First Advisor

Kenneth M. Ames

Date of Publication

Spring 6-3-2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Chinook Indians -- Material culture -- Pacific Northwest -- History, Chinook Indians -- Colonization -- Social aspects -- Pacific Northwest, Social archaeology -- Pacific Northwest, Glassware -- Pacific Northwest -- History, Fur trade -- Pacific Northwest -- History



Physical Description

1 online resource (x, 144 pages)


At the end of the 18th century, Anglo Americans and Europeans entered the mouth of the Columbia River for the first time. There they encountered large villages of Chinookan and other Native Americans. Soon afterwards, the Chinookan People became involved in the global fur trade. Pelts, supplies, and native made goods were exchanged with fur traders, who in return provided Chinookans with a number of trade goods. Over the next 40 years, life changed greatly for the Chinookans; new trade and political alliances were created, foreign goods were introduced, and diseases killed large portions of the population (Hajda 1984; Gibson 1992; Schwantes 1996; Boyd 2011; Boyd et al. 2013). Additionally, fur trade forts, like the Hudson's Bay Company's (HBC) Fort Vancouver, were established. At these forts, new multiethnic communities were created to support the fur trade economy (Hussey 1957; Kardas 1971; Warner and Munnik 1972; Erigero 1992; Burley 1997; Mackie 1997; Wilson 2010).

This thesis is an historical archaeological study of how Chinookan peoples at three villages and employees of the later multicultural Village at Fort Vancouver negotiated the processes of contact and colonization. Placed in the theoretical framework of practice theory, everyday ordinary activities are studied to understand how cultural identities are created, reinforced, and changed (Lightfoot et al. 1998; Martindale 2009; Voss 2008). Additionally uneven power relationships are examined, in this case between the colonizer and the colonized, which could lead to subjugation but also resistance (Silliman 2001). In order to investigate these issues, this thesis studies how the new foreign material of vessel glass was and was not used during the everyday practice of tool production.

Archaeological studies have found that vessel glass, which has physical properties similar to obsidian, was used to create a variety of tool forms by cultures worldwide (Conte and Romero 2008). Modified glass studies (Harrison 2003; Martindale and Jurakic 2006) have demonstrated that they can contribute important new insights into how cultures negotiated colonization. In this study, modified glass tools from three contact period Chinookan sites: Cathlapotle, Meier, and Middle Village, and the later multiethnic Employee Village of Fort Vancouver were examined. Glass tool and debitage analysis based on lithic macroscopic analytical techniques was used to determine manufacturing techniques, tool types, and functions. Additionally, these data were compared to previous analyses of lithics and trade goods at the study sites.

This thesis demonstrates that Chinookans modified glass into tools, though there was variation in the degree to which glass was modified and the types of tools that were produced between sites. Some of these differences are probably related to availability, how glass was conceptualized by Native Peoples, or other unidentified causes. This study suggests that in some ways glass was just another raw material, similar to stone, that was used to create tools that mirrored the existing lithic technology. However at Cathlapotle at least, glass appears to have been relatively scarce and perhaps valued even as a status item. While at Middle Village, glass (as opposed to stone) was being used about a third of the time to produce tools.

Glass tool technology at Cathlapotle, Meier, and Middle Village was very similar to the existing stone tool technology dominated by expedient/low energy tools; however, novel new bottle abraders do appear at Middle Village. This multifaceted response reflects how some traditional lifeways continued, while at the same time new materials and technology was recontextualized in ways that made sense to Chinookan peoples.

Glass tools increase at the Fort Vancouver Employee Village rather than decrease through time. This response appears to be a type of resistance to the HBC's economic hegemony and rigid social structure. Though it is impossible to know if such resistance was consciously acted on or was just part of everyday activities that made sense in the economic climate of the time.

Overall, this thesis demonstrates how a mundane object such as vessel glass, can provide a wealth of information about how groups like the Chinookans dealt with a changing world, and how the multiethnic community at Fort Vancouver dealt with the hegemony of the HBC. Chinookan peoples and the later inhabitants of the Fort Vancouver Employee Village responded to colonization in ways that made sense to their larger cultural system. These responses led to both continuity and change across time.


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