Alexandra Peck

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Brown U.

Grant number

Gr. 9713

Approve Date

October 5, 2018

Project Title

Peck, Alexandra M., Brown U., Providence, RI - To aid research on 'Totem Poles as Transformative Processes: Artistic Change, Memory, and Identity on the Jamestown S'Klallam Reservation,' supervised by Dr. Robert Preucel

ALEXANDRA M. PECK, then a graduate student at Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, was awarded a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Totem Poles as Transformative Processes: Artistic Change, Memory, and Identity on the Jamestown S’Klallam Reservation,’ supervised by Dr. Robert Preucel. On Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe (JST) is enacting contested approaches of reclaiming tribal histories threatened by persistent 19th century settler colonial narratives of ethnic erasure. Legally exiled from their capital village in 1871 as a result of government-mandated arson and legal ordinances banning Indigenous individuals from city limits, ancestral JST homelands also include Olympic National Park, popularly lauded as a pristine wilderness area devoid of Native inhabitation. Emanating from the Tribe’s previously unrecognized federal status and history of intermarriage with Scandinavian loggers, tropes of assimilation and extinction contribute to the contemporary non-Indigenous public’s denial of JST existence. By raising totem poles’monuments not historically rooted within JST artistic repertoire’to commemorate tribal leaders and events, the JST are challenging their veiled history in a region known for outdoor recreation and tourism. Reclaiming territory, communicating Indigenous presence, and resisting historical amnesia via totem poles have generated reconciliatory outcomes between the Tribe and non-Natives. However, adopting totem poles as a cultural iconography has also produced division within the tribal community itself, with critics raising questions about the authenticity of such monuments, as well as concerns about artistic appropriation and ‘performing’ pan-Indigeneity for tourists. Through a lens of resiliency and regeneration, this project analyzes the JST’s opposition to being consigned to the past, and the challenges encountered while representing and redefining their own cultural identity.