“Archaeological Survey of the National Bison Range and other Portions of the Lower Flathead Basin, Montana”
Originally published in Archaeology in Montana (October 1971)
By: Cecil D. Barnier
CSKT E 78 .M9 B37 1971
This 45-page study seeks to provide a cultural and historical survey of the area that is now the National Bison Range on the Flathead Indian Reservation. The fieldwork for the survey was done in the summer of 1969－ almost sixty years after the refuge was established in 1910! For this reason, I found the article somewhat troubling. While I congratulate Barnier’s work, cultural study of the area seemed to come as an afterthought to a much larger project. By the time he began his study, Barnier was left with very few recoverable artifacts in situ. He was forced to draw conclusions of the area from other sites in Mission Valley (such as McDonald Lake). Even many of these sites had already been destroyed by human activity or well-meaning but untrained amateurs. Barnier relied heavily on a personal collection of artifacts belonging to an employee of the Bison Range, Robert McVey. Barnier used McVey’s collection of artifacts in his analysis of the sites and admitted that his private collection “represents all that remains of the site” at McDonald Lake (p. 19).
While Barnier’s archaeological analysis and photos of projectile points were compiled from what he had available, they left me disappointed. Since Barnier did not have access to uncompromised sites, he had to assume much. In his analysis of a site he termed “The Fire Tree,” Barnier wrote that he thought the site may have had “possible supernatural significance,” but that it had been destroyed by logging operations and then cleaned out by McVey. When so much of archaeological conclusion depends on finding artifacts in their original position, the Barnier’s work seems almost unreliable as a result.
Originally posted November 2014