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La Harpe's Post

Tales of French-Wichita Contact on the Eastern Plains

Written by George H. Odell, with conrtibutions from Frieda Vereecken-Odell, John

Publication Year: 2002

This major contribution to contact period studies points to the Lasley Vore site in modern Oklahoma as the most likely first meeting place of Plains Indians and Europeans more than 300 years ago. In 1718, Jean-Baptiste Benard, Sieur de la Harpe, departed St. Malo in Brittany for the New World. La Harpe, a member of the French bourgeoisie, arrived at Dauphin Island on the Gulf coast to take up the entrepreneurial concession provided by the director of the French colony, Jean Baptiste Lemoyne de Bienville. La Harpe's charge was to open a trading post on the Red River just above a Caddoan village not far from present-day Texarkana. Following the establishment of this post, La Harpe ventured farther north to extend his trade market into the region occupied by the Wichita Indians. Here he encountered a Tawakoni village with an estimated 6,000 inhabitants, a number that swelled to 7,000 during the ten-day visit. Despite years of ethnohistoric and archaeological research, no scholar had successfully established where this important meeting took place. Then in 1988, George Odell and his crew surveyed and excavated an area 13 miles south of Tulsa, along the Arkansas River, that revealed undeniable association of Native American habitation refuse with 18th-century European trade goods. Odell here presents a full account of the presumed location of the Tawakoni village as revealed through the analysis of excavated materials from nine specialist collaborators. In a strikingly well written narrative report, employing careful study and innovative analysis supported by appendixes containing the excavation data, Odell combines documentary history and archaeological evidence to pinpoint the probable site of the first European contact with North American Plains Indians. George H. Odell is Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Tulsa. He has also authored Stone Tools: Theoretical Insights into Human Prehistory.

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

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Frontmatter

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pp. i-

La Harpe’s Post

Contents

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pp. v-vi

List of Illustrations

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pp. vii-ix

List of Tables

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pp. xi-xiv

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Preface

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pp. xv-xvii

This book contains two stories. The first is a tale of the earliest European,as far as we know, to set foot on the soil of eastern Oklahoma. Although much has been made of this event, the Europeans did not stay long, members of that party never returned, and the close relationships between peoples promised during those days never came to pass. In fact, the event is ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xix-xx

Any project that has been drawn out over 10 years will probably have been influenced by a lot of people, and this is certainly true in this case. This book is dedicated to three wonderful avocational archaeologists who did not live to see its completion: Harriet Peacher, who was an intrepid excavator and...

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1. The Land That Knew No European

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pp. 1-9

Jean-Baptiste B

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2. Who Were These Indians?

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pp. 10-26

The first known Europeans to venture into this region encountered a village of Tawakoni Indians, a subgroup whose name is not a household word today. Let us investigate these people, assuming a broad perspective that focuses on general lifeways and origins. We will begin by describing seminal events in the formation of the modern...

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3. The New World as Political Pawn

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pp. 27-40

Today the figure of La Harpe and the era from which he came are shadowy, isolated from modern life by almost 280 years. But La Harpe did not just appear out of nowhere into an unsuspecting Tawakoni village back in 1719; his trajectory was well understood within the framework of his times, as was the Tawakonis’ within their own...

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4. Industry Presents an Opportunity

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pp. 41-52

Now we come to our second story, that of modern archaeology. This is not the stuff of beads, but bulldozers; nor of axes, but analyses. It is not the less political for all that, and it frequently contains a kind of twisted fascination....

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5. A Testimony to Storage and Cooking

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pp. 53-74

Archaeologists have called the agricultural revolution a watershed in human history, viewing the domestication of plants and animals by human groups as instrumental in instituting massive structural and organizational changes in society (Braidwood and Braidwood 1983; Childe 1936). Subsequent reflections on these relationships, however, have not always emphasized agriculture as the principal variable causing...

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6. Teasing Meaning from Bits and Pieces

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pp. 75-100

The Lasley Vore site was a Native American encampment, a conclusion evidenced by its structure, its facilities, and its objects of material culture, or artifacts. Artifacts constitute our principal forms of evidence for interpreting who occupied the place, when they were there, and what they were doing while they were there. This chapter will...

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7. What Were Those People Doing There?

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pp. 101-129

The evidence presented so far strongly indicates that the Lasley Vore locale was occupied by a single group of people. The deposits were shallow, occurring exclusively in the plow zone and in features dug below it by the occupants, and no sterile zones separated periods of occupation. Only one occurrence of overlapping features...

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8. Hypothesizing the Eighteenth Century

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pp. 130-141

In this study I have not claimed that the Lasley Vore site was the Tawakoni village that Jean-Baptiste B

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Appendix 1. Floodplain Geomorphology

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pp. 143-153

The Arkansas River in the vicinity of Jenks and Bixby is a south flowing stream. It flows in a broad valley that abuts against steep to moderately sloping valley side walls with a floodplain and associated terrace complex varying in width from 0.5 to 5 km. The stream has a wide sandy bed with numerous lateral and mid-channel bars. In the study area there are two meandering...

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Appendix 2. Feature Data

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pp. 155-182

The most important single unit of analysis in the Lasley Vore study is the feature. This appendix presents the raw data from which interpretations of features have been made. Since chapter 5 gives an overview of the features for a general audience, an attempt will be made here not to overlap with that chapter...

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Appendix 3. Observations on the Faunal Remains from 34TU65

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pp. 183-191

Approximately 5,000 bones and 6.5 kg of mollusk shells were submitted to the Zooarchaeology Lab of the Institute of Applied Sciences (UNT) for identification and analysis. These faunal remains were recovered from test units and features associated with a contact period site in Tulsa County, Oklahoma, and represent food refuse and objects of utilitarian ...

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Appendix 4. Ceramic Techniques

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pp. 193-228

Four pottery types are important for the Lasley Vore assemblage: Cowley Plain, Deer Creek Simple-Stamped, Deer Creek Brushed, and Womack Engraved. These will be described first, as they will later be analyzed separately....

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Appendix 5. Lithic Analysis

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pp. 229-269

This analysis seeks answers to two general kinds of questions: What were people doing on the site as a whole? and Into what kinds of activity nodes was the site structured? The first question assumes that this was a single-occupation site, for which there exists good supporting evidence, and introduces the general question of what kind of site it was. That is, in which...

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Appendix 6. Glass Beads from a Protohistoric Wichita Indian Site in Tulsa County, Oklahoma

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pp. 271-280

One hundred eighty-four glass beads were recovered from the Lasley Vore settlement. They were found in all phases of site exploration and throughout the units employed in the field (see Table A6.1). Three-quarters of the beads were taken from features, because this was the unit that received most attention and was the only unit that benefited from flotation recovery techniques. Areas and...

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Appendix 7. Metal Artifacts from the Lasley Vore Site

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pp. 281-289

Several pieces of metal attributable to an early European presence in eastern Oklahoma were recovered from the Lasley Vore site. As recorded in Table 6.9, metals were unearthed from every type of unit delineated during the excavation: features, test pits, areas, Ditch Witch trenches, and especially metal detector units. The presence of 21 metal objects contained in features demonstrates the intimate association between objects of Native American...

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Appendix 8. Radiocarbon Dates

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pp. 291-295

The dating of the Lasley Vore remains by radiometric techniques was considered necessary to aid our comprehension of chronological relationships. The most useful unit for dating was the feature, an entity that existed below the plow zone and had undergone little apparent disturbance since creation and deposition. The purpose of dating the features was twofold:...

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Appendix 9. Statistical Analyses

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pp. 297-303

This appendix offers some detail about the statistical analyses conducted to buttress the arguments put forth in chapter 7. Most of the argumentation is left for that chapter, but some observations concerning the operation of the tests are offered here....

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Appendix 10. Pottery Clays

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pp. 305-317

The problem that stimulated this research concerns the nature of the feature clusters at the Lasley Vore site and the origin of the people who produced the clusters. Two assumptions were made: (1) that the contents of the features reflect activities that occurred in the space immediately around the features; and (2) that the feature clusters had integrity, that is, they...

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Appendix 11. Small-Sized Debitage Analysis

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pp. 319-330

Microdebitage is defined as “particles less than 1.0 mm in maximum dimension resulting from deliberate lithic reduction” (Fladmark 1982:205). There is also debitage that usually falls through a quarter-inch screen but is slightly larger, normally measuring in maximum dimension from 2.0 mm to 50 mm. Called small-sized debitage, this is what I am analyzing here. Only...

Notes

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pp. 331-337

References Cited

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pp. 339-359

Contributors

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pp. 361-362


E-ISBN-13: 9780817382155
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817311629

Publication Year: 2002

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Oklahoma -- Antiquities.
  • Bénard de La Harpe, Jean Baptiste, 1683-1765 -- Travel -- Oklahoma.
  • Acculturation -- Oklahoma -- History -- 18th century.
  • Tawakoni Indians -- First contact with Europeans.
  • Oklahoma -- Antiquities.
  • Oklahoma -- Ethnic relations.
  • Wichita Indians -- First contact with Europeans.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- Oklahoma.
  • Bénard de La Harpe, Jean Baptiste, 1683-1765 -- Relations with Indians.
  • Oklahoma -- Discovery and exploration -- French.
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