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Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

A Spatial Analysis of Artifacts Using a Geographic Information System at the Grand Portage North West Company Fur Trade Depot (21CK06)

Andrew L. Craft, St. Cloud State University

Dr. Mark P. Muñiz, St. Cloud State University

Dr. Jason Eden, St. Cloud State University

Dr. Matthew Tornow, St. Cloud State University

David Cooper, National Park Service

William Clayton, National Park Service

Steve Veitz, National Park Service

Brandon Seitz, National Park Service

Douglas Birk, Fur Trade Archaeologist and Historian

Special thanks to Alan R. Woolworth (1924-2014)

And to my family and friends for their support.


From around 1780 to 1803, the Grand Portage North West Company Fur Trade Depot stood on the western shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. The location served as the company’s inland headquarters along their primary trade route through the region now called the Boundary Waters. Some areas of the site have been partially excavated and examined, but none of the artifact datasets or structural features discovered through archaeology has been analyzed using the computer technology of geographic information systems (GIS). For the first time, GIS is used to spatially distribute one of the site’s artifact datasets from archaeological excavations conducted in 1963. This research exposes potentially overlooked relationships between these artifacts and previously discovered structural features. The results add new data to existing interpretations of how people in the late 1700s utilized this historic place.