Catholic priest ordained in the United States. For several years, he lived at the Pokagon Village and ministered to the Pokagon Band. The 2000 Field School found the location of the chapel .
Leopold Pokagon, from whom the Pokagon Band takes its name.
During the spring of 2000, John Warren and Mark Schurr mapped out the location of Pokagon's
cabin based on the original land survey. The 2000 Field School investigated a trash dump near
the cabin .
The 2001 Field School once again returned to the cabin midden. The 2001 investigationsprovided data that can be used to estimate the volume of the midden deposit and provided an excellent sample of the types of artifacts that it contained.
Read about prehistoric archaeology and the Goodall Tradition project .
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