Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Nassaney

Second Advisor

Dr. Bilinda Straight

Third Advisor

Dr. Jose Antonio Brandao

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Campus Only


Fort St. Joseph (1691-1781) in Niles, Michigan, was a French and later an English fort built along the St. Joseph River. It had a military presence, but the majority of its activity involved the fur trade. A variety of French, French-Canadian, Native and Metis people called this fort locale home, which led to a blending of cultural practices. Documents such as the baptismal register for the fort suggest this site hosted daily interactions between the French inhabitants and the neighboring Miami, Potawatomi, and Sauk peoples. New forms of cultural interaction affected the participants as they negotiated their individual and group identities in a changing world.

This project examines the collection of beads excavated in 2002, 2004, and 2006 from Fort St. Joseph. This thesis demonstrates that: (1) beads can be viewed as more than chronological markers, (2) beads in colonial New France had multiple uses, and (3) beads were markers of social identity for the people of Fort St. Joseph. Lastly, this thesis discusses how the exchange of bead practices illustrates intercultural behaviors that contribute to the process of ethnogenesis at this frontier fort.

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