Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Robert J Jeske

Committee Members

Robert Sasso, Jean Hudson, Patricia Richards, Bernard Perley


Fur Trade, Identity, Metis


Gender, ethnicity and social class are powerful structuring components that influence the formation of personal identity and social groups, as well as constrain interpersonal interactions within social groups. The following dissertation is an examination of how gender, ethnicity and class were actively negotiated and employed by Native Americans, Métis and whites to construct personal and social identities on the frontier during the nineteenth century fur trade. This discussion of identity will focus on the example of John B. Richardville to examine how he used material culture to construct, portray and maintain multiple personal and social identities in the nineteenth century fur trade.

John B. Richardville served as the last civil chief of the Miami tribe (1816 - 1841) and it is argued that he actively drew upon elements of his ethnicity, gender, and class, while purposely utilizing material culture to create multiple social and personal identities. These identities were then strategically employed in different arenas of his life in order to secure his role within the Miami tribe, as well as within the dominant white, Euroamerican culture of the nineteenth century. A materialist approach framed within a gendered and identity based theoretical framework will be applied to the archaeological assemblages recovered from the Chief Richardville House (12AL1887) and the Chief Richardville House and Miami Treaty Grounds (12HU1013), as well as the structures themselves in order to examine how Richardville utilized material culture to accomplish these goals. It is hypothesized that Richardville actively portrayed different identities at each structure, utilizing different types of material culture to do so, creating unique archaeological signatures at each location. An analysis of these archaeological signatures and materials recovered from these sites is expected to illustrate the different facets of Richardville’s social and personal identity presented in each location.