PhD Dissertations: Olga Klimko, 1994

The Archaeology of Land Based Fur Trade Posts in Western Canada: A History and Critical Analysis

Fur trade archaeology has experienced an unprecedented rate of growth since the 1960s in western Canada. Employing a historical approach and a critical analysis, this thesis examines the development of and context in which these studies flourished, with emphasis on the political, social, academic and ideological factors operating at the time.

Studies in fur trade archaeology rose dramatically in the 1960s, peaked in the 1970s and have gradually declined since the 1980s. From an academic perspective these studies are subject to criticism. Reports tend to appear about a decade after the project, complete site synthesis are low, newsletter items or short summaries are all that exist for a quarter of the site investigations, artifact collections sit in varied stages of analysis with most incomplete, and principal research objectives have focused solely on site discovery and identification for gaining structural information in support of restoration.

The problems of fur trade archaeology can be attributed to political and cultural forces in place at the time of site investigation. The historical roots of the field can be traced to the historic sites commemoration and development movement of the late 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, in conjunction with tourist and economic opportunities. This was an optimistic era of centennials and celebrations and the search for a Canadian identity. Political and social concerns, however, continue to drive fur trade archaeology to the present. Provincial heritage legislation requires developers to mitigate sites before destruction, and local communities or historical societies search for sites to add to their heritage roster for tourism promotion. Each of these constrains the nature of the field and incorporates both implicit and explicit political motivations.