Zachariah Cicott, 19th century French Canadian fur trader : ethnohistoric and archaeological perspectives of ethnic identity in the Wabash Valley

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Mann, Rob
Glenn, Elizabeth J.
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Thesis (M.A.)
Department of Anthropology
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Following the social unrest of the 1960s, social scientists in America began to examine the persistence of ethnic identity among groups previously viewed in terms of their assimilation into the dominant culture or their geographical and thus cultural isolation. In 1969 social anthropologist Frederick Barth published his seminal essay on the subject. Ethnic identity, he claimed, can persist despite contact with and interdependence on other ethnic groups.This thesis attempts to effectively combine data from both the ethnohistoric and archaeological records in order to better understand the ethnic identity of Zachariah Cicott, a 19th century fur trader living in the central Wabash Valley. At this time the French families living in the United States had managed to maintain a separate sense of being or ethnic identity.The architectural style of an individuals residence has long been regarded as a reflection of the occupant’s ethnicity. French colonists arriving in North America brought with them a distinct architectural style characterized by the use of hand hewn vertical logs. As French communities spread across the North American landscape this style changed in response to the environment and raw materials at hand. Three ethnohistoric accounts of Cicott’s house make a convincing case for the presence of French architecture at the Cicott Trading Post Site (12Wa59).Archaeological excavations at the Cicott Trading Post Site have provided further evidence for French architecture. Found in association with a linear concentration of limestone, which appears to be the partial remains of the house foundation, were several fragments of pierrotage, a type of French mortar.Taken in conjunction with the ethnohistoric accounts, this limestone foundation and the associated pierrotage may be seen to represent the remains of a piece-sur-piece structure.