Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationBrown U.
Grant numberGr. 9713
Approve DateOctober 5, 2018
Project TitlePeck, 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
Preliminary abstract: This research project studies the ways in which totem poles are utilized to symbolically re-claim landscape, perform or legitimize ‘Native’ identity, and communicate cultural knowledge for tribal members and non-Native tourists on the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe’s (JST) reservation in Washington State. Stemming from anthropological literatures related to public engagement, monuments and placemaking, and artistic change, my project questions why the JST recently introduced totem poles, a monumental art form previously unassociated with S’Klallam artistic repertoire, to their heavily trafficked reservation. In addition to analyzing the role that totem poles play in JST identity formation and reservation tourism, I draw attention to the tribe’s claims of cultural continuity and dynamism that, historically, were challenged by colonial-era tropes of the ‘vanishing Indian’ and cultural stagnancy. This research builds upon recent literature that envisions Native spaces and places as neither isolated nor static, but as distinct and creative. As a community that has received little anthropological attention and that has been inaccurately characterized by ethnographers of the past, the JST is a compelling contemporary case study for discussing the interconnectedness of place, identity, and artistic transformation in marginalized spaces (such as tribal reservations) that exist outside of the conventional public sphere. Through diverse ethnographic methods, I investigate how external influences impact JST artistic practices, how JST members maintain a cohesive and distinct JST sense of self, and how non-Native individuals interact with and perceive JST totem poles while visiting the reservation. I use totem poles as a lens through which to emphasize meaning-making and identity maintenance as processes that are highly agential, as well as influenced by local Native and non-Native encounters.