Common Hour speaker Levine explains research on Madam Montour

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By Samantha Greenfield II Staff Writer

Franklin and Marshall’s own Mary Ann Levine, associate professor of anthropology, spoke to the audience at this week’s Common Hour, which took place in the Ann & Richard Barshinger Center for Musical Arts.

In addition to teaching in the Department of Anthropology, Levine is head of the archaeology program.

She has been dedicated to studying Native American cultures through the medium of archaeology for 25 years. Her work has been featured in numerous publications and she has received many awards, including the 2005 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award for Archaeology.

Levine has developed a deep understanding for Native American cultures through her studies and also her archaeological digs. The focus of her dig in Pennsylvania was Madam Montour, a prominent Native American woman who served as a translator between the colonial French, English, and Indigenous Americans.

In Pennsylvania, Levine found and excavated the long-lost Woodlands village called Ostonwakin. Madame Montour lived from the late 1600s until 1753. Her job as an interpreter allowed her to have a lot of influence in this period. She became a diplomat through her own avenues as well as through her marriages to influential men.

Levine, along with her students, found artifacts such as trade beads, brooches, spearheads, and pieces of glass bottles.

When asked by a member of the audience how she knows when an excavation is finished, Levine said that archaeologists always struggle with this problem because there will always be more artifacts.

Levine said that the excavation at Ostonwakin is now finished because she and her students have gathered enough artifacts to answer the questions that brought them there in the first place.

While at McGill University in Montreal, Levine decided she would dedicate herself to the study of Native American cultures. She wanted to challenge the many misconceptions people have about Indigenous Americans.

“The dominant paradigms portray Native Americans as inherently unprogressive, static, and primitive,” Levine said.

In one of her archeology classes, on the first day she asks her students to write down words that come to mind when they think about Native Americans. Her students have written words such as dirt, huts, teepees, and Pocahontas. She does the same thing at the end of class and the words students write exhibit how their understanding has deepened, they write phrases such as resistance, drug and alcohol abuse, and land disputes. Levine hopes to break down the negative stereotype about Native Americans through one class of students at a time.

Senior Samantha Greenfield is a staff writer. Her email is sgreenfield@fandm.edu.

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