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Signing of the Hellgate Treaty at Council Grove

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Socratic Circle with guest speaker Julie Cajune at Council Grove.

Socratic Circle with guest speaker Julie Cajune at Council Grove.

The first session of the Fort Missoula field school got off to a reflective start at Council Grove State Park with CSKT Tribal Member Julie Cajune. The students spent their time at the park reflecting on the the Hellgate Treaty, the meaning of sovereignty, and the human connection to a cultural place. Cajune brought with her the reflections of various Tribal members she has interviewed over the years, which she shared with the students. The students read the quotes, thought about whether the speaker was young or old, and reflected on what the statements meant and how they related to the concepts we were discussing. The students’ first assignment is to analyze the Hellgate Treaty, because without documents like these, created between sovereign Nations, there would be no lead up to the story that is the history of Fort Missoula.

Fosco Bugoni, University of Milan, listening intently.

Fosco Bugoni, University of Milan, listening intently.

Julie Cajune, listens as students debate issues surrounding sovereignty, treaties, and tribal rights.

Julie Cajune, listens as students debate issues surrounding sovereignty, treaties, and tribal rights.

Research of Ecological and Anthropological River Dimensions

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The Montana Anthropogenic Research Cooperative (MT-ARC), via the Dixon Archaeology Lab, has partnered with the Institute on Ecosystems (IoE), via the Valett Ecology Lab, to look at the research of ecological and anthropological river dimensions. The project is combining historical data in ecological and anthropological features of the Missoula valley to address the interaction between people and their environment over the long term. We are looking at sites both in the anthroprogenically dynamic urban center, like the Underground and in the more ecologically dynamic areas near the confluence of the Bitterroot and Clark Fork Rivers. Human development has historically shaped the environment and contributed to landscape transformation by counteracting the natural complexity of river floodplains.

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Dr.’s Kelly Dixon, Marc Peipoch, and Maury Valett surveying the research site while trying to determine the best plan of action for installing test wells for monitoring the river. This particular research site not only sits on the river and maintains relative ecological diversity, but it is within blocks of the hustle and bustle of the city and is in close proximity of significant archaeological and National Register sites.

This project is seeking to address when the complexity of the human actions and the complexity of the environment intersected and diverged; basically as human interactions in the Missoula Valley became more complex the environment became less complex and diverse. It is this point of convergence that we are seeking to quantify.

The project will be reaching out to local area schools hoping to share research and learning opportunities. A hands-on exploratory exhibit is currently under design for exhibition at spectrUM Discovery next fall that will conceptualize many of the ideas and concepts from this project and make them tangible for children of all ages. This project is all about human interactions and in that same vein we encourage comments, thoughts, ideas, and input on this post to help us as we move forward with this project.

Mapping the long forgotten basement spaces of the Missoula Mercantile

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Mapping the long forgotten basement spaces of the Missoula Mercantile

The fall 2013 Archaeological Survey class has the opportunity to explore the depths of the basement in the famous Missoula Mercantile. In this photo, students are mapping an area which was once a possible mechanical room. In the archaeological world, the area in the lower left hand corner is known as a feature.

Final Exam!

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The students are in the midst of giving their final oral exam at The Loft in the LaFlesch Building (Special Thanks to Jay and Stephenie La Flesch).

Digging Deep into the Archives

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Urban archaeology benefits greatly from the wonderful world of archives! The people who are lucky enough to spend their time researching Montana and specifically Missoula have the pleasure of using the University of Montana’s Mansfield Library Archives. Today the field school students were able to immerse themselves in this learning experience. 

This kind of research is incredibly informative to the kind of work being undertaken by the field school this summer. We are attempting to document Missoula’s underground, not an easy task! So much information has been obscured, built over, filled in, and just generally lost to the sands of time; by using the documents in the archives we are able to “see” what kinds of businesses occupied these subterranean spaces, get clues as to what happened to them, and in general better understand how people interacted with each other and their urban landscape.

Tomorrow the students will spend another day in the archives and have the opportunity to hear from Jared Fischer, a newly minted graduate of the University of Montana, who worked on a very exciting senior project. Fischer used his knowledge of archaeology and GIS to create phenomenal layered maps of downtown Missoula, through time, melding historic Sanborn maps with aerial photos of modern Missoula.

The results of all this work in the archives and by individuals, like Fischer, all contributes to a better understanding of the Missoula urban landscape. Digging into the past is so much fun, especially when done in a way that protects it for future generations and makes it accessible to the masses. The history of Missoula belongs to us all! 

Exploring the UM Mansfield Library Archives

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Exploring the UM Mansfield Library Archives

Graduate student, Ayme Swartz, shows Dr. Kelly Dixon an interesting find in the archives today.

Underground Field School Set to Start

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The UM Missoula Historic Underground is set to start on Monday, June 10th. The 14 students signed up for the course will be documenting Missoula’s historic underground, exploring underground spaces, searching the archives for information, and learning about urban archaeology. Check back here regularly as the students blog their field notebook entries, sharing their adventures with you the reader.Image