This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Chloe McGuire (right) on a dig with a classmate in 2010 (Photo courtesy of Chloe McGuire)

On the Trail with Chloe McGuire

Some 90 miles north of San Francisco, off California’s scenic Route 1, lies the town of Jenner, and on its outskirts, just miles from the Pacific, Fort Ross State Historic Park. During the early 1800s, Fort Ross was home to a thriving community of Russians, Creoles, and indigenous Alaskans—but the area’s earliest settlers were the Kashaya Pomo Native Americans. This summer, as part of Vassar’s Undergraduate Research Summer Institute (URSI), Chloe McGuire ’13 joins Sara Gonzalez, a post doctoral fellow in anthropology at Vassar, on an exploration of archaeological sites within the park. Their goal is to help develop an interpretive trail that will introduce visitors to the park’s little-known history. 

The Kashaya Pomo Interpretive Trail Project, which has been in progress for two decades, involves a large degree of collaboration between archaeologists, the California Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Kashaya Band of Pomo Indians. “This type of process is kind of new for the field because the archaeologists are working hand in hand with Native Americans,” McGuire explains. “Native Americans aren’t just standing by and monitoring the project. They’re consulting and writing their own papers for publication.”

“They’re really, truly invested in what’s going on,” she continues. “Our end goal is to make an interpretive trail that will be open to the public, so [the Kashaya] have a big stake in how they want their history to be perceived by the public.” This important work comes on the eve of the 2012 bicentennial of the founding of the Ross Colony by the Russians.

For the first four weeks of the summer, McGuire will be conducting a fire ecology study. The second part of her URSI program will be dedicated to doing a repatriation of artifacts that have already been excavated at the site. McGuire, the daughter of two professional archaeologists, is “starting to see how creative a discipline it is”; she is eager to immerse herself in her emerging passion. “I’ve never been on a dig that lasted more than 10 days. When you have 10 weeks, you have a lot of time to explore every avenue. It should be pretty incredible.” –Andrea Durbin

For updates from the field, visit McGuire’s blog.

Fort Ross SHP

An historic church in Fort Ross State Historic Park (Photo courtesy California State Parks, 2011)


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