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The French Counts of St. Hubert : an archaeological exploration of social identity



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The ‘French Counts of St. Hubert’ is a group of aristocrats who left France for homesteads in the Canadian North-West during the late nineteenth century. They settled near and within the town of Whitewood, Saskatchewan, most notably along the Pipestone Valley. The aristocrats attempted to carve out a living in the Prairie West while at the same time maintaining their connections with Europe. Their attempted numerous business ventures all ended in failure, including forays into sheep-herding, horse-raising, cheese production, coffee manufacturing, and sugar beet refining. The Counts also brought with them a large number of French immigrants to act as labourers and establish a Francophone settlement. St. Hubert would become a vibrant community throughout the first half of the twentieth century. The participation of the aristocrats, however, was short-lived. All returned to France by the early 1900s. One of the homesteads associated with the French aristocrats is called Bellevue (Borden No. EbMo-5), a home erected by Comte de Rouffignac in 1888 and eventually transported to another location in 1926. The location of the original homestead was the subject of excavations by the author in the summer of 2006. Over 3000 artifacts were recovered from 17 square metres of excavation. While most of these artifacts are fragmentary in nature, a number of them have implications for understanding the social identity of the French aristocrats. This thesis discusses the social identity of the French aristocrats as framed through the theoretical perspective of practice theory. This social identity is formulated through the expectations they carried into an unfamiliar social space that required experience and compromise to negotiate a position within the social field accepted by all parties. Ethnicity, class, ideology, and gender all played roles in the formulation of this identity. Artifacts from the Bellevue excavation are used to highlight the materiality of the French aristocratic social identity in the Prairie West.



Saskatchewan, historical archaeology, practice theory



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Anthropology and Archaeology


Anthropology and Archaeology


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