James Moore: Next up is Sean Dunham. Sean is the heritage program manager with the Chippewa National Forest. Before his career at the Forest Service, he worked as a cultural resources consultant on many projects in the Eastern Region National Forests. His current research interests focus on the relationship between people, their culture and their environment. He is a registered professional archeologist and has a PhD in archeology from Michigan State.
Sean Dunham: Good morning. It’s really a pleasure to be here. I was really excited by the topics that people were talking about yesterday and getting more engaged here. I’m a little nervous now because I’m not going to be talking about shells or Florida. I’m going a little bit farther north, but should be okay.
I’m here as a representative for Region 9 of the Forest Service and Region 9’s headquarters is over in Milwaukee, so there’s a little bit of stuff in the beginning here and I’m going to read that kind of just focuses on the region, but then I’ll jump into the topic at hand.
The eastern region of the Forest Service, or Region 9, covers a large portion of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States from Maine to West Virginia, and from Missouri to Minnesota. Region 9 Forests are situated along the shores of the Great Lakes, along the banks of the Mississippi/Ohio river and countless other lakes and rivers.
The culture and historical relationship between this region and it’s lakes, rivers, and streams is deeply woven into the fabric of Americana. Native Americans and French voyagers used the water ways as highways, lumbermen drove logs on the rivers and used those same streams to power their mills. Keelboats and barges are part of the past and present and the Ohio and the Mississippi River and huge freighters continue to traverse the Great Lakes.
The lakes and rivers have also been important for other reasons as well. People have camped along these bodies of water for millennia, and they continue to be used for this purpose today. Likewise, these waters have fed people for millennia and continue to be a source of subsistence. The inland shore fishery in the Great Lakes and wild rice being prime examples.
In this presentation I will delve into later prehistory and explore the relationship between people and their physical environment using an example from the late woodland period in Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The late woodland period in the eastern UP began about AD 700 and continued until contact with the Europeans around AD 1600. The dominant settlement model for this region derives from a relatively small number of coastal Great Lakes archeological sites and is linked to the development of the inland shore’s fishery and especially to the advent of deep water modern fishing.
Cleland back in the 80’s constructed a model in which the development of gill-net technology represents the cornerstone of a series of changes and resource use in site placement, as well as social transformation in the late Woodland period. The shift towards the fall fishery was the result of new technologies and social practices, specifically deep water gill-nets and storage technology, which are thought to have led to the development of larger settlements of increasing duration of occupation and greater cooperation among social groups.
The combination of gill-nets increase social cooperation’s storage are critical to the success of this process. The effort of capturing and processing the fish was thought to require an increased level of social organization and this leads to a combination of practical and social storage. In other words, the intent to process fish for storage is carried out in part with the understanding that it will be available for future use to all members of the group engaged in the process.
The late Woodland people in the region are characterized as mobile hunter gatherers. Let’s see. The late Woodland people in the region are characterized as mobile hunter gatherers. In basic terms, the subsistence round is centered around two axis, spring and fall fishing. The underlying logic is that people came together to harvest seasonally dense resources. In this case, Spring is Fall fawning fish and then dispersed when resources were more scarce such as in the cold season, or more broadly distributed across the landscape as in the warm season. This model was generated based on a relatively small number of coastal sites.
Recent research examines data from a larger set of archeological sites including both coastal and interior settings resulting in a fuller picture of late Woodland settlement dynamics. The results show that late Woodland peoples exploited certain settings and habitats more extensively than others. Some site settings appear to change over time, and others exhibit characteristics of culturally modified landscapes. This paper is concerned with the potential effects of this pattern on late Woodland site location.
There are eighty-one known late Woodland sites in the Eastern UP. The archeological sites were used to generate an inductive archeological sensitivity model as well as a site diversity use index. These two exercises produce different types of information. The sensitivity model founded over half of late Woodland sites in Eastern UP have been found in mixed pine habitats within 120 meters of a major source of water. These are classified as high sensitivity areas. The high sensitivity areas account for only 3.5% of the Eastern UP land base. The image on the left shows a slice of the Eastern UP, and the one on the right is a close-up of Grand Island with late Woodland sites depicted.
The diversity index identified three classes of late Woodland sites: extended, intermediate, and limited diversity sites. The index is based on the assumption that different tools are used for different activities, and that a greater diversity of tools on a given site should reflect the greater range of activities. Conversely, a lack of tool diversity on a given site could suggest a more limited range of activities. In a sense, the diversity index is a simple scale addressing a greater or lesser range of activities on the site that may help differentiate how that site was used.
Based on the diversity index, nine late Woodland components from seven sites were identified as most likely candidates for the larger residential sites that were used as seasonal agrigational locales, where Spring and/or Fall fishing took place. Williams Landing, in the Juntunen site, have been highlighted because they will be featured in the following discussion. Each of the extended diversity sites is located along the shore of one of the Great Lakes. They produced Spring and/or Fall spawning fish remains, and each is multi-component, including earlier and/or later occupations, and in many cases, multiple late-Woodland occupations.
These sites share many characteristics associated with persistent places. High concentrations of desirable resources, in this case access to Spring and Fall spawning fish. They also include natural features that structure reuse, and in this case the Great Lakes shoreline, and they were occupied and maintained over an extended period of time. For example, the Native American occupation sequence begins at least 4,000 years ago and continued through the historic period at Williams Landing on Grand Island.
Likewise, the Juntunen Site has produced evidence for Native American occupation from about 2,000 years ago to the early 18th century. Further, when social significance of the extended diversity coastal fishing sites is considered, they become more than simply resource procurement locales. The Juntunen site for example, includes ossuary burials in the late prehistoric Juntunen phase component, which adds to the social importance of the locale. Ossuaries are associated with important integrated rituals such as the Feast of the Dead in the late prehistoric and early historic periods.
Another critical aspect to persistent places is the presence of long-term human occupation, which can alter the physical environment of their locale. Considering the Juntunen site once again, the site locale is interpreted to have been transitioned from a forested area to an open meadow during the course of its occupation, a process which was at least partially a result of human activity. Thus, the environmental setting of the Juntunen site exhibits evidence for a culturally modified landscape.
This pattern may also be illustrated by the late Woodland site locations on Grand Island. Note that the late Woodland sites are clustered in areas with high archeological sensitivity with mixed pine habitat. The farther one goes from the site, the lower the archeological sensitivity. The site location and area immediately around the site also include the greatest level of human activity. In case you may think this is a trick of being adjacent to water, the following image shows the distribution of mixed pine habitat on the island. Although the late Woodland sites are adjacent to water, in this case Lake Superior, so are most of the mixed pine habitats. This begs the question of whether there is a relationship between the increased long term activity on these late Woodland sites and the areas that are coded as high archeological sensitivity areas.
Mixed pine habitats are a critical factor in high sensitivity areas. Red oak is a prominent component of the two habitat types where archeological sites were encountered in the mixed pine group, including the Acer Quercus Vecinum habitat type. The habitats also provide a variety of resources that were attracted to Woodland people in the region. The forest assertion pattern is conducive to beaver, moose, and warm season deer habitat. Such habitats also include a higher incidence of certain fruit such as blueberries, as well as other resources such as acorns, that were utilized as food by Native Americans as well as the animals they hunted.
Is the relationship then between mixed pine habitats and late Woodland archeological sites the result of human activity on the landscape? There are numerous examples of how human activity can modify the landscape. Small scale plant management, patterns of residential mobility, where certain landscape management practices have the potential to create heterogeneous habitat mosaics which may increase the potential for subsistence resources. Mixed pine habitats are the most likely to be affected by natural disturbance and also share many of the attributes of anthropomorphic landscapes.
Native Americans in the upper Great Lakes region and elsewhere modified the composition of the landscape through the use of fire. Low intensity fires occurring at fairly frequent intervals shaped forest composition around settlements. The areas that were burned contain higher incidents of massed and fruit producing species that were commonly used as food. While many of these studies suggest forest and understory clearing for horticulture is a primary rationale for the burning, habitat improvement for wildlife and other resources such as nuts and berries are also a possibility.
There was direct evidence for historic burning in Northern Michigan by Native American people. A study conducted by Elbert and Mink demonstrated that modern stands of Red Oak at Colonial Point were established as a result of Anishinabe agricultural practices in the 1840’s and 1850’s. Charcoal recovered from plots within these stands were predominately beech and sugar maple indicating that original forest had been northern hardwoods and that Native American burning to clear land for planting fostered the transition to oak.
Similarly, Lupe and Anderton have demonstrated a much higher incidence of fire in coastal pine stands in Northern Michigan than in interior stands during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century. The fire intervals in the interior stands seem to correspond with naturally occurring fire regimes, whereas the coastal pattern is interpreted to reflect Native American land use practices, possibly burning associated with the maintenance of berry patches near settlements. Native American tribes in the Eastern UP practiced such burning until stopped by the USDA Forest Service in the 1930’s as part of wild land fire suppression programs.
Andrew Blackbird, his childhood recollections of Cross Village in the 1830’s appears to reflect such a fire altered culturally modified landscape. Technical problems … So I’ll go ahead and read the quote while the technical problem is being addressed … But this points out similar things to what Anderton and Lupe study have shown, and some other things. The environment that he is seeing is very much a fire influenced environment.
Recent studies of Anishinabe traditional landscape management practices in Ontario show that fire was and is used for a variety of purposes. Fire is used to clear undergrowth for gardens, to facilitate vegetation growth, such as berries and other resources like birch bark, and for habitat improvement for wild game. Importantly, fire is seen by these people as beings which possess agency and who intentionally create order in the landscape. The evidence outlined above shows that Native Americans in the Upper Great Lakes region were actively modifying the landscape throughout the Post-European contact period, or after AD 1600.
Likewise, the evidence from Grand Island and the Juntunen site make a strong case for similar practices in the late Woodland period. The culturally modified landscapes described in this paper were created by late Woodland people as a result of their dynamic settlement and subsistence practices. The best fishing locations were situated in Great Lakes coastal settings and were less spatially constrained. These archeological sites were occupied over long periods of times and can be characterized as persistent places. The long-term and diverse occupations at these sites created anthropogenic landscapes which became more desirable as research procurement locales over time.
These were also cultural normative landscapes such as those described by Andrew Blackbird and Whitehead Moose in the quotes before. They also provide a good example of the type of Maritime Cultural Landscape tied into the inland shore fishery that might be coming up in a place like Northern Michigan. So thank you very much and I hope the rest of the papers are as exciting as the ones I’ve already seen.