Friday, October 12, 2012

A Weekend With New France

The food was excellent!

Each year, the Center for French Colonial Studies holds an annual meeting to encourage scholarship, foster learning, and hear presentations on topic related to the French in the New World.  Dr. Nassaney and I attended this year's conference on September 28 and 29 in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana, sponsored by the Mathers Museum of World Culture & the Glenn A. Black Laboratory and Indiana University.
            The weekend began on Friday with a workshop in the Great Lakes Ethnohistory Archives in the Glenn A. Black Laboratory. Participants had the opportunity to examine the incredible collection of primary and secondary resources assembled on behalf of the U.S. Department of Justice for the Indian Claims Commission. Intended to provide evidence for cases of Indian land claims and treaty infringements, this unique assemblage of indexed documents and microfilm is invaluable for researchers who wish to learn more about any of the sixteen Native tribes referenced there, as well as those who want to learn more about the people with whom the French would have interacted during the fur trade.
            In the evening, the Laboratory, with our host Dr. Timothy Baumann, graciously provided a delicious spread of appetizers as well as a fascinating exhibit on the French military post of Ouiatenon and the artifacts that were excavated there. Many of the artifacts found there were similar to those found at Fort St. Joseph, including lead shot, ceramics, and straight pins, but there were other unique items as well: combs, a repurposed gun barrel transformed into a hide scraper, and a bison bone that was used as a paint brush, following Native tradition.  Dr. Terry Martin, our bone specialist from Illinois is especially excited about this last – no other brushes have been found this far East! Perhaps next year we will find one at Fort St. Joseph.
            Saturday was the day of presentations. Dr. Baumann gave a general introduction on culture and the creolization that took place in the New World among the French, Natives, and Africans. He and Dr. Christina Snyder introduced speakers and moderated the interesting discussions that arose after presentations. Members listened attentively to speaker after speaker for a greater understanding of the French in the New World.  The presentations were all excellent, with topics ranging from the French language and its linguistic descendants in Francophone Louisiana from Dr. Kevin Rottet, to interpretations of material culture and its relation to identity in New France from Dr. Sophie White, to an examination of the ethnohistoric materials on the Sioux as documented by the French from Dr. Raymond J. DeMallie, Jr. 
            Topics of considerable interests to followers of Fort St. Joseph were Dr. Kathleen Ehrhardt's discussion on metal consumption and trade to Indians (so much metal has been found at Fort St. Joseph, including the possible cache of the blacksmith) and Dr. Diana DiPaolo Loren's work on “The Archaeology of Colonial Sounds.” (What might have been heard at the fort on an everyday basis? The splash of oars, the music of glass seed beads and tinkling cones, the rustling of garments, and the loud calls of trade.) Dr. Terry Martin also spoke about how we might interpret the animal remains found at archaeological sites of French forts, including Fort St. Joseph. These animals were used for their pelts in trade, for their bones as various tools, and for meat, but also for fats and oils – which may have been used to make food a bit tastier.
            After the presentations, a brief business meeting was held with a presentation on the venue for next year's meeting: Austin, Texas. This conference will be especially meaningful as it is being held at the opening of the exhibit there on Sieur de la Salle's lost ship: La Belle. The exhibit looks visually striking with an amazing selection of the estimated one million artifacts found on the ship, including 800 axe heads, thousands of glass beads, three bronze cannons, and perhaps 1,500 Jesuit rings. Interested parties are strongly encouraged to attend!
            In the evening, a magnificent repast of food and entertainment was laid out for conference-goers.  Before we were dismissed for dinner, however, we fĂȘted the retiring president Ruth A. Bryant for her many accomplishments as president of the Center. Under her leadership, new technologies have been used to connect members through the website and print publications for members on a simpler and more cost-effective basis. Dr. Karen Marrero, the new president, presented gifts on behalf of the Center: fragrant soaps, imported from France from the same manufacturer who made soap for Napoleon.

            Dinner was next, and was nearly indescribable in its excellence. Dr. Baumann had provided a list of ingredients available at the time to the chefs of Indiana University, and they poured all their creative energies into a meal of succulent venison, roasted root vegetables, braised duck in polenta, and for dessert, blueberry cobbler.  The only thing that could top dinner was the entertainment that followed, and no one could be disappointed by Dennis Stroughmatt and his French Creole music. Along with Rob Krumm and a sound system that could not keep up with the awesomeness, Dennis demonstrated various folk tunes that he had learned  in areas of French heritage in the Midwest and Louisiana, and which he had performed all over the country and beyond, including at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this past year.  The lively French music, which inspired both vocal participation and dancing, was a fantastic way to end an amazing conference.
       -Sarah Oren

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Michigan Archaeology Day

Tony the "fur trading" Tiger
On Saturday October 6th, Fort St. Joseph joined Archaeology Day at the Historical Center in Lansing. Archaeology Day is a event where archaeological projects around Michigan came together to show the public their recent work and give updates on their archaeological projects. This year FSJ was represented by Leah Rice, Cassie Mohney, Skylar Bauer, our "mascot" Tony, and myself. Each group was stationed in the museum according to their topic, Fort St. Joseph was in the exhibit for French fur trade. 
This year we had about 500 people come to visit Archaeology Day, which also included presentations and demonstrations by various presenters. This year the public enjoyed talking to us about this past year's excavation and different artifacts that we found. They especially enjoyed the Women of New France publication. I found Archaeology Day to be a lot of fun and cannot wait to see what next year has to bring.- Michelle Letang
Tony, Leah, Cassie, and Michelle