Thursday, February 4, 2016

Anthropology in the Community

Hi everyone, my name is Anne and I’m an undergraduate student at Western Michigan University, majoring in Anthropology. I am currently enrolled in Dr. Nassaney’s class, Anthropology in the Community and completing independent study under his supervision. I plan to attend the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological field school in the summer, but until then this class will be the next best thing!

In this class, we are partnering with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and will be providing it with informational panels regarding rivers and waterways for its open house this upcoming summer. The St. Joseph River, as I’m sure you all know, HUGELY impacts the excavation of Fort St. Joseph and it will be the focus of our research. We will be exploring various aspects of this waterway, and deciding upon specific themes for our panels. Some different ideas that we have tossed around so far have included river resources, transportation along the river, recreation, industry, and daily life (among others). For some of these theme ideas, we have discussed focusing on the past and present ways in which the river was/is playing a role. One thing that I think will be very interesting to learn is how river resources were manipulated around the time of the fort’s occupation compared to how they are now, as well as how access to certain resources has changed over time!

In applying anthropological methods to our research, we are hoping to better understand how anthropology can be useful in communities. In collaborating with community members of Niles, we will gain important knowledge of the area that one cannot just access on the Internet, as well as tighten the bonds that the fort already maintains with the community! We will all benefit greatly from this experience in various ways and gain a deeper understanding of the local history. We will keep you all posted as we progress with this project and can’t wait to learn more about the St. Joseph River!

-Anne Volpe

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Career Cruising with Fort St. Joseph

Hello all, Genevieve here again.

Genna working with an interested student
            I am also among some of the students from the 2015 FSJ field school that have decided to work with Dr. Nassaney in the Independent Study course this semester. One of the most rewarding things about participating in this course is that we have the privilege to attend many important activities on campus and around Kalamazoo, if not around the country. Recently, some of the students in this course, including myself, were able to participate in WMU’s Career Cruising event for middle school students in the area. This WMU event allows students to broaden their career options by exposing them to different fields. There were several stations set up presenting different departments at Western. We represented the Anthropology department along with a biological anthropology professor and graduate student. Middle school students came in small groups, to which we presented a short activity teaching them how we use the material objects that previous humans have left behind in order to determine what these peoples’ lives were like or what activities they participated in.

A biological anthropologist showing different kinds of bones
            When asked the question “what is an archaeologist?” we are used to the occasional response of “oh, well you find dinosaur bones”. Many archaeologists may chuckle or grimace at this response, but we, as students ourselves, take this as an enormous teaching opportunity. Teaching children about the function of archaeology in everyday life and expanding their views of archaeology as a future career is a key component of getting support in this amazing field. We planted a seed in hundreds of middle school minds to get them thinking about themselves as future archaeologists. Getting the youth excited about archaeology is so rewarding. Many had no idea that archaeology happened around the United States let alone right around their community with the FSJ project. These events are a huge focus of ours when it comes to creating support for the project and for the Anthropology department at Western. Make sure to tell the middle school students in your life about the amazing opportunities that the FSJAP offers with our Summer Camps. For more information on the summer camps be sure to check out our flyer at:
           - Genna

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fort St. Joseph at the SHAs

The Society for Historical Archaeology’s (SHA) annual conference in Washington D.C. was a great way to start the New Year. This was my first conference which I attended and it was a great experience. I got to see several great presentations that really caught my interest and I got to present my project that I had been working on for the past six months. I got to work with the other students from Western Michigan University to prepare for my speech and I gained a lot of new knowledge on how to present and what a good paper looks like.
Austin George presenting at the SHA

Presenting at such a young age really opened my eyes as to what I need to do next. While I was at the conference I learned a lot about all the different types of archaeology and projects that were going on around the world that I could research more about. I enjoyed hearing presentations that related to events and activities that took place at Fort St. Joseph. Erika Loveland said, “Attending and presenting at the SHA’s was great! I was able to go to talks on a variety of topics that I am interested in as well as receive feedback and ideas on my own research.” We all learned a little bit more and got a lot of good feedback on our presentations which will help us in future times to come. As John Cardinal stated, “The first time going to the SHA's annual conference was an enjoyable and exciting opportunity where I was able to discover new projects, presented a poster focusing on the 2015 field season, and won a number of awards in the ACUA's photo contest. Overall it was a very enjoyable experience.”

Fort St. Joseph alumni in Washington D.C.
Getting the opportunity to attend and present at the SHA’s was such a rewarding opportunity for me. It was neat to see the past generations that have worked at the fort and get to hear stories about events that happened during their field season. The really neat part was when they told us about their jobs and where they were going in their lives. I really enjoyed the conference and cannot wait for next year.
-Austin George