Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationMichigan, Ann Arbor, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9754
Approve DateOctober 24, 2018
Project TitleDoering, Briana N., U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI - To aid research on 'Leaving the Subarctic Behind: Evaluating Interplay of Social and Environmental Dynamics in the Process of the Athabaskan Migration,' supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart
BRIANA N. DOERING, then a graduate student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, received funding in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Leaving the Subarctic Behind: Evaluating Interplay of Social and Environmental Dynamics in the Process of the Athabaskan Migration,’ supervised by Dr. Brian Stewart. The research goal was to critically evaluate social and environmental explanations of the late Holocene Northern Dene/Athabascan migration out of the Subarctic and to offer an archaeological contribution to on-going anthropological discussions of migration. After living in the Subarctic for thousands of years, genetic and linguistic evidence suggest that Northern Dene/Athabascans rapidly moved into Alberta and the US great plains between 1000-2000 years ago. While anthropologists had proposed that this sudden out-migration and several associated in-situ behavioral changes were the result of a massive volcanic eruption that decimated caribou populations in the region, material remains recovered through the funded research project showed evidence for increasing territorially and population pressure associated with a population increase. Specifically, evidence recovered during excavations document important Northern Dene/Athabascan behavioral changes before the massive volcanic eruption, such as the earliest use of copper and fish storage documented in the region to date. These material indicators provide evidence for a gradual transition motivated by increasing population pressure, suggesting that the Northern Dene/Athabascan migration south resulted from social rather than environmental factors. The results of this research have implications for models of hunter-gatherer behavior and migration.