The Little Round Hill site is located in Old Wadena County Park, at the confluence of the Partridge and Crow Wing Rivers. The site was chosen for field school excavations because of potential significant remains of both prehistoric and historic occupations. Pre-colonial occupation was extremely likely, simply because the Crow Wing was a heavily traveled waterway for centuries if not longer, but it is the historic period which was the focus of this excavation. Orally reported events at the site were documented in 1852 by William Warren, a gentleman of mixed French and Ojibway heritage who made it his mission to record Ojibway oral histories. According to one who had been present as a child, this location was the site of a winter encampment of an independent French trader with several coureur-des-bois associates, and ten Ojibway hunters and their families. The encampment included separate households which were fortified with heavy logs and brush against the threat of the Dakota, with whom the Ojibway were in constant conflict over the rights to the land for hunting. According to this story, the caution was merited, for the encampment was attacked by a group of approximately 200 Dakota, and was defended by the firearms of the smaller group. The report's significance lies not only in recording contexts of colonial encounter between French and Ojibway, but also in demonstrating the intersecting interests of the Dakota, in this contested borderland region.
The field school took place in the summer of 2009, preceded by a short mapping and geochemical testing survey. Nine graduate and undergraduate students, under the direction of PI Kat Hayes, excavated a total of twenty square meters of the site in both large open-area units and small test units. The results of the excavations showed a fairly well-defined area of the hill containing material remains dated to the late 18th through early 19th century, most likely related to the fur trade. These included lead musketballs and shot, firearm hardware, cut copper alloy fragments and a copper alloy ring, white glass trade beads, and a large volume of faunal and lithic debris. A portion of this recovered material was also associated with fire-pit remains, and other features suggestive of at least three short-term house floors. Analysis of the recovered material culture, particularly the faunal remains and lithic debris, has been the focus of lab work this year in the Wilford Laboratory of North American Archaeology. To date, the results are compelling enough to justify a second season of excavation in the summer of 2010, in order to expand the excavations of the identified house floors. We will also conduct a survey of a second historically related site across the Crow Wing River, the Cadotte Post in the 2010 season.