Under the supervision of Dr. Sissel Schroeder, Heather Walder will conduct new analyses of existing artifact collections from approximately thirty-five Native American village sites in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Illinois that were occupied between roughly AD 1630 and 1730. This time of early interactions among the Upper Great Lakes region's original inhabitants, displaced Native newcomers, and European explorers resulted in hybridized, multiethnic communities that persisted into the French Colonial period. Ms. Walder is investigating several important aspects of this socially, economically, and politically dynamic period: 1) changes through time in the material practices and performance of social identity as expressed in personal ornaments; 2) regional variation in the technologies used to transform European materials, such as copper-based kettles, into adornments; and 3) spatial and temporal patterns in the chemical composition of glass beads, which reflect the extent and timing of glass bead trade in the region. Studying the production and exchange of socially-meaningful adornments will help to clarify the beginnings of global-scale interaction and trade from the standpoint of technology and material culture. This project contributes to recent theoretical discussions of identity in cultural contact and early colonial situations. In contrast with the Northeast or island settings like colonial Hawaii, where early contact was more sustained, the Upper Great Lakes region experienced infrequent and intermittent early European contacts, allowing it to be examined as a locale of historically documented hybridity and multi-ethnicity.
The primary methods that Ms. Walder will apply are physical attribute analysis of copper-based metal ornaments and chemical compositional analysis of glass beads. By comparing the find-spots of chemically similar glass beads to the distribution of contemporaneous archaeological sites and discrete Native occupation areas as labeled on historic maps, it may be possible to determine if socially distinct groups had access to different European materials or if access patterns changed through time. Attribute analysis of metal ornaments and waste fragments that result from their manufacture will allow the comparison of metal-working practices of different contemporary social groups, in order to understand if or how social identity influences the ornament production process. Ms. Walder's research demonstrates the potential value of investigating unpublished or under-published collections using relatively new analysis methods that were not used or were unavailable for earlier studies.
This research will produce an on-line data set useful for anthropologists worldwide who are engaged in the study of cultures in contact and the beginnings of the colonial world. Results will be disseminated in peer-reviewed publications and through public presentations in various venues throughout the Midwest. Broader impacts of this research include updating of museum curation strategies and interpretive displays and involving descendant communities in the research process. While working with the museum collections, Ms. Walder will organize and digitize original field notes, locate missing artifact information, repackage artifacts in dire need of conservation, assist curators in the identification of historic artifacts, and collaborate with curators to ensure continued research accessibility to the collections. Updated interpretive displays that present the results of Ms. Walder's study are planned at several curating institutions, including the Madeline Island Museum and Rock Island State Park. Finally, this research project will foster relationships and collaborations with descendant Meskwaki, Menominee, and Ho-Chunk community members in the Midwest.