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Other-Than-Human Persons, Mishipishu, and Danger in the Late Woodland Inland Waterway Landscape of Northern Michigan

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 February 2020

Meghan C. L. Howey
Affiliation:
Department of Anthropology and Earth Systems Research Center; Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans, and Space; University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH03824, USA
Corresponding
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Abstract

Other-than-human persons and the role they play in transforming social, economic, and ideological material realities is an area of expanding interest in archaeology. Although the Anishinaabeg were an early and vital focus of cultural anthropological studies on nonhumans given their significant relationships with other-than-human persons, known to them as manitou, emerging archaeologies advancing this topic are not largely centered on ancestral Anishinaabeg sites and artifacts. This article analyzes a set of nonvessel ceramic artifacts from Late Woodland archaeological sites in the Inland Waterway in northern Michigan, which are interpreted to be ceramic renderings of manitou. I argue that these were manitou-in-clay, vibrant relational entities that are brought into being for and through use in ceremonial perspective practices related to Mishipishu—a complexly powerful, seductive, and dangerous nonhuman being known as the head of all water spirits. I contextualize the making and breaking of Mishipishu manitou-in-clay as acts of petition by hunter-fishers who had been seduced by this manitou in dreams, as they headed out on necessary but high-risk early-spring resource harvesting in the inland lakes of the Inland Waterway. This case advances insights into how relationships with other-than-human persons were coproductive of the world in the northern Great Lakes region during the Late Woodland period.

Las personas que no son humanas y el papel que desempeñan en la transformación de las realidades materiales sociales, económicas e ideológicas es un área de creciente interés en la arqueología. Aunque los Anishinaabeg fueron uno de los primeros y vitales focos de los estudios antropológicos culturales sobre los no humanos debido a sus relaciones significativas con personas que no son humanas conocidas por ellos como manitou, las arqueologías emergentes que promueven este tema no se centran en gran medida en los sitios y artefactos ancestrales de Anishinaabeg. Este artículo analiza un conjunto de artefactos cerámicos no embarcados de los sitios arqueológicos de Woodland tardío en el Canal interior en el norte de Michigan interpretados como representaciones cerámicas de manitou. Sostengo que se trata de entidades relacionales vibrantes de manitou-in-clay, creadas para y mediante el uso en prácticas de perspectiva ceremoniales relacionadas con Mishipishu, un ser no humano complejo, poderoso, seductor y peligroso conocido como la cabeza de todos los espíritus del agua. Contextualizo la fabricación y ruptura de Mishipishu manitou-in-clay como actos de petición de cazadores-pescadores que habían sido seducidos por este manitou en sueños, mientras se dirigían a la recolección de recursos necesarios pero de alto riesgo a principios de la primavera en los lagos interiores de El Canal Interior. Este caso ofrece información sobre cómo las relaciones con personas que no son humanas fueron coproductivas del mundo en la región norte de los Grandes Lagos durante el período de Woodland tardío.

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Copyright
Copyright © 2020 by the Society for American Archaeology

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