European Trade Goods on the Southern Plains: The Bryson-Paddock (34KA5) and Deer Creek (34KA3) Sites

Article excerpt

The early contact period on the southern Plains (ca. A.D. 1541-1700) is marked by the arrival of Europeans as well as an increased interaction between existing Native American tribes. Native contact with French traders during this time resulted in a greater presence of European trade goods scattered throughout Native American sites. The purpose of this analysis is to develop a more indepth understanding of how the Wichita were using European trade goods and technology during the early- to mid-eighteenth century through the analysis of trade goods recovered from two protohistoric Wichita villages in north central Oklahoma (34KA3 and 34KA5). It is evident that the Wichita traded for many different types of European goods, although several native technologies did not change at this time. In fact, many European trade goods were often intentionally modified to mimic tools and ornaments of native manufacture, representing a selective incorporation of European material culture into native technology during this time period.

Protohistoric, French interaction, fur trade, Wichita, European trade goods

Detailed archaeological investigations concerning the interaction between Europeans and Native Americans during the Protohistoric, or early contact, period in Oklahoma (ca. A.D. 15501700) are lacking in the academic world, despite the wide popularity of this time period with amateurs and historians. Although a few professionals have dedicated much of their research to learning more about this period, most published literature tends to focus on either the prehistoric (native) or the historic (European) aspect of life at this time (Scott 1998:492). Thus, much attention has been paid to European trading posts and military establishments (see Lewis 1972, 1975) while reports resulting from excavations at native sites tend to concentrate solely on the native component with little research into any European trade goods that may have been recovered (see Hartley and Miller 1977). This trend is not only true for Oklahoma, but also for the entire Plains (Scott 1998).

With only a few exceptions (Jelks 1966; Sudbury 1976), most protohistoric site reports from the southern Plains only list recovered trade goods (also referred to as "historic artifacts") without performing detailed analyses discussing their significance. This is most likely due to the fact that many archaeologists excavating these sites are not trained in identifying or analyzing European trade goods. Therefore, the historic analysis is often left for future researchers or collaborators. Discussions about trade goods and the interaction between Europeans and Native Americans instead tend to come more from ethnographers and historians. Little archaeological evidence has been published concerning material changes caused by the interaction between Europeans and Native Americans on the southern Plains during the Protohistoric period.

This research is directed at obtaining a more complete understanding of this aspect of the earlyto mid-1700s on the southern Plains through an analysis of the utilization of trade goods by the Wichita in north central Oklahoma. This research focuses on describing which trade goods were acquired by the Wichita, as well as how these trade goods were being used by local villagers. Due to the scope of the project and time constraints, only the trade goods recovered from the Bryson-Paddock site (34KA5) and the Deer Creek site (34KA3) are analyzed (Figure 1). It is conceded that a more rounded understanding of the extent of influence European goods had on the inhabitants of these sites could be achieved through additional research of the recovered native material. This larger analysis should be undertaken in the future, and this paper represents a first step toward this goal. Therefore, the research subject is condensed in order to concentrate on two aspects of this larger issue: 1) to understand the types of goods that were traded to the Wichita from the French and 2) how these trade goods were being utilized and manipulated by the Wichita during their relatively short occupation at these two sites. …