Ethnobotanical Knowledge and Gendered Spaces: Reconstructing a Menstrual Lodge in the Interior Northwest

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 9 May, 2019 - 10:45 to 11:00
, Molly - Washington State University
d'Alpoim Guedes
, Jade - Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego
, Kevin - Kalispel Tribe of Indians
, Melissa - Washington State University

The 2014 and 2015 excavations of a burned structure located on the Kalispel Tribe of Indians ancestral lands in northeastern Washington revealed uniquely stratified deposits with an absence of artifacts. Although the structure initially appeared strikingly similar to the earth oven features common throughout the region, in our reconstruction of the site’s sequence of events we suggest this space was once a nondomestic structure. Drawing on ethnographic, paleoethnobotanical, and geoarchaeological data, we show that the structure burned at a relatively low temperature, was buried soon afterwards with imported rubified sediment, and was exposed to seasonal river inundation. Subsequently, a second fire consumed a unique assemblage of plant remains, including Camassia quamash. By incorporating ethnobotanical knowledge and ethnographic sources we argue that this structure was a menstrual or menarche lodge. This interpretation highlights the time depth of distinctive Plateau practices, extending ethnographic voices and patterns back into the past.