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Presented By: Museum of Anthropological Archaeology

Cultural Identity and Materiality at French Fort St. Joseph (20BE23), Niles, Michigan

Dr. Michael S. Nassaney, Professor of Anthropology, Western Michigan University

Fort St. Joseph was one of many French colonial outposts established throughout the St. Lawrence River Valley and the western Great Lakes region in the late 17th-18th centuries to cultivate alliances with Native peoples. The result was an exchange, amalgamation, and reinterpretation of material goods that testify to the close relationships the French maintained with various Native American groups. Yet, closer examination suggests that both the French and Natives employed material goods in distinctive ways to ensure survival and promote their interests in the colonial encounter; borrowing was merely an expedient strategy. This interpretation shifts attention away from the amicable relations, altruistic behaviors, and hybridization that researchers previously posited toward an understanding grounded in more pragmatic forms of materiality that agents practice to ensure the persistence of cultural identities under colonialism.

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