First Advisor

Virginia L. Butler

Term of Graduation

Summer 2021

Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Anthropology






Cultural property -- Protection -- Oregon -- Sauvie Island, Cultural property -- Oregon -- Sauvie Island, Indians of North America -- Lower Columbia River (Or. and Wash.), Values, Risk assessment



Physical Description

1 online resource (xii, 286 pages)


New and increasing threats to cultural heritage resources have pushed archaeologists, land managers, and Indigenous peoples to develop strategies to identify at-risk resources, determine condition, vulnerabilities, and value of said resources, and then provide mitigation and preservation prioritizations and recommendations for the future. One such strategy is the risk assessment approach. Typically, to guide ongoing and future management of vulnerable cultural resources, risk assessments consider preexisting archaeological data, alongside geomorphological and hydrological landform characteristics, to prioritize sites for preservation. While such assessments have been conducted around the globe, they have not been widely applied on the Lower Columbia of Oregon and Washington (U.S.A.), nor has a localized methodology been developed, particularly one that incorporates the perspectives and values of descendent communities, through a collaborative partnership.

My research took such a collaborative approach to risk assessment, via a case study of the western shoreline of Sauvie Island, located on the Lower Columbia River, in partnership with one of several tribes with strong ties to the river, the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. My project examined an area of cultural significance to develop a baseline prioritization assessment, using the novel strategy of waterborne survey via kayak to access my study area. I posed two primary research questions: -- 1) What forces negatively impacted cultural heritage resources? 2) How did tribal partners prioritize cultural resources for preservation?

To address these questions, I conducted fieldwork over the course of several months along the ~34 km western shoreline of Sauvie Island, recording 18 archaeological sites, including 8 previously recorded sites and 10 newly identified ones. Using GIS capable devices and geotagged photography, I recorded nearly 2,000 artifacts, as well as in situ cultural deposits, dateable features, and diagnostic artifacts. These elements of the physical archaeological assemblage factored into a series of six variables defining archaeological value. I also recorded factors which put each site at risk, such as erosion and modern cultural impacts. To obtain tribal input about their views of value, I had seven collaborative meetings with staff members of the Tribal Historic Preservation Office (THPO) from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. Through an iterative process of editing and review, we identified six variables that communicated how the Grand Ronde value cultural resources. Together, archaeological and tribal values and risk assessment scores were joined to create prioritization preservation scores for each of the 18 sites recorded during my project.

The application of the prioritization assessment process identified two sites scoring "Very High", four sites scoring "High", four sites scoring "Medium", seven sites scoring "Low", and one site placed in the "Very Low" group. The assessment process showed where archaeological and tribal values overlapped, largely in areas of proximity to ethnographic locations and rare characteristics of the site. The assessment also showed where sites diverged, where tribal values recognized the potential of a site over the observed physical assemblage, and where, most importantly, sites retained reconnectivity, or an aspect that the tribe could reengage with, be it through land access, the activities that could be conducted at the site, or the context of other sites and ethnographic locations around it. Additionally, the assessment also highlighted ways sites are vulnerable to loss from erosion. Fifteen of the 18 sites have some combination of sheer eroding banks, slumping, undercutting, or sheer beach edge. Sediment starvation due to upstream river dams and boat wake are the main forces of erosion along the shoreline.

My project has several values. First, I have provided an up-to-date overview of cultural resources along the western shoreline of Sauvie Island for the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office and other agencies, such as the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. This alone will be useful for management purposes. Second, I have created a preservation prioritization process which allows for a systematic review of archaeological values, tribal values, and risk factors. This process could be applied both in the Lower Columbia and elsewhere. Third, through a collaborative effort with my Grand Ronde tribal partners, I have identified a number of tribal values that reflect how a descendant community views cultural resources. This case study has produced a risk assessment template based not only on archaeological value, but also value to descendent communities. Future work should expand the assessment to include perspectives from other tribes with ties to Sauvie Island.


© 2021 Phillip James Daily

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