Ian B. Kerr

Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Michael S. Nassaney

Second Advisor

Dr. LouAnn Wurst

Third Advisor

Dr. Lynn Evans


Archaeology, personal adornment, Fort St. Joseph, colonialism, cultural interaction

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Since 1998 Western Michigan University archaeologists have investigated Fort St. Joseph (20BE23), an 18th century mission, garrison and trading post located in present day Niles, Michigan. The project’s research directive focuses on exploring notions of identity formation and its material expression in light of the prolonged and persistent cultural contact between Native Americans and Europeans at the site.

This thesis seeks to further this directive by exploring how personal adornment materiality both structures and broadcasts individuals’ social identities. By employing an intrasite spatial analysis of the assemblage of adornment artifacts from recognized domestic contexts at Fort St. Joseph this thesis will examine how the fort’s inhabitants were using material culture to create their own personal identities on the frontier of New France. For comparative purposes this thesis will employ the personal adornment items excavated from several different cultural areas at Fort Michilimackinac, an 18th century French outpost where Europeans and Native individuals resided.

From the body of evidence analyzed, this thesis argues that at Fort St. Joseph a strong Native presence greatly influenced the adornment choices of a mixture of voyageurs, small scale traders, and families that likely included Native American wives and the métis offspring of these unions who lived in a series of small domiciles in a residential area of the fort.