Decisions and Adaptations on the Frontier: The Russian Cemetery at Fort Ross, Northern California

Lynne Goldstein


This study focuses on stakeholders and changing perspectives on a heritage site. The case study is an historic cemetery within a public state park that was the location of a Russian colony in northern California: Fort Ross State Historic Park. From 1990–1992, I excavated the cemetery at the Russian Colony Ross, which was in use from 1812–1841, and which included Russians, Native Alaskans, Native Americans, and combinations thereof. A total of 135 burials were excavated and reburied. Although the Russian Orthodox Church has clear requirements for funeral and burial, the specific location and extent of the cemetery were unknown. Examining the site from the perspective of different stakeholders and their agendas, this article explores the changing nature of a mortuary heritage site, as well as how different groups interpret and use the same site, how communities reacted to the excavation project, and how the project continues to have an impact on communities. Various stakeholders have used the cemetery in different ways to memorialize their own pasts and make claims in the present.


California; cemetery; mortuary excavations; public interpretation; Russians

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Copyright (c) 2018 Lynne Goldstein

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ISSN: 2171-6315

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