Recent Submissions

  • Northern Dene astronomical and sky-related knowledge: a comparative anthropological study

    Cannon, Chris M.; Plattet, Patrick; Holton, Gary; Koester, David; Shoaps, Robin (2021-12)
    The sky and its contents are routinely overlooked in Northern Dene ethnology as a meaningful part of linguistic and cultural knowledge. However, more than 11 years of primary fieldwork learning with and from elders, speakers, and culture bearers from 12 Northern Dene groups across 32 communities in Alaska and Canada has shown that astronomical knowledge is deeply rooted in both practical and sacred ways of knowing. With a focus on detail and breadth, this comparative ethnological study utilized an experience-based approach to investigate the ways in which Northern Dene Peoples perceive, conceptualize, and integrate the sky and its contents into systems of knowledge, practices, worldview, cosmology, and spirituality. At the center of these knowledge systems is a principal constellation often identified as the incarnated spirit of a Traveler-Transformer figure who circled the world in Distant Time. Although this Traveler is widely known in Dene mythology as the one who instilled balance and order in the world, his enigmatic transformation to the sky was traditionally known by spiritually gifted people. The "Traveler" constellation is not only a world custodian and archetype of an idealized medicine person, but it is also a teacher, ally, game keeper, and the embodiment of the world. Taken together, the Traveler on earth and in the sky provides a powerful conceptual model for behaviors and actions as a central organizing principle and locus of indigenous Northern Dene worldview, cosmology, and spirituality. Two other subsequent chapters focus on general concepts of stars, minor constellations, and the use of stars in time-reckoning, weather forecasting, and wayfinding. These are followed by a chapter pertaining to the sun and moon as animate and personified beings that also embody fundamental models for proper behaviors and actions. The final chapter, prior to the conclusion, centers on socio-cosmic relationships between the Dene and a host of highly sentient atmospheric phenomena that bridge the divide between the upper cosmos and the lived world of humans. Collectively, this work underscores that the earth and sky are not exclusive of one another but are part and parcel to a unified Northern Dene cosmology and worldview that are deeply grounded in relational significances. This is among relatively few book-length studies in anthropology on the indigenous astronomical knowledge, perceptions, and practices of any extant culture in the world.
  • Historical archaeology of Marion Creek, Alaska: placer gold mining and the capitalist world-system

    Whitney, James W. (2009-05)
    "Archaeological investigations of two placer gold mining sites on Marion Creek, Alaska, a tributary of the Koyukuk River, challenge the myth of the independent prospectors of the last frontier and reveal their dependence on the capitalist world-system. The Grassy Mound Cabin site (CHN-024) consists of a small cabin and trash scatter representing individual placer mining dated to the first decade of the 20th century. The Marion Creek Mining Complex site (WIS-286) is a multi-feature site reflecting capital and labor-intensive mining from multiple occupations during the first and second decades of the 20th century. The historical context of gold mining in the Koyukuk district is reconstructed from historical documents, exploring the process by which Alaska was incorporated into the capitalist world-system. Functional analysis of the assemblages and application of the Commodity Flow Model demonstrate how material culture and site economy changed as investments of capital and labor increased"--Leaf iii
  • Mapping moose: moose as a proxy for humans in the mapping of stable isotope values in the Tanana Valley, Alaska for forensic purposes

    Dewey, Kathryn K. (2009-08)
    "There are currently 100,000 open missing persons cases and 40,000 sets of unidentified human remains in medical examiners' offices across the nation. Stable isotope analyses can serve as a first line of inquiry to narrow down the possible region of origin for skeletal remains. The analysis of the variation between the isotope ratios of oxygen (¹⁸O/¹⁶O) is of particular value for this purpose. Local water resources determine body [delta]¹⁸O and these values should remain predictable for local fauna and humans. This study fills a void in the isotopic record of interior Alaska. It provides an updated predictive [delta]¹⁸O model for Alaskan drinking water ([delta]¹⁸Owater) and a predictive [delta]¹⁸O model for Alaskan moose ([delta]¹⁸Omoose). A statewide [delta]¹⁸Owater predictive surface was created from collaborative data and this surface was then used in conjunction with sampled [delta]¹⁸Omoose values to create a statewide [delta]¹⁸Omoose predictive surface. These predictive models can in turn be useful for identifying geographic origin of human remains in forensic cases because both [delta]¹⁸Omoose and [delta]¹⁸Ohuman values should approximate the local [delta]¹⁸Owater values with similar fractionation effects"--Leaf iii
  • Places of significance in Itelmen country: sacredness, nostalgia and identity in Kamchatka, Russia

    Degai, Tatiana S. (2009-08)
    "This research was conducted among Itelmen people, a small indigenous group who live on the Kamchatka peninsula in the Russian Far East. The thesis explores places of significance and sacred places of Itelmens who traditionally occupied most of the peninsula. At present the majority live on the Western coast of Kamchatka on the Okhotsk Sea shore. Providing some historical background, outcomes of colonization and western presence, and description of contemporary Itelmen worldview, this study offers an overview of Itelmen concepts of perceiving, knowing, appreciating and "animating" places. These concepts are formed primarily on the basis of a sense of loss of the villages during the relocations of 1950s-60s, a sense of admiration of nature, a sense of respect of ancestral knowledge associated with their lands, a sense of fear and respect of the spirits inhabiting the places and other aspects of landscape animation. Through the examples of indigenous peoples' initiatives this thesis also provides the groundwork for demonstrating the usefulness of the study of places of significance and sacred sites as negotiations take place between Itelmens and the government over native lands"--Leaf iii
  • Human paleoecology from the late glacial to early holocene, Tangle Lakes, Alaska

    Darcy, Audra J.; Reuther, Joshua D.; Bigelow, Nancy H.; Clark, Jamie L. (2021-08)
    This study examines paleoenvironmental change from the Late Glacial to the Early Holocene in the Tangle Lakes region of interior Alaska to explore changes in resource distribution and impacts on prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence patterns in upland settings (>500 masl). In interior Alaska, prehistoric hunter-gatherer subsistence economies were organized around the procurement of large herbivores (bison, caribou, elk, and moose), which were primarily regulated by habitat availability. Changes in habitat availability altered the distribution of key faunal resources, necessitating shifts in land-use strategies. The palaeoecological record from Glacier Gap helps contextualize resource distribution within dynamic landscapes by identifying changes in habitat availability for grazing, mixed-feeding (bison, caribou, elk), and browsing (moose) herbivores. This study applies pollen analysis, as well as carbon and nitrogen isotope analysis, of lake and peat deposits to reconstruct paleoenvironmental change from ~14,000 to ~6,000 Cal yr. BP. Results indicate grazing habitats persisted until approximately ~13,500 Cal yr. BP, which allowed for initial expansions of bison and elk, but habitats became mixed following the appearance of birch shrubs. Existing archaeological data indicate that initial use of upland regions coincided with expansion of bison and elk habitat, which would have represented large-bodied, predictable sources of food. As shrubs continued to expand, grazing and browsing habitats became increasingly fragmented in a mixed-feeding period between ~13,000 to ~10,000 Cal yr. BP. Fragmentation of bison and elk habitats made these species less predictable on the landscape, which likely led to the abandonment of the Tangle Lakes. A shift from mixed-feeding to browsing habitats occurred following the Holocene Thermal Maximum at ~10,000 Cal yr. BP with increasing shrub growth and the expansion of peat, supporting caribou and moose populations. Settlement patterns indicate re-occupation of the Tangle Lakes, and intensified use of uplands, when browsing specialists became more predictable, and subsistence focus shifted to the procurement of caribou ~6,000 Cal yr. BP. Taken together, grazing and browsing habitats represent homogeneous environments where resources were more abundant and predictable for hunter-gatherers, while mixed-feeding habitats represent heterogeneous environments where herbivores were fragmented and less abundant or predictable on the landscape.
  • The visual language of Turkish roman dance

    Carter, Bethan J.; Shoaps, Robin; Plattet, Patrick; Yamin-Pasternak, Sveta (2021-08)
    Utilizing Peircean semiotics and Dell Hymes' Ethnography of Communication, this research analyzes the dance style known as Roman havasi or, Turkish Roman dance. Elements and influences under consideration include costuming, dance vocabulary, musical instruments and traditions, gender-based stylistic differences, spheres of performance, audience member and participant demographics, and notions of authenticity in embodiment and presentation. An abridged history of the Roman is also presented, including public policies that influence the rights and lifestyle of Turkish Roman, as such factors have influenced their sense of social belonging as well as their dance and musical expressions. Romani people have experienced marginalization wherever they have immigrated, and scholarship regarding them has not always been beneficial. This thesis aims to increase the visibility, recognition, and appreciation of their culture. Research data was collected via participant observation as a Turkish Roman dance student and performer in Anchorage, Alaska, and from structured interviews with instructors and performers. Video footage was also gathered for analysis and was obtained by the author or via public domain websites. This thesis is accompanied by a collection of video clips featuring various elements of Turkish Roman dance referenced herein, and is available as supplemental material.
  • Contextualizing the development of coastal adaptations in postglacial Southeast Alaska

    Schmuck, Nicholas S.; Reuther, Joshua; Clark, Jamie; Baichtal, James F.; Holliday, Vance T.; Plattet, Patrick (2021-05)
    The goal of this dissertation is to improve our understanding of human population expansions into unfamiliar environments, focusing on when and how humans adapted to the rich coastal landscape of Southeast Alaska. Investigation of the peopling of this region has been overshadowed by the broader narrative that the Americas may have been first colonized by a late Pleistocene coastal migration. Refinements to local sea-level and paleoecological chronologies help contextualize the dynamic landscape that these first inhabitants might have encountered, returning focus to the archaeology of Southeast Alaska itself. This research considers existing archaeological data within the theoretical framework of Human Behavioral Ecology, proposing new models to acknowledge the process of landscape learning. Landscape learning provides a mechanism for exploring human adaptation to unfamiliar landscapes, which in turn produces testable hypotheses based on the familiarity of colonizing human foragers with coastal environments. Systematic sourcing of obsidian microblade cores, ubiquitous in early Holocene sites, allows for a further assessment of landscape learning, alongside an evaluation of the relationship between local raw material constraints and technological organization. Though the oldest known archaeological sites in Southeast Alaska are firmly dated to between 10,500 and 10,000 cal BP, older occupations have been identified elsewhere on the Northwest Coast, and Tlingit and Haida oral histories record their presence on the landscape from Time Immemorial. Taken together, multiple lines of evidence point to an initial colonization of Southeast Alaska out of eastern Beringia, occurring prior to the occupation of the oldest known sites. By the early Holocene, foragers with a typical Northwest Coast diet were readily adapting to, but still in the process of learning, this complex coastal landscape. While these results challenge the long-established impression that the oldest known sites in the region represent a remnant population of maritime sea-mammal hunters descended from an earlier coastal migration into the Americas, this research highlights the opportunity to continue testing these hypotheses by targeting older, uplifted paleoshorelines.
  • Ethnoarchaeology of the middle Tanana Valley, Alaska

    Smith, Gerad M.; Reuther, Joshua; Kari, James; Holmes, Charles; Hanson, Diane (2020-12)
    This study explores the shifting anthropological constructs of identity for the Middle Tanana people through time. It first summarizes this theme through contemporary regional Native American internal and external influences. A discussion is then given on how these constructs became formed through historical processes. Next, it provides an in-depth look into how identity became shaped prior to the Euro-American influence through an ethnographic reconstruction. These are framed in a way to form relevant hypotheses to study the regional prehistoric archaeological record. The Historical Linguistics analytical approach used here confirms that there is very little, if any, evidence in the languages of the Tanana Valley from any non-Dene or other hypothetical pre-existing linguistic group. Language forms an integral unit of community identity. This study also frames the linguistic argument for deep regional cultural antiquity and identity through an extensive survey of traditional place names. A brief comparative study of the processes and effects of the incursion of the Indo-European languages into traditional Dene territory is discussed to demonstrate this argument. Next, the research explores the middle and later Holocene archaeological record of the Shaw Creek basin, located deep within the Middle Tanana homelands, using innovative approaches framing traditional Optimal Foraging theory arguments through the lens of Complexity theory. It focuses on the household archaeology and spatial artifact analysis of two archaeological sites, Swan Point (three Holocene components) and Pickupsticks (one Holocene component). In these case studies, cultural identity analogs, social structure, and agency are discussed using the material cultural record as a proxy. Finally, a dynamic, seasonal, ecological landscape-use model informed by predator/prey interactions is used to inform hypothetical human foraging movements. It models decision-making and risk-mitigation processes through resource shortfalls, predicting raw materials' movements from their source locations to their discard locations at these two archaeological sites. The conclusions support the theory that Dene presence in the Middle Tanana Valley is an ancient phenomenon that has at least early Holocene roots. Further, the period between 2,000 and 1,000 years ago appears to have been a critical period of additional cultural intensification processes. The processes leading to the development of the Athabascan archaeological tradition are considered to be the result of demographic expansion, increased territoriality, and a critical reinterpretation of the roles of kinship and non-related partnerships.
  • The Yup'ik relationships of qiluliuryaraq (processing intestine)

    Carrlee, Ellen; Schweitzer, Peter; Koester, David; Lee, Molly; Hill, Erica; Plattet, Patrick (2020-12)
    This project explores multiple Native cultural contexts that intersect in the use and understanding of intestine. Gut (tissues of internal organs including stomach, intestine, bladder and esophagus) as a raw material was historically used by many circumpolar cultures to make items like drums, raincoats, hats, windows, sails, containers, and hunting floats. These items are abundant in museum collections, but rarely seen today in cultural practice or the art market. Intestine is a natural material that was replaced by synthetic materials, but its dual physical properties of protection and permeability are the only features replicated by plastics. Examination of intestine as an obsolete material reveals both changes and resilience in different kinds of relationships. Emphasizing the meaning and materiality of gut over analysis of artifacts made from it emphasizes interactions among human, animal, and spiritual beings over formalistic approaches privileging object interpretations. Preferential investigation of a raw material over finished artifacts focuses the study on actions and values in Native places. Fieldwork components for this study include documentation of indigenous gut processing, sewing and repair workshops in museum contexts, processing fresh intestine in the Yup'ik village of Scammon Bay, and discussion of gut with Yup'ik cultural experts. The theoretical approach uses Actor-Network Theory (ANT) as a foundation, animated with practice theory and relational ontology. Since ANT creates space for human, animal, and object agency, reciprocal relationships among these actors will be explored through frameworks of materiality, object biography, gender studies, animal personhood, and the gift. This endeavor may promote a new model for the use of material culture to illuminate Native values. In the case of intestine, its decline in use connects to changes in technology and spirituality while resilience and revitalization of gut technology promotes identity and demonstrates traditional values.
  • Archaeology at Teklanika West (HEA-001): an upland archaeological site, central Alaska

    Coffman, Samuel C. (2011-12)
    This thesis research involved a reinvestigation of the Teklanika West (HEA-001) archaeological site, central Alaska. It focused on understanding and expanding upon the site formation processes, dating, and characterizing cultural components at the site. Analyses were designed to address the preceding research purposes, while inter-relating research objectives. Twelve and a quarter square meters were excavated within five blocks located across the site. These excavation blocks yielded dateable materials in clear association with chipped-stone technology. Both environmental and cultural data obtained at the site have produced a more complex understanding of the site and surrounding landscape. Multiple components ranging in age from the late Pleistocene through late Holocene are represented at the site. Lithic analyses indicate a wide variety of lithic reduction occurring within components; ranging from biface production to late-stage weapons maintenance. Faunal remains from the oldest components consisted of bison, while the mid-late Holocene components consisted of caribou and sheep, respectively. All these data indicate that the upper Teklanika River valley was deglaciated by the late Pleistocene, allowing humans access to animals, new travel routes, and raw material resources.
  • Human and ecological responses to the Northern White River Ash eruption

    Smith, Holly A.; Reuther, Joshua; Bigelow, Nancy; Clark, Jamie (2020-05)
    The White River Ash northern lobe (WRAn) volcanic eruption deposited a blanket of tephra (volcanic ash) along the Yukon-Alaska border ~1625 cal BP (calibrated years before present). Currently, there has been limited investigation into the effect of this natural disaster on the environment and local hunter-gatherer populations. This research seeks to analyze and explore the potential ecological and cultural responses to the WRAn event. To address this question, paired archaeological and palynological studies bracketing the WRAn were conducted. Excavations at the Forty Mile/Ch'ëdä Dëk Territorial Historic Site in the Yukon (LcVn-2) revealed a multicomponent site including cultural deposits dating to approximately 1500 and 2000 years ago, with a band of WRAn ash separating them. The focus of the project was to identify similarities and differences in artifactual and faunal assemblages and feature types between cultural occupations pre- and post-tephra deposition that could indicate variations in site use, hunting practices, and tool manufacture. A decadal-scale pollen analysis spanning ~80 years before and after the WRAn tephra fall was conducted on a lake core collected near Eagle, Alaska, to explore the potential environmental impacts of the tephra deposition on the landscape. Results from this project suggest that the WRAn eruption did not create a prolonged negative environmental or cultural impact. At the study location, which experienced at least ~1 cm of tephra deposition, there is a prompt reoccupation of the Forty Mile Site, with multiple subsequent occupations, displaying a resilient population that was able to adapt to the fluctuating environmental surroundings. Similarly, the pollen displays a period of ~5 years of reduced influx and productivity, followed by spikes of abundance before returning to pre-eruptive comparable levels ~35 years after the WRAn. In this thesis, I argue that no hiatus in cultural occupation occurs following the WRAn tephra deposition and the archaeological assemblage displays characteristics in accordance with general cultural transitions occurring in southwestern Yukon and interior Alaskan archaeology.
  • Zooarchaeological analysis at 49-RAT-32: historical ecology and maritime subsistence in the late Aleutian period

    Sippel, Kevin M.; Clark, Jamie; Reuther, Joshua; Rogers, Jason (2020-05)
    This thesis utilizes a zooarchaeological collection from 49-RAT-32 on Amchitka Island in the Western Aleutians to examine Unangax̂ subsistence strategies, and human/environment interactions from 620 ± 20 to 320 ± 20 years B.P. The materials used for this analysis were recovered from primary and secondary fill overlaying the House 1 floor. Paleoecological records within this region are limited and conflict with each other, but the cool and wet conditions of the Little Ice Age 600-100 years B.P, or C.E. 1350-1850 are believed to be in effect during the deposition of the fill materials. Marine mammal, fish, and sea urchin remains were analyzed to understand subsistence practices, seasonality, and land/seascape use. The relative abundance of the exploited taxa and fork lengths of marine fishes were analyzed to identify potential resource stress and change over time. Atka mackerel dominates the faunal assemblage and Pacific cod are present in very low frequencies, both of which make 49-RAT-32 unique when compared to other Aleutian assemblages. Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and Irish lords are larger in size than their modern counterparts, with the large size of Pacific cod indicating deep sea fishing practices. The size differentials in Atka mackerel and Irish lords may reflect differences in ocean conditions. This analysis of fauna from 49-RAT-32 does not indicate the presence of human-driven resource depression, in fact, fish sizes were increasing, and diet breadth was shrinking. The opposite pattern from what would be expected if humans were overfishing. The data from this analysis increase our understanding of resource utilization and landscape use during the Late Aleutian Period, and provides baseline information for future studies analyzing changes in fish size over time.
  • A study of variation among side-notched bifaces from northern archaic sites in Alaska

    Fuqua, Kaitlyn N.; Clark, Jamie; Reuther, Josh; Esdale, Julie (2020-05)
    An Alaskan archaeological tradition, the Northern Archaic, (~6,000-1,000 cal years BP) is often identified based on the presence of side-notched bifaces. Variation among these bifaces, commonly referred to as projectile points, is not well understood. This study examines morphological and functional variability among a sample of 209 notched bifaces from 63 Northern Archaic sites located in central and northern Alaska. The nature and extent of variability were examined on several scales, including: 1) across ecological regions of Alaska, 2) throughout the mid-Holocene (6,000-1,000 cal years BP), and 3) within a single site (the Ratekin site, HEA-187). Morphological variation was examined using metric and nonmetric variables, including length, width, thickness, and raw material type. This study also employs a 2-D geometric morphometric landmark based analysis, which is intended to provide a less subjective view of variation in tool morphology. Side-notched bifaces in the sample show a large degree of variation, both across sites and within the Ratekin site. There are some differences in shape among bifaces from Polar and Boreal regions of Alaska, which may indicate regional varieties. There appears to be some variation in the degree of standardization in side-notched biface production over time; between 3000-2,000 cal years BP, there is a decline in variability across the majority of the metric shape variables, suggesting a greater degree of standardization. Functional variability was assessed using three lines of evidence: breakage patterns, macroscopic wear patterns on the distal end, and a Dart-Arrow Index. Sixty percent of the side-notched bifaces in the sample exhibit some breakage, most of which were lateral/transverse breaks located on the shoulders and neck of the tool. Biface tips show evidence of use and frequent rejuvenation. Similar breakage and use patterns, and dart-arrow values were found across the ecological regions, throughout the mid-Holocene, and within the Ratekin site sample. Despite the shifts in morphology identified at regional and temporal scales, this indicates that side-notched bifaces served a similar function at all scales examined. Variation in side-notched bifaces was also considered from the perspective of human behavioral ecology, focusing specifically on risk management and how strategies for mitigating risk may be reflected in lithic assemblages (through invention, innovation, and standardization). Other risk management strategies employed during the Northern Archaic may include communal hunting, subsistence diversification, and high residential mobility. Within this framework, the increased standardization among side-notched bifaces during 3,000-2,000 cal years BP may be a reflection of a risk-averse behavior, supported by evidence of subsistence diversification at Northern Archaic sites after 4,000 cal years BP.
  • The Last Great Indian War (Nulato 1851)

    Wright, Miranda Hildebrand; Black, Lydia T.; Schweitzer, Peter P.; Morrow, Phyllis (1995-04)
    In this study, I review the causes of an Athabaskan conflict in western Alaska which occurred in 1851. This hostility is known in published sources as the Nulato Massacre. In oral tradition the same incident is referred to either as the Last Great Indian War or simply "The Nulato War". Critical reading and analysis of primary and secondary historical source materials offer insight into external pressures on the indigenous population, the analysis of oral tradition the resulting internal pressures. The combination of historic documentation and oral tradition provide a basis for the analysis of the Nulato Massacre as an internecine conflict. The Koyukon point of view reveals this conflict to be the result of a shamanistic power contest. While it may be argued that the conflict was precipitated ultimately by economic and social post-contact dislocations, the Koyukon perceive it as a disturbance of their concept of universal psychic unity, an overarching conceptualization which encompasses all aspects of Koyukon worldview. It was imperative in their view to regain control of their lives. The role of the shaman in such restoration was paramount.
  • Sea change, know fish: catching the tales of fish and men in Cordova, Alaska

    Springer, Emilie S.; Schneider, William; Criddle, Keith; Farmer, Daryl; Plattet, Patrick; Shoaps, Robin (2019-08)
    Cordova, Alaska is a coastal community in Southcentral Alaska with an intricate history in commercial fishing, primarily for the Copper River sockeye salmon industry, which extends historically to pre-statehood. This dissertation collects personal narratives as a method to express cultural features of community identity and the role salmon has played in shaping identity, livelihood, and lifestyle in Cordova, Alaska. Research material is based on oral history interviews from which I construct written character portraits to depict aspects of resident life in this fishing community and from others who use the community to access summer salmon resources of the Copper River. Portraits were performed and presented in public venues to obtain casual feedback from and review by community members from Cordova and other participants in the Prince William Sound drift fishery. The portraits and public commentary post-performance or from community readers serve as one basis for analysis and lead to my conclusions about life in this community and, on a larger scale, cultural dimensions common within other communities (either geographic or occupational). Public performances offer a communication tool that provides a method to share differences within the industry without encountering explicit controversy over challenging industry transitions. Although the tool of storytelling does not typically receive significant media or policy attention, I find it very effective in understanding and mediating conflict across different groups of people, especially when the main theme of conflict, sustainability and access to the fishery resource, is a mutual cultural feature of interest to diverse participant groups. Additionally, public creative performances offer a venue of communication primarily designed for entertainment and as a result, the audience interaction with storytellers occurs more casually and perhaps more genuinely than it does in academic conferences or policy meeting venues. Personal stories related to the iconic feature of salmon with mutual significance in state and federal fisheries of the North Pacific are a valuable, intimate source of local and traditional knowledge. The opportunity to put meaningful and commonly shared emphasis on the fish as an economic and cultural resource and not on a particular stakeholder group may help lead to improved communications in a field that tends to illicit conflict in consideration of access to harvest rights.
  • Indigenous archaeological approaches to artifact and household analysis at precolonial Yup'ik village Temyiq Tuyuryaq (Old Togiak)

    Skinner, Dougless I.; Potter, Ben; Yamin-Pasternak, Sveta; Reuther, Josh; Barnett, Kristen (2019-08)
    Upper Bristol Bay is home to a multitude of precolonial-and colonial-era villages dotting the coast, islands, and rivers. The bay's dynamic history remains relatively unexplored in archaeological literature. Current data situate people in the region for nearly 6000 years, living in complex, semi-permanent villages, subsisting on large land and sea mammals, fish and mollusks. One such village is Temyiq Tuyuryaq or Old Togiak (GDN-00203). The village is a mounded accumulation of household cycles, sand and organic materials atop an accreting sand spit in the Togiak Bay. Ancestral to Nutaraq Tuyuryaq [New Togiak], the village directly links precolonial and modern Yup'ik traditions in the Upper Bristol Bay. Yup'ik traditions are a combination of transformation, continuity and resilience. Yupiit worldview seeks balance and co-existence with many life forms including the spiritual, natural and human. The aim of this research is to intersect traditional Yup'ik values, knowledges and histories with archeological theory and methodology to explore the material culture and households of Temyiq Tuyuryaq. Research objectives include evaluating a sample of the culturally modified materials, assessing the built environment and exploring the Little Ice Age as causation for increasing village complexities. Research results indicate that there is a direct continuity of knowledge spanning at least 600 years in the bay. Artifact production and function remain primarily continuous with intensifications of some materials circa 500 cal BP. Household analysis reveals the importance of the ena [family house] for processing foods and cooking activities. Additionally, the research indicates that the Little Ice Age may not have had an extensive impact on tool and household function. Rather, the results suggest that the Yup'ik Bow-and-Arrow War had more extensive impacts on the villages about 600 cal BP. This thesis explores the complex relationship of Indigenous knowledge and archaeological data, as well as discussing the dynamic and continuous relationships that modern Yup'ik people of Bristol Bay have to their histories.
  • The taming of the stew: humans, reindeer, caribou and food systems on the southwestern Seward Peninsula, Alaska

    Miller, Odin Tarka Wolf; Plattet, Patrick; Finstad, Greg; Simon, James; Yamin-Pasternak, Sveta (2019-08)
    This thesis addresses the question, what is the role of reindeer within communities of Alaska's southwestern Seward Peninsula, particularly as a food source? Employing a mixed-method approach, I conducted several months' fieldwork in the Seward Peninsula communities of Nome and Teller between 2016 and 2018, using methods that included participant observation, ethnographic interviews and a household survey designed to describe and quantify use of reindeer as food. As two varieties of the same species, Rangifer tarandus, reindeer and caribou are very similar in appearance. When caribou herds migrate nearby, reindeer tend to join them and become feral. Given the important role caribou played in Bering Straits Iñupiaq culture before their disappearance and the subsequent introduction of reindeer during the late 1800s, I contextualize the history of reindeer herding as part of a broader pattern of human-Rangifer relationships. During the past 30 years, reindeer herding has been disrupted by the return of migrating caribou to the region. Results from my fieldwork suggest that herding involves not only keeping reindeer separate from caribou, but also achieving community-level recognition of reindeer herds as domestic, privately owned and non-caribou. This is reflected in reindeer's role as a food source. Among Seward Peninsula Iñupiat, reindeer's gastronomic role is similar to that of caribou and other land mammals. Yet reindeer products can be monetarily exchanged in ways that caribou and other wild foods cannot. A further distinguishing feature of reindeer, as a domestic animal, is that it can be controlled and commodified while alive. As rural Alaskans seek to adapt their food systems to rapid social-ecological change, some have expressed renewed interest in reindeer herding. I conclude that herders must actively negotiate between views of reindeer herding as monetary and marketable, on the one hand, and as a food that embodies Iñupiaq values of generosity and (nonmonetary) sharing, on the other.
  • Faunal analysis of the historic component at Healy Lake Village site, Interior Alaska

    Hilmer, Hilary A.; Potter, Ben; Clark, Jamie; Reuther, Joshua (2019-08)
    The historic period in Interior Alaska was a dynamic time that led to many cultural changes for Native Alaskan communities across the state. Starting in the early 1700s, Russian and Euroamerican explorers began interacting with Native Alaskan groups living on the coast and by the end of the 18th century - early 19th century, Interior Alaskan groups were being directly affected. Due to western influences, Native groups, such as the Upper Tanana Athabascans, began to rely on a cash economy, causing them to settle to year-round villages, trade with the Euroamericans for non-local goods (i.e., flour, guns, buttons, glass, and nails), and work on construction projects in order to provide for their families. All of these changes appeared to cause a division between the traditional way of life and the new Euroamerican way of living. Healy Lake Village site (XBD-00020) is a multi-component site with occupations spanning the terminal Pleistocene into the Holocene. It is located approximately 100 miles southeast of present day Fairbanks on the shores of Healy Lake in the Upper Tanana Athabascan territory. The village was a summer fishing camp until ~A.D. 1910; it became a year-round village soon after the construction of a trading post at Healy Lake. The well-preserved faunal remains excavated from the Upper Cultural level (dating to A.D. 1880 - 1946) at Healy Lake Village site provide a significant opportunity to address fundamental questions relating to subarctic hunter-gatherer subsistence economies. This research employs concepts from human behavioral ecology and world-systems theory to address questions relating zooarchaeological patterns in the data in terms of taphonomy, human procurement, and processing decisions, as well as historic period land use strategies and trade practices. In this thesis, I explore the possibility that the residents at Healy Lake Village site were affected by Euroamerican influences, specifically in regards to their subsistence economies. However, the results suggest that hunting practices were not drastically altered. The residents still relied heavily on local game as their primary source of subsistence with minor inclusions of western goods, such as canned meat and flour.
  • Salmon, cosmology, and identity in Elim, Alaska

    Raymond-Yakoubian, Julie M.; Schweitzer, Peter; Koester, David; Plattet, Patrick; Carothers, Courtney; Lowe, Marie (2019-05)
    This dissertation is the result of sociocultural anthropological research in and about the community of Elim, Alaska. Elim is a small community of approximately 330 (primarily Inupiaq and Yup'ik Eskimo) people in Norton Sound. This research began with a focus on the topics of salmon and identity in the community. The focus on salmon was particularly important because the communities of this region have often traditionally been understood in the social sciences through the lens of relationships with marine mammals. The research involved participant observation in the community, a variety of forms of ethnographic interviewing (free listing, structured, and semi-structured interviews), focus groups, storytelling sessions, and archival research. Over 80 adults in the community participated in the project through interviews. I also completed extensive photo-documentation of the community and various aspects of peoples' relationships with subsistence activities. Much of this work began with inquiries about the importance of salmon to people in Elim, as well as an examination of other things which were important to Elim residents, and how people come to understand themselves. In this I also examined and learned about aspects of Elim residents' relationships with fish and other animals, with the environment, with the spiritual world, and with each other. This process led me to insights not just about identity in Elim - what matters, what is meaningful and valued, how people understand and define themselves and their community, and so on - but it also led to me an understanding of how Elim residents think about the nature of the world in general (i.e., cosmology). My main argument in this dissertation is that my research in and about Elim revealed that identity and cosmology are co-created - and it revealed how this is the case. I discovered that salmon are 'good to think with' in order to see that. This co-creation of identity and cosmology occurs within a particularly visible hybrid cosmological landscape of (primarily) 'traditionally Indigenous' and Christian ideologies. This landscape in lived culture and context is marked by a patterned heteroglossic 'condition' which includes a dominant (and indigenized) Christian discourse. This heteroglossia is constituted, represented, and evidenced by a (markedly) heterogeneous multiplicity of discourse, practice, and belief. This cosmological landscape and its heteroglossic condition are visible, and made, in various respects in co-implicated, co-indexical, interlocking instantiations of human-animal relationships, spirituality, systems of proper behavior, place attachments, and identity processes and formations.
  • Prehistoric toolstone procurement and land use in the Tangle Lakes Region, central Alaska

    Lawler, Brooks A.; Potter, Ben A.; Reuther, Joshua D.; Newberry, Rainer; Hemphill, Brian (2019-05)
    This project explores prehistoric human mobility and landscape use in the Tangle Lakes region, central Alaska through analyses of toolstone procurement and manufacture conditioned by site function. Early Holocene Denali and middle Holocene Northern Archaic traditions are hypothesized to have different tool typologies, subsistence economies, and land use strategies. However, few large, systematic studies of toolstone procurement and use have been conducted. At a methodological level, archaeologists have struggled to quantitatively source non-igneous cryptocrystalline toolstone which often makes up the largest proportion of archaeological lithic assemblages. These problems were addressed by developing rigorous chemical methods for statistically assigning lithic from Tangle Lakes assemblages to (a) two known local toolstone quarries, (b) materials within the Tangle Lakes region, and (c) non-local materials. Lithic technological and geospatial analyses were used to evaluate toolstone procurement, manufacture, and use within sites. Lithic samples from four archaeological components located at different distances from their nearest known quarry sources were used to address the research problems. The archaeological samples were derived from a Denali complex hunting site (Whitmore Ridge Component 1) and three Northern Archaic assemblages: a residential site (XMH-35), a tool production site (Landmark Gap Trail) and a hunting camp (Whitmore Ridge Component 2). Chemical results indicate that cryptocrystalline material in Tangle Lakes assemblages can be statistically assigned to primary sources locations, and visual sourcing of this material is entirely unreliable. Lithic analytical results indicate that despite slight changes in mobility strategies for Denali and Northern Archaic populations, site function is the strongest conditioning factor for material selection and procurement strategies local to the Tangle Lakes region. Thus, this research provides (a) best practice methods for sourcing abundance cryptocrystalline material that has been precluded from most lithic sourcing studies, and (b) the data necessary to incorporate technological organization strategies of Tangle Lakes populations into the broader context of Denali and Northern Archaic behavioral patterns in Alaska.

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