Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name


Department or School/College

Department of Anthropology

Committee Chair

Kelly Dixon

Commitee Members

Duane Hampton, Richard Satler


archaeology, artifacts, Bitterroot Valley, contact, Montana, Stevensville, curation, Fort Owen


University of Montana


Fort Owen was part of recent historical western expansion into Montana, influencing both the cultural and environmental landscape of the state and the fort’s own existence. The Fort Owen collection provided the opportunity to research the history and archaeology of Fort Owen as a contact period site and as the first historic-period agricultural center in Montana. Fort Owen provided goods and services to a variety of individuals and was the nexus of settlement for the region for several years during the latter portion of the 19th century. Six goals of this thesis were to: 1) inventory the Fort Owen artifacts and locate all associated excavation and research records; 2) sort, clean, and catalog Fort Owen artifacts that have been collected over the past several decades; 3) examine whether and how a poorly provenienced collection still had significant research value relevant to the study of Fort Owen; 4) use new archaeological excavations to help establish provenience data for unprovenienced artifacts by cross-referencing the new finds with artifacts recovered from the site during past excavations; 5) provide a comprehensive record of all known information relating to Fort Owen in one place and provide copies of that information to relevant repositories; and 6) use the Fort Owen collection to argue that the site is critically important to Montana heritage, inspiring future research related to Fort Owen’s historical landscape. One of the major steps related to the above goals required synthesizing data from past field notes and related historical resources, including census records, historical accounts, books, and newspaper articles. Here I propose that Fort Owen itself—as well as its unprovenienced collection—have information potential if examined using a theoretical approach based on Fort Owen’s historical position within a zone of 19th and early 20th-century cultural interaction in Montana’s Bitterroot Valley. In addition, I also argue that applying an interpretive framework of agricultural development to archaeological analysis of Fort Owen reveals a complex set of socioeconomic interactions at local, regional, and even national scales.



© Copyright 2010 Donald Merritt