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What This Awl Means

Feminist Archaeology at a Wahpeton Dakota Village

Janet D. Spector

Publication Year: 1993

An eloquent restoration of women's voices: the voice of the female archaeologist and that of the woman who used the awl. Together they tell an important story. -- Janet Catherine Berlo, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

Published by: Minnesota Historical Society Press

Front Matter

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pp. vii-viii

This project has been full of wonder since it began more than a decade ago, in large part because so many people have contributed so much to it in so many different ways. Students and faculty who worked with me at Little Rapids were a constant source of stimulation, encouragement, and insight. I am grateful for...


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pp. ix

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1. Archaeology and Empathy

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pp. 1-18

When I excavate sites and touch things that have lain untouched for centuries, I know why I am an archaeologst. But until now, when I wrote about those sites and objects, I felt no connection with the past, my own or that of the people whose cultural landscapes I had unearthed. Writing “What This Awl Means,” a story...

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2. What This Awl Means

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pp. 19-29

The women and children of Inyan Ceyaka Atonwan (Little Rapids) had been working at the maple sugar camps since Istawicayazan wi (the Moon of Sore Eyes, or March). At the same time, most of the men had been far from the village trapping muskrats. When Wozupi wi (the Moon for Planting, or May) came, fifteen households eagerly reunited in their bark...

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3. Other Awl Stories

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pp. 30-40

Archaeologists typically ignore biography. The names of people who lived at most sites are inaccessible, unrecorded, and usually long forgotten. Although the materials that archaeologists uncover reflect the unique individuals who created and used them, archaeological descriptions and interpretations tend to be impersonal, even when the site’s inhabitants are...

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4. Cultures in Conflict

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pp. 41-60

Over the centuries Little Rapids has drawn to it many different peoples (FIG. 14). Strategically situated and rich in natural resources, it sits atop a bedrock plateau on the east side of the Minnesota River—an island of high ground more than a mile square surrounded by marshes, swamps, and lowland forests. Melting glacial ice formed the physical character of this place more...

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5. Cycles of the Moons

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pp. 61-77

People interested in the past find the notion of traveling through time compelling. They flock to reconstructed sites such as Colonial Williamsburg, nineteenth-century Historic Fort Snelling, and hundreds of other “living-history” museums across the country. There, costumed interpreters re-create the activities, sights, sounds, smells, and ambience of the past. As critics have...

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6. First Traces Uncovered

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pp. 78-93

Using this approach, Morrison wove together slave narratives, stories she heard, and things she read about the past to give voice to black slave women and children who left no written records of their experiences. She retrieved and expressed memories long buried, many of them too terrible for the slave narrators...

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7. Glimpses of Community Life–Part I

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pp. 94-116

The Little Rapids drama unfolded slowly, sometimes painfully so, as we exposed and, later, came to understand small fragments of the past. It now seems appropriate that in our field notes and site maps and in our speculative conversations, we abbreviated our names for particularly meaningful activity areas...

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8. Glimpses of Community Life–Part II

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pp. 117-126

When Theodore Lewis first found Little Rapids in August 1887, he observed a low earthen embankment forming an oval-shaped enclosure just north of the group of mounds (see FIG. 20). He described these features in the terse style typical of that period...

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pp. 127-130

Current events sometimes call up the past. In the fall of 1991 and winter of 1992, the Atlanta Braves and the Washington Redskins traveled to Minneapolis for the World Series and the Super Bowl, respectively. During the games these teams and their fans encountered real Indian people and their supporters who protested the appropriation of Indian names and symbols...


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pp. 131-145


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pp. 146-155


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pp. 156-160

E-ISBN-13: 9780873517577
E-ISBN-10: 0873517571
Print-ISBN-13: 9780873512787
Print-ISBN-10: 0873512782

Page Count: 158
Illustrations: 46 color and b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 1993

Edition: 1