Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Community Partnerships in Niles

The commemorative boulder marking the location of
Fort St. Joseph before it was unveiled in 1913

We, Alyssa and Stephanie, are Western Michigan University students enrolled in Dr. Nassaney’s Anthropology in the Community class (ANTH 5030) this semester. As part of the class we are working on a semester long project in association with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. Our goal for the class is to begin establishing partnerships with community groups in Niles, Michigan to help benefit not only Niles but WMU as well. What we mean by community is any group of people who either live in the same place or have common interests. We hope that the partnerships we build will help strengthen relationships between these communities well into the future. We want to explore areas of mutual interest to determine how we can enhance what community groups do through our work investigating one of the most important archaeological sites in the western Great Lakes region. While there are various communities in Niles, students selected the following due to limited time and human resources: Indigenous peoples (Ashley, Alyssa, Kourtney, Stephanie), Educational communities (Amber, Stefan), Religious communities (Meghan, Hailey), History enthusiasts and the re-enacting community (Jenifer, Jeff, Josh), and the local Recreation and Natural History community (Kyle, Chris). You’ll be hearing from all of us in the near future.

These corn cobs recovered from Fort St. Joseph
represent an important Native food source provided
to the French in the 18th-century fur trade
The two of us are focusing specifically on areas of common interest between Indigenous peoples and Fort St. Joseph archaeologists. How are our histories intertwined past and present and how might we collaborate? We have identified the Indigenous community in the area to be the Pokagon Band in the St. Joseph River valley and are eager to learn more about their history and contemporary concerns. This will help us to disseminate information about their community and increase appreciation among the many stakeholders who care about local history and the role it plays in the present. We hope to meet with members of the Band to explore these and other issues, along with other possibilities for collaboration. We are excited to begin working with them and to share what we have learned about the history and archaeology of the fur trade and colonialism in this area.