Anthropologist appointed to Freedom Trail commission

contact: Jeanne Baron
| WMU News
Photo of Dr. Michael .


KALAMAZOO—Dr. Michael Nassaney, a professor of anthropology at Western Michigan University, was one of two people appointed last month by Gov. Rick Snyder to fill vacancies on the Michigan Freedom Trail Commission.

The commission, established by the state Legislature in 1998, preserves and promotes the legacy of the Underground Railroad's Freedom Trail in Michigan. It encourages, coordinates and supports efforts that make the history of the trail as well as the antislavery movement in the state a vital part of Michigan's civic discourse, educational resources and cultural tourism.

Nassaney, a faculty member since 1992, represents members at large and will serve a four-year term expiring Feb. 1, 2017. Some of his work is featured on the Freedom Trail Facebook page in a 2009 article titled "Tilling Up Fragments of History."

The article reports on a project Nassaney led in 2002 that confirmed stories about a runaway slave community called Ramptown existing around Vandalia, Mich., or Young's Prairie as the town was originally named, in the early to mid 1800s.

The team found that Ramptown consisted of a number of cabins and residences spread out over a wide area. More information about that finding is contained in archived stories on the New York Times and WMU websites.

Dr. Michael Nassaney

Nassaney has directed WMU's archaeological field school since 1994 and is principal investigator for the Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project in Niles, Mich. He also edits Le Journal, the Center for French Colonial Studies' quarterly publication, and has twice been an officer for the Society for Historical Archaeology.

His current research focuses on historical archaeology and the study of colonialism and the fur trade in the western Great Lakes.

Nassaney earned a bachelor's degree from Providence College, a master's degree from the University of Arkansas-Fayetteville and a doctoral degree from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

For more information about the Freedom Trail Commission, visit