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A Place of Conflict: Historical Collaborative Archaeology at Malheur Indian Agency Headquarters
AuthorMcSherry, Christina Helene
AdvisorCowie, Sarah E
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Conflict archaeology, though broadly defined, in practice has focused on sites of physical violence such as battlefields and fortifications. On the other hand, the archaeology of colonialism has addressed other forms of conflict and violence (e.g., structural and symbolic violence). This research takes a holistic approach to conflict archaeology that addresses all three forms of violence. As part of the “Our Ancestors’ Walk of Sorrow” Removal Trail Project, over a dozen collaborating Indigenous groups, including Neme (Numu, N. Paiute) and Newe (W. Shoshone) communities, identified the Malheur Indian Agency (1872-1882) as a site of conflict that played a central role in the story of their peoples’ forced removal from the Malheur Reservation and other communities after the 1878 Bannock War. The Malheur Indian Agency is not a military site or a battlefield, but through discussions with descendant communities, they indicated that violence occurred there. This research partnered with descendants' communities to develop a collaborative, decolonizing research design. Data collection consisted of archival data, archaeological material, survey data, Esri ArcGIS landscape analysis, and analysis of an existing collection of artifacts from Camp Harney, Oregon. Results of the study show that the conditions and events at the Malheur Indian Agency are essential to understanding the causes and impacts of the Bannock War of 1878. The artifact assemblages and landscape analysis show the threat of physical violence at the Agency and the presence of symbolic and structural violence that impacted communities, ultimately resulting in armed conflict and forced removal. This research indicates the benefits of a holistic approach to conflict that goes beyond the narrow perspective that equates conflict with only physical violence. This broader approach that accounts for multiple forms of violence as a part of conflict, combined with a decolonizing research design that prioritizes Indigenous concerns, knowledges, and goals, creates a multivocal narrative of the past, prioritizing perspectives that historically have been excluded from these narratives.
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