Monday, April 3, 2017

Partnering with the Living History Community at Fort St. Joseph

Bob Myers (center) and other reenactors gathered at the 2015
Archaeology Open House
As part of Western Michigan University’s Anthropology in the Community course we, Jenifer Blouin, Josh Schneider, and Jeff Nau, are exploring the relationships between the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project (FSJAP) and the Living History Community in the Great Lakes region. Two of us, Jenifer and Josh, are graduate students in the History Department, and Jeff is a graduate student in the Anthropology Department. We define the Living History Community as the re-enactors, craftsmen, and other formal interpreters of the history of Fort St. Joseph. Currently, the Living History Community participates in Fort St. Joseph mainly through the annual Archaeology Open House and the Fort St. Joseph Museum, which displays artifacts found at the Fort. Our goal with this project is to find ways to improve and expand the collaborative relationship between the Living History Community and the FSJAP. The annual Archaeology Open House has provided a forum for the Living History Community to interpret the history of Fort St. Joseph, and archaeological work done at the Fort has in turn informed the historical accuracy of living history interpreters’ work. Specifically, re-enactors have been able to educate visitors at the Open House about the Fort and early American ways of life. We are interested in exploring the ways in which the FSJAP and the Living History Community can maintain and further develop their working relationship.

Located in Niles, the Fort St. Joseph Museum displays artifacts
unearthed at the archaeological site
So far, our group has met with Christina Arseneau, the director of the Niles History Center. She has proven instrumental in our understanding of the state of Fort St. Joseph history in Niles, including its events, exhibitions, needs, and goals such as new exhibits at the museum, the annual summer archaeology lecture series, the Open House, and the desire for increased attendance at these events. We have also spoken with Bob Myers, an accomplished re-enactor who assists in the selection of other re-enactors for the Open House. He informed us of the history of re-enacting in the Niles community. In the past, there was a large re-enacting event that was popular, but once the archaeological work began it failed to draw attention to the archaeological work done at the excavation site. Now, Myers helps to select a smaller group of re-enactors who are knowledgeable about the historical context of the fort, and successfully engage the public in both the history and the material culture of Fort St. Joseph. We plan to continue having these discussions with the Living History Community and those working with the FSJAP, with the goal of finding ways to increase collaborative opportunities.

Monday, March 27, 2017

A Collaborative Partnership with the Religious of Niles

Cross grave marker commemorating Father Allouez
along Bond Street in Niles near Fort St. Joseph
Hiya! We, Hailey Maurer and Meghan Williams, are part of the Anthropology 5030 class at Western Michigan University. As stated in earlier posts, our Anthropology in the Community class is working to explore the potential for collaborative partnerships between the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project and various community groups within Niles.  Our specific focus is on building a partnership between the religious community of Niles and the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. Up to this point, we have been unable to concretely define ways in which the religious community, as a whole, might be interested in collaborating with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project, though we know members of the religious community have attended the Archaeology open house, our annual summer lecture series, and other events that we have sponsored with community support.
To reach out to the religious community in Niles, we decided to focus on Niles’ Catholic community. We selected this group because we know that Fort St. Joseph was established as a mission by the Jesuits in the 1680s with the support of the French crown.  Brandão and Nassaney have written about religious activity at the site in a paper entitled “Suffering for Jesus: Penitential Practices at Fort St. Joseph (Niles, Michigan) During the French Regime,” published in The Catholic Historical Review 94(3), 476-499. You can access it by going to:
The French prioritized the establishment of a mission in this area of the St. Joseph River due to the large numbers of Native Americans who could become converts to Catholicism and as part of a larger strategy to create social and trade alliances with Native groups. Archaeological work at Fort St. Joseph has identified religious pendants and relics which may have been used by the site occupants—Jesuits, French men and women, or even converted Native Americans.

The obverse and reverse of a religious medallion found at
the Fort St. Joseph site during excavations in 2016
Our primary goal is to establish collaborative, and hopefully sustainable, partnerships with members of Niles’ Catholic community. Academics and professional archaeologists have far too often taken advantage of, or failed to listen to, their community partners. Our aim is to avoid such errors by encouraging community involvement in the study, and ongoing preservation of, the Fort St. Joseph site. As such, we plan to speak with, and gain the input and perspectives of local congregation members as well as religious leaders in Niles’ Catholic community. We also recently attended the Kalamazoo Living History Show to meet with a member of Support the Fort, a community organization supporting Fort St. Joseph, who also happens to be a Catholic member of the Niles community. We hope to learn about the religious community’s interests and determine how they coincide with the interests of the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Education and the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project

Hey Guys! Amber and Stefan here! 

Niles High School, the site of our first encounter with the
Niles school system and its educators 
This semester we are working with the educational community in Niles to see what potential overlap in interests they may have with the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. We are defining this community as those who are local educators in the Niles public school system, the tech school, and the surrounding areas. We are hoping to reach out to those who have also worked with the project in the past, especially educators and students who have participated in tours and digs, or visited the museum.  As potential partners, the educational community and the Project have the potential for considerable overlap in shared interests. The field of anthropology has been interested in education for themselves as well as the education of others. So far, the project has hosted field schools for the community to participate in, hosting an open house, and holding public lectures open to the community. As scholars and anthropologists, we are concerned with obtaining, researching, and sharing information. This is an area where the educational community in Niles might also be interested. We would like to involve those who are interested as much as possible, in order for everyone to fully benefit from an engaged and helpful learning partnership.
An archaeological field school student exchanging information
with a young re-enactor
                  We have reached out to several educators within the Niles community already! We are excited to meet with educators as soon as possible. We traveled to Niles on March 14th to meet with Brad, a Niles High School teacher who is very excited and enthusiastic about the project. We discussed ways in which we can incorporate his students into the project for the benefit of both groups. We can see how the project can be a unique opportunity for students to earn volunteer hours required for graduation, or using their technical skills for the project. Niles High School hosts the Career Technical Education classes for most of the county. Here they have the resources and opportunities to learn about building trades, agriculture, and graphic design.

                  We may be able to partner with the schools to provide new ways for students to learn about their historic community, or to collaborate on future class projects with the students in Niles. As we move forward with this project we are looking forward to working with members in the educational community for our mutual benefit.