Pottery styles as indicators of cultural patterns : the Kisis complex
Paquin, Todd Antoine
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Our understanding of the precontact history of the boreal forest of northern and, in particular, northwestern Saskatchewan is in its infancy. As such, much of the research conducted in this region often results in the development of new culture histories. Pottery is one of the most useful diagnostic indicators of the communities who lived in the province's forests prior to the arrival of Europeans because of its potential to reflect patterned behaviour and modifications on patterned behaviour. Subsequently, ceramics can also provide information regarding the cultural practices of its makers, particularly as the practices influence the distribution of people across a landscape. During the Late Woodland period the people who crafted Selkirk composite pottery moved across the Mixedwood Section of the boreal forest of Saskatchewan, settling between the Churchill and Saskatchewan Rivers. Several regional complexes have been identified based, primarily, on stylistic variation in the ceramics with differences also recognized in the lithic, bone and antler industries. This thesis identifies and defines a regionally distinctive pottery style, the Kisis Angled Rim type for the study region, located in the Upper Churchill River basin. This type, while exhibiting traits common to all Selkirk ware, is characterized by an angular rim which is always decorated, most commonly by fingernail pinching. The historically known Western Woods Cree, who occupied the boreal forest of Saskatchewan and Manitoba and were felt to be the descendents of the people who made Selkirk ware, lived within marriage isolates, practicing endogamy. The distribution of the Kisis Angular Rim type and its homogenization in the study region compared with other study regions supports the proposition that its makers were engaged in a marriage pattern similar to that of the Western Woods Cree of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Endogamy and the involvement of potters in a marriage isolate is suggested to have restricted the movement of potters (who are felt to be women) out of this region while promoting a high incidence of interaction and communication within the region.