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CRAFTING IDENTITY: ACQUISITION, PRODUCTION, USE, AND RECYCLING OF SOAPSTONE DURING THE MISSION PERIOD IN ALTA CALIFORNIA

  • Kaitlin M. Brown (a1)
Abstract

This article investigates the daily practices and social processes of indigenous identity negotiation in the Santa Barbara Channel region through an analysis of soapstone ollas, bowls, and comales. After assessing the source of the raw material and using a typological classification based upon form and function, I discuss the ways in which soapstone cooking wares were used diachronically and across the colonial landscape. These finds show a reorganization of the soapstone industry inside the mission space: soapstone was acquired from new sources, an emphasis was placed on the production of bowls and comales, and more soapstone vessels show evidence of remodification. However, the continued use of traditional soapstone ollas in historically occupied Chumash villages outside the mission indicates persistent practices that linked indigenous peoples to a deep ancestral past. I argue that these changes and continuities illuminate a range of identities that existed between the cultural spaces previously described as “native” and “Spanish.” This study illustrates that indigenous peoples negotiated, redeployed, and expressed their identities in new ways that allowed them to adapt and persist under colonialism.

Este trabajo investiga las prácticas diarias y los procesos sociales de negociación de identidad indígena en la región del Canal de Santa Bárbara a través del análisis de ollas, cuencos y comales de esteatita. Después de evaluar la fuente de la materia prima y emplear una clasificación tipológica basada en la forma y función, se discuten las formas en que las vajillas de cocina de esteatita se usaron diacrónicamente y a lo largo del paisaje colonial. Estos hallazgos muestran una reorganización de la industria de la esteatita dentro del espacio de la misión: la esteatita fue adquirida de nuevas fuentes; se enfatizó la producción de tazones y comales; y más vasijas de esteatita muestran evidencia de remodificación. Sin embargo, el uso continuado de ollas tradicionales de esteatita en aldeas Chumash históricamente ocupadas fuera de la misión indica prácticas persistentes que vinculaban las comunidades indígenas a un profundo pasado ancestral. Estos cambios y continuidades iluminan un rango de identidades que existían entre los espacios culturales previamente descritos como “nativo” y “español”. Este estudio ilustra que las comunidades indígenas negociaron, reasignaron y expresaron sus identidades de nuevas maneras que les permitieron adaptarse y persistir bajo el régimen colonial.

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