Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Name

Anthropology (Cultural Heritage Option)

Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Anna Marie Prentiss

Commitee Members

Kelly Dixon, Ashley McKeown, Richard Sattler, Sarah Halvorson


University of Montana


Ethnographic literature of First Nations groups in the Middle Fraser region of British Columbia describe communities that were hierarchically organized with elite, commoner, and slave classes, underwritten by elite ownership of keystone resources, and perpetuated by competitive feasting events used to maintain debt relations, unequal distribution of food and raw materials, and possibly elite control over trade networks. Narratives of the ethnographic present are commonly utilized to describe cultural patterns of the deeper past, despite the fact that we lack knowledge of the effects of European colonialism and the role it may have had in shaping the socioeconomic and political organizations described by early ethnographers. Utilizing household and agency-based theoretical approaches, this study evaluates the effects of the fur trade on aboriginal households in the Mid-Fraser. Ethnographic data are utilized, not as direct interpretive analogy, but rather, in conjunction with archaeological data, ethnohistoric documents, and Native oral traditions, all of which were used to formulate testable hypotheses and archaeological expectations. Results of this research suggest that the ethnographic record is founded upon deeply embedded social memories of the more ancient past, along with later developments during the Fur Trade and other periods in Mid-Fraser history. Participation in regional trade networks and material-based wealth can be traced to the deeper past, while importance placed on hunting roles and use of deer meat as a prestige food were possibly later developments, along with competitive feasting as described ethnographer James Teit. Thus ethnographic data are not always reliable tools for direct interpretive analogy of the more ancient past. Instead they are most effective when used in comparison and contrast with multiple lines of evidence.


© Copyright 2014 Lisa Michelle Smith