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A Mending Moment and a Cast a Day

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Erik Luis Alvarado

University of Montana

Fort Missoula Archaeological Field School

During our time in the lab last week we were shown a piece of gilded floral porcelain. The plate fragment has intricate designs inlaid with gold and design elements including a bird and floral pattern. We also observed a “mending moment” in the lab. Dr. Dixon loves these moments. A mending moment is when you find two fragments of the same artifact in different places and they fit together (cue Chariots of Fire theme song).

Mending Moment in the field....if you recognize this pattern please let us know!

Mending Moment in the field….if you recognize this pattern please let us know!

While excavating my unit within the block, a fragment of gilded floral pattern porcelain appeared out of the dirt. After a moment of field artifact identification, I was told that the plate fragment from my unit might possibly be from the same vessel as the piece of porcelain that we observed in the lab. We happened to have the piece from the lab on site for an assignment, and Dr. Dixon compared the two fragments in the field, which fit together…. ‘Mending Moment’ achieved (cue Chariots of Fire theme song). Feeling inspired yet?..I love the theme song from Chariots of Fire. I wish I could have a boombox blasting the song when Dr. Dixon, or anyone for that matter, has a mending moment.

Casting on the Bitterroot River.

Casting on the Bitterroot River.

Never thought that I would have the chance to fish everyday in the field….AWESOME. I believe that a cast a day keeps the bad vibes away. Caught a fish on Tuesday as well. I think it was a squaw fish ….which is an invasive species that preys upon native trout and salmon. Should have banked it. Let it be known that the social dynamic of this field school is fantastic. Good people and good vibrations is one way to describe this experience (cue Chariots of Fire theme song).

Good vibes and great people! L-R Fosco Bugoni, Micah Goodman, Kyle Burke, Tommy Livoti, Andrew Carrara, Erik Alvarado, Amanda Gerber, and Sean Jubb.

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We provided them with raisins, and they made wine, then we provided them with fruit, and they made wine.

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Fosco Bugoni

University of Milan – Italy

While learning about the history of Fort Missoula during my first week at the archaeological field school, I came across an intriguing story concerning some fellow citizens of mine, happening to be in the wrong place at the wrong time; or maybe – this is derived from their narratives – in the right place at the wrong time.

Internees Eating In Mess Hall At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Internees Eating In Mess Hall At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

During World War II, Fort Missoula became a detention center for Italian and Japanese civilians. With war threatening, many Americans in 1941 feared that some German and Italian civilians living in or entering the United States might prove to be enemy spies or sabouteurs. As part of President Roosevelt’s decision to get tough with the European Axis powers (Germany, Italy and their allies), the United States began seizing Axis merchant ships in American waters and detaining the crews.

The first group of Italian internees from Ellis Island, New York, began to arrive in Missoula in the spring of 1941. The internment camp at Fort Missoula was just one of several throughout the United States. Missoula was a logical choice for such a center because of its remote location. On May 18, 1941, 1200 Italian merchant seamen and civilians arrived at the Fort, which they promptly renamed Bella Vista (beautiful view) and were put to work constructing the rest of the camp. Many of these men were crewmen from the luxury liner Il Conte Biancamano, and included entertainers, waiters and chefs; they brought their musical instruments, their tuxedos and three dogs with them. Besides the sailors, 62 former employees of the Italian Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair were also sent to Missoula for overstaying their visas.

Internee Soccer Game At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Internee Soccer Game At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Accomodations at Fort Missoula far exceeded the guidelines set down by the Geneva Convention: Althought there were many fences all around, the impressive beauty and landscape made it feel like, “Una Villa”, a village rather than a concentration camp. [Umberto Benedetti]

The Italians inside the fence were given the authority to create their own organization to deal with US officials, and were soon rewarded with a high degree of autonomy to conduct their own affairs. Food rationing did not apply to the internees, they were provided with laundry and cooking facilities, personal items, writing materials and tobacco. They were supplied with books, magazines and were guaranteed access to religious service. The detainees had their own carpenters, shoemakers, barbers, a priest and several world-class chefs. They organized a fire department, postal delivery, religious services, formed library, and produced choir, band and symphony concerts. There were many recreational opportunities: the internees played cards, board games, soccer, bocci ball (one is displayed at today Fort Missoula Historical Museum), and tennis. Classes in foreign languages and navigation were offered for detainees, featuring textbooks written at Fort Missoula. Several of the Italian seamen built two large rowboats, which were used on the adjacent Bitterroot River. Building wooden models of their ships (some of them are displayed at the Historical Museum too) became a popular pastime.

One funny circumstance: Alcohol was forbidden at first, but the enterprising internees made their own wine from raisins, figs, and local fruit under the noses of the INS inspectors who roamed the camp. John Moe (one of the camp’s guards) remembered: “We provided them with raisins, and they made wine, then we provided them with fruit, and they made wine”.

Mess Hall Cooks For Internees At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

Mess Hall Cooks For Internees At Ft. Missoula ADC, 1943

As wartime tensions relaxed and the shortage of men in the Missoula work force became acute, officials allowed some Italian internees to work in town. They were employed as chefs, waiters, busboys and room cleaners at both the Palace and Florence Hotels, and worked as orderlies in Missoula’s hospitals.

Working on a day-to-day basis, the internees were accepted by the community. Missoulians greatly appreciated their work and some internees made Missoula, as well as Montana, their home.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • GLYNN, G., That Beautiful Little Post – The story of Fort Missoula, 2013.
  • BENEDETTI, U., Italian Boys at Fort Missoula, Montana 1941-1943, 1997.
  • VAN VALKENBURG, C., An Alien Place, 1995.

You Call This Archaeology??!!

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Thomas J. Livoti

Doctoral Program

Department of Anthropology

The University of Montana

Thomas Livoti and Erik Alvarrado hard at work sorting artifacts.

Thomas Livoti and Erik Alvarrado hard at work sorting artifacts.

What can a decorative ceramic sherd like this tell us about life at Fort Missoula?

What can a decorative ceramic sherd like this tell us about life at Fort Missoula?

One of the several bullet casings excavated from the research site.

One of the several bullet casings excavated from the research site.

Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, (you know the rest) will keep an archaeologist from staying busy.  Below-average temperatures combined with rain and wind brought the Fort Missoula field school crew to the archaeology lab where students learned how to clean and catalog artifacts from last year’s field excavation at Fort Missoula.  The field school staff hopes to be back in the field by the end of the week after the weather clears.

The Sheriff is in Town

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Dr. Steve Sheriff conducting remote sensing at Fort Missoula.

Dr. Steve Sheriff conducting remote sensing at Fort Missoula.

Dr. Steve Sheriff and Field School Students

Dr. Steve Sheriff teaching the field school students how to operate the remote sensing equipment.

Kyle Burke – June 4, 2014

Field Notebook Entry

Fort Missoula – 24MO0266

Dr. Steve Sheriff, a retired UM Professor of Geophysics, showed us how basic sub-surface imaging is done in the field. Using a Cesium Magnetometer Dr. Sheriff took a sub-surface image of a 20×18 meter rectangle of a possible excavation site at Historic Fort Missoula. The data that Dr. Sheriff collected will help decide if the rectangle is or isn’t a possible excavation site. Techniques like this help archaeologists decide if excavation at a particular place is a good idea and can further narrow a large site, like Fort Missoula, into more precise excavation areas.

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.

Internships in the Lab

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Caleb Hinkle has recently joined the Dixon lab team. He is a second year anthropology student at the University of Montana.  This photo shows Caleb bagging a tagging artifacts for cataloging; a job that can be tedious but is truly one of the most rewarding.

A Humorous Look at Work in the Dixon Archaeological Learning Lab

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Graduate Student, Marty Lopez, reflects on his job working in the Dixon Archaeological Learning Lab.

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