This dissertation elaborates a framework for interpreting the archaeological site of Réaume’s Leaf River Post, a late eighteenth-century fur trading post in Central Minnesota. It examines the construction of social relationships and community in relation to place both within the site and across the broader fur trade landscape of the Western Great Lakes. I consider the ways in which Euro-Canadian fur traders made sense of an unfamiliar landscape by producing a familiar social space (or places) while on the move. Firstly, they did so through daily practices that are recoverable archaeologically, such as foodways and architecture. Together, such activities served to produce a particular lived space, which also created a stage for the enactment of shared practices. I argue that the transmission of practical knowledge from old timers to newcomers, or sometimes from Native people to traders, worked to create a unique community of practice that revolved around fur trading. Given the mobility associated with this lifestyle, I further argue that mobility not only impacted the materiality of the posts in a particular way, but was in fact part of those shared practices that helped foster a sense of ‘groupness’. This community formation process involves operations of both differentiation and inclusion, which often worked simultaneously and along different layers of identity (social status, ethnicity, experience, etc.). Secondly, place-making and community formation processes also work at the power-laden level of the imagination, representation and discourse, which produce the ‘conceived space’. Here I use for evidence a number of journals and memoirs written by fur traders who operated in our region of interest in the late eighteenth century or the turn of the nineteenth century. These narratives offer valuable insight into the ways in which traders created a particular geographic imaginary through their movement across, and engagement with, the landscape and the people inhabiting it. They turned the unfamiliar landscape into familiar places through stories, food procurement strategies, place-names, mapmaking and references to ‘home.’ The overall objective is to demonstrate how tensions emerged between colonial ideals of sedentary life and the need and desire for mobility, and that the practices and imaginaries of the fur traders in fact embodied these tensions. When considering these issues, Réaume’s Leaf River Post reflects this ambivalence.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2016. Major: Anthropology. Advisor: Katherine Hayes. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 279 pages.
Communities on the Move: Practice and Mobility in the late Eighteenth-Century Western Great Lakes Fur Trade.
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