Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Neal Ferris


This study engages with both the archaeology of colonialism and historical archaeology in a manner that brings them into direct dialogue with each other to explore how essentialized identity tropes are used to frame our conceptualizations of the past. The archaeology of colonialism and historical archaeology have been conceptually bifurcated along a colonized/colonizer dichotomy and continuously reified by the insertion of research into one category or the other. The archaeology of colonialism generally focuses on the experiences of the colonized within the colonial process, while historical archaeology focuses on the experiences of Europeans and/or people of European descent. This is not to say that archaeologists working on either side of this conceptual divide ignore each other entirely, but rather their foci – and subsequent discussions – rarely converge.

To create a conceptual bridge between these disparate dialogues, I explore multigenerational, 19th-century sites in southwestern Ontario, all of which have two sequential occupations that serve to explore generational shifts through time. The sites explored are conventionally bifurcated along colonial and capitalist binaries, and categorized as colonized (Davisville settlement and Mohawk Village, two Mohawk communities) and colonizer (McKinney and Odlum families, two Euro-Canadian families), as well as elite (Mohawk Village and Odlum) and non-elite (Davisville and McKinney). An exploration of the patterns between generations, contexts, and the bifurcated divides enabled insights into the differences and similarities between and within the conventional tropes of colonialism. Furthermore, this allows for a discussion of how archaeological taxonomic conventions shape and conceptualize our interpretations from the outset and fundamentally limit the narratives that we produce.

This exploration emphasizes that our contemporary archaeological discourses are products of present day sensibilities, firmly embedded within the legacies of colonialism, and create archaeological imaginaries of the past that insidiously reify the essentialized colonial divide. Instead of emphasizing the differences between Euro-Canadian and Indigenous sites, exploring the contemporaneous commonalities of existence for all the sites under study illustrates archaeological dialogues that transcend the colonial conceptual divide and de-essentialize archaeological narratives of the past.