Introduction Anna Marie Prentiss The archaeological record of the Middle Fraser Canyon is primarily the archaeology of the St’át’imc (Upper Lillooet) people, whose ancestors occupied this landscape for thousands of years. The St’át’imc are Salish- speaking people of Interior British Columbia who traditionally resided in winter villages consisting of often densely packed semi- subterranean pithouses; harvested, prepared, and consumed large quantities of salmon, deer, roots, berries, and other resources; and maintained politically complex social relations within and between villages (Prentiss and Kuijt 2012). The archaeological history of the St’át’imc has been subject to extensive discussion and debate (Prentiss et al. 2011). While much has been learned regarding their ancient history, relatively little archaeological attention has focused on the late period, particularly that associated with the Fur Trade period in British Columbia history. Consequently, despite a generally excellent ethnographic record (Teit 1900, 1906, 1909), we do not have a well- developed archaeological understanding of this critical transition period between the pre- Colonial period and modern times. This is unfortunate, as it has prevented independent examination of James Teit’s ethnographic descriptions, which were drawn primarily from the remembrances of St’át’imc people (or whose ancestors) who had lived during fur trade and later times. More important, we have yet to fully develop our under standing of how the St’át’imc people lived and persisted during this tumultuous time. This book provides the first detailed archaeological study of St’át’imc culture during the Fur Trade period, drawing from excavations of a remarkable single housepit at the Bridge River site in British Columbia (Borden number EeRl4). This large village is located just over 2 km from the confluence of the Bridge and Fraser rivers near Lillooet, British Columbia (Figures 1.1 and 1.2). While Middle Fraser archaeological research has focused most intensely on occupations predating about 1000 years ago, the villages also offer abundant evidence for more recent occupation associated directly with the historical St’át’imc people, known best from the detailed ethnographies of James Teit (1906) and a variety of more recent works (e.g., Hayden 1992; Kennedy and Bouchard 1977, 1978, 1998). The two most intensively studied villages, Bridge River and Keatley Creek, are known to have multiple late-dating housepits (Hayden 1997; Hayden and Adams 2004; Prentiss et al. 2008), though they are not generally known to contain materials associated with the presence of Europeans in the Canadian Plateau region. Bridge River’s Housepit 54 is an exception to this rule. Housepit 54 at Bridge River is a moderate- sized house, about 13 m in diameter (Figures 1.3 and 1.4), that contains a total of 17 finely bedded occupation floors and five roof deposits interspersed between some of the stratified floors (Prentiss et al. 2012; Prentiss and Kuijt 2012). Sixteen of the floors predate 1000 cal. BP, but the final floor and roof contain materials clearly Figure 1.1. Map of the Middle Fraser Canyon area showing major landscape features and archaeological sites. Figure 1.2. Photograph of the Housepit 54 excavation in May 2012, Bridge River site. View is to the northeast on the site grid. Figure 1.3. Photograph of Housepit 54 at the Bridge River site, May 2012, during initial excavation of the Fur Trade period roof surface. View is to the northwest on the site grid. Anna Marie Prentiss 4 postdating the arrival of Europeans in the region and signaling the likelihood of a multifamily household engaged in socioeconomic and political relationships with a variety of Native and non- Native groups. Current data indicate that Housepit 54 was the last house occupied at the Bridge River village. While the Bridge River project seeks to develop a detailed understanding of processes of change across the dozen or more floors predating 1000 years ago, the final occupation presents an outstanding opportunity to study cultural practices of the St’át’imc people during the Fur Trade period. Contributors to this book draw upon archaeological data from Housepit 54 to offer contributions to a wide range of discussions within Colonial period indigenous archaeology focusing on the technological, demographic, socioeconomic, and political history of the St’át’imc people as they engaged with an increasingly complex world impacted by an encroaching capitalist system. In this chapter I seek to provide context for the book by providing a brief statement of theoretical positions, a discussion of Fur Trade period archaeology in British Columbia, and a review.
|Title of host publication
|The Last House at Bridge River
|Subtitle of host publication
|The Archaeology of an Aboriginal Household in British Columbia during the Fur Trade
|University of Utah
|Number of pages
|Published - Jan 1 2017