MSU Anthropology Alumni Lead Award-winning Project in Archaeology and Tribal Consultation

In May, 2015 the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) with its partners, the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa & Chippewa Indians, the Little River Band of Ottawa Indians, the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians, the Match-e-be-nash-she-wish Band of Pottawatomi, the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe of Michigan, and Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group, Inc. received the Governor’s Award for Historic Preservation.  The State Historic Preservation Office at MSHDA initiated the award program in 2003 to recognize outstanding historic preservation achievements that reflect a commitment to the preservation of Michigan’s unique character and the many archaeological sites and historic structures that document Michigan’s past.

Led by MSU alumnus Dr. James Robertson of MDOT, the Governor’s Award recognized this group for 1) developing a comprehensive Tribal Involvement Plan for the data recovery excavations undertaken at two sites in advance of the construction of M-231 and 2) employing sophisticated and multi-disciplinary scientific methods that revealed two specialized archaeological sites that are the first of their kind in the prehistoric archaeological record along the Grand River in West Michigan.  MDOT recovered important information about Tribal people’s lives between 500 to 1,000 years ago, especially relating to the wild rice, lake sturgeon, and food storage/cache pits found at the sites. The project’s partners continue to work together to develop curriculum units and lesson plans for educators statewide that relate the archaeological finds with Tribal history, Tribal culture, and Tribal environmental stewardship.

The award-winning project involved four graduates of the MSU Department of Anthropology. Dr. Anderson (Ph.D. 1992) is the State Archaeologist who participated from a regulatory perspective and advised MDOT on the project. Margaret Barondess (M.A. 1990) is the Department of Transportation manager of the work area that implemented the project. Dr. Robertson (Ph.D. 1987) is the Department of Transportation staff archaeologist from MDOT who worked with the tribes, and Dr. Mike Hambacher (Ph.D. 1992) was the consultant contractor from Commonwealth Cultural Resources Group who performed the excavation.

Photograph: The four MSU Department of Anthropology Alumni in the Lansing, Michigan Capitol rotunda for the M-231 award ceremony. Left to Right:  Dr. Dean Anderson, Margaret Barondess, Dr. James Robertson, and Dr. Michael Hambacher.

M-231 award