Fort Vancouver National Historic Site Announces its 2017 Summer Archaeology Programs

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Date: June 15, 2017
Contact: Douglas C. Wilson, National Park Service Archaeologist, 360-816-6251

Fort Vancouver National Historic Site invites the public to engage with archaeologists at one of the Pacific Northwest’s premier archaeological sites. Tuesday through Saturday, June 27 to July 28, from 9 am to 4 pm, members of the public can visit excavation sites at Fort Vancouver and Vancouver Barracks and learn about how archaeologists study the past. A special summer lecture series will also highlight archaeology throughout the country, and the national park's popular Kids Dig! program will introduce youth ages 8 to 12 to the fascinating world of archaeology.

2017 Public Archaeology Field School

This summer, National Park Service archaeologists are teaming up with Portland State University and Washington State University Vancouver to conduct archaeological excavations. Students and professionals will dig in the area of Vancouver Barracks north of East Fifth Street, near the Post Exchange Building.

The excavations will focus on Hudson's Bay Company fur trade and U.S. military sites. The Hudson's Bay Company's Fort Vancouver, ca. 1825-1860, was the regional headquarters and supply depot of the Hudson's Bay Company. In 1849, the U.S. Army established the first permanent military post at Vancouver Barracks. Since 2012, when the 104th Division moved elements of its training command to the new Reserve Training Center, the post has been managed by the National Park Service. This summer's excavations will help support improvements to the South Vancouver Barracks, and will allow for the future adaptive use of historic army buildings, as well as the preservation of the unique history of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site.

Students will excavate at "Ryan's," and other sites associated with the fur trade-era Fort Vancouver. This place is shown on an 1845 map of the fort, and is related to either a sea captain or an Oregon Trail pioneer. Both sites were rented by the U.S. Army when they arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1849. Students will be testing Ryan's and a number of other 19th century Army sites in the Vancouver Barracks. The excavations will contribute to the park's understanding of the long history of the post, including the fur trade, Oregon Trail immigration, and the U.S. military.

"We are expecting to uncover new finds that speak to the period of transition from the fur trade fort to the U.S. military post," said Douglas C. Wilson, National Park Service archaeologist and Principal Investigator of the project. "We welcome visitors to watch us as we discover these objects and remains and share with us their connections with the heritage of this premier archaeological site."

From 9 am to 4 pm, Tuesday through Saturday, June 27 through July 28, the dig site will be accessible to the public.

Directions to the dig site can be found at the Contact Station inside the gates of the reconstructed Fort Vancouver, or at the park's Visitor Center.

Kids Dig!

The popular Kids Dig! program introduces kids 8 through 12 years of age to the fascinating world of archaeology at one of the Northwest's most famous archaeological sites. In this program, kids excavate a mock site with the help of student archaeologists, and discover what we can learn about the past from the artifacts buried under our feet.

Kids Dig! programs will take place on July 1, July 8, and July 22 at 10:30 am and 2 pm, inside the reconstructed Fort Vancouver. Space is limited to 20 children. Spots for each program can be reserved by calling (360) 816-6250. Learn more at

Lecture Series: Archaeologies of People, Things, and Protected Places

Public lectures in this series explore archaeology with particular ties to historical archaeology and the archaeology of the region. Topics include indigenous archaeology, the archaeology of the fur trade and military, and the archaeology of the oldest national park in the world. All lectures will take place at the Fort Vancouver Visitor Center at 7 pm.

June 29: Training the Next Generation: Indigenous Methods in Archaeological Practice with the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community of Oregon, by Sarah Gonzalez (University of Washington)
For almost two decades Indigenous archaeologies have developed approaches to archaeology that recognize the rights of indigenous communities in relation to their cultural heritage. This has resulted in a multitude of collaborative field and collections-based projects that integrate indigenous values and perspectives into the study and representation of tribal heritage. Using the community-based Field Methods in Indigenous Archaeology (FMIA) training program as a case-study this lecture evaluates how collaborative practice with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office transforms the approach FMIA uses to document Grand Ronde heritage and to train the next generation of archaeologists and tribal heritage managers.

July 13: Recent Archaeological Research in Yellowstone National Park, by Dr. Beth Horton (Archaeologist, Yellowstone National Park, National Park Service)

With about half the world's active geysers in one of the largest, nearly intact temperate-zone ecosystems on Earth, Yellowstone National Park has a rich human history that spans more than 11,000 years. Over 1,800 archaeological sites help tell the stories of people and their connections to the park, as their home, hunting grounds, gathering places, transportation routes, and for recreation, from Paleo-Indian Clovis Culture through the 20th century. Dr. Horton will explore the many dimensions of archaeological research and discuss recent findings at the world’s first national park, established in 1872. She will highlight some of the important ties between Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest, giving special focus to links with Vancouver Barracks.

July 20: Fort Apache Pasts, Presents, Futures, by John R. Welch (Associate Professor, Department of Archaeology and School of Resources and Environmental Management, Simon Fraser University)

The Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School National Historic Landmark is both the physical site at the confluence of the East and North Forks of Arizona's White River and the symbolic nexus for complex and dynamic relations among Native Americans, soldiers, bureaucrats, and advocates for cultural perpetuation, economic development, and historic preservation. Owned by the White Mountain Apache Tribe and managed by the tribally-chartered nonprofit Fort Apache Heritage Foundation, Fort Apache is an apt setting for numerous experiments in site interpretation, social entrepreneurship, tribal sovereignty enhancement, and intercultural reconciliation.

July 27: Smudge Pits, Clay Pots, and Ball Courts: Understanding the Relationship Between People and Things, by James M. Skibo (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Illinois State University)

The core of archaeology is the relationship between people and things. Archaeologists strive to discover how people lived in the past using things made, used, and modified by individuals. Dr. Skibo will describe these relationships using his award-winning approaches to the science of archaeology, by exploring clay cooking pots, ball courts from the American southwest, and fur-trade era smudge pits in Michigan. This presentation will reveal the theories and method behind archaeology in a thoughtful, engaging manner, exploring examples of relevance to the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.

The public archaeology field school is a joint undertaking of the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site (National Park Service), Portland State University, and Washington State University Vancouver. The Kids Dig program is supported by an anonymous donation and through the Friends of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site. The Northwest Cultural Resources Institute is dedicated to facilitating cultural resource education and research activities in the region, through cooperative partnerships at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site and at other Northwest National Parks. Fort Vancouver, the premier historical archaeological site in the Pacific Northwest, provides a dynamic place-based learning environment for public and academic programs.

Last updated: June 15, 2017

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