The economy and archaeology of European-made glass beads and manufactured goods used in first contact situations in Oregon, California and Washington
This thesis examines the role played by European-made glass beads and other manufactured goods in first contact of Europeans with Native American Indian populations in Oregon, California and Washington. Utilising both the historical and archaeological record, the activities of the Spanish in Alta California, the Russians in Northern California, the Lewis and Clark expedition and the Pacific Northwest Coast companies are examined, highlighting their use of beads in gift giving and exchange with the Indians. The sources of the large volume of glass beads are presented and their method of manufacture discussed. The way In which different European nationalities and organisations progressed geographically and in the intensity of their interactions with the native populations is reflected in the archaeological assemblages, whilst processes of exchange and the use of trinkets such as beads in subjugation and pacification are clarified by study of the historical sources. Different European groups used such materials through the mission system, by pacification of groups to ensure access and safe passage and by the fur companies use of the beads as items of exchange for pelts of otters and other animals. The native Indian groups showed different preferences for specific coloured beads which then became part of their own wealth base and exchange system. The effects of such transactions, whether used deliberately as a form of subjugation or inadvertently as barter items, was to transform the economic systems of the native populations and specifically the way In which conspicuous consumption was carried out in potlatch ceremonies. The effect of both the introduction of new material items and the novel form of economic transactions bolstered other effects of the Europeans which transformed Native American cosmology and society permanently.