Jesse Metzler Thesis: A Multi Property Documentation Form for Underground Railroad Resources in Indiana County

Written by Jesse Metzler

A fascinating aspect of the history of Indiana County is its link to the Underground Railroad. Individuals interested in history have likely noticed the PA Historical Markers scattered around Indiana County that describe the anti-slavery efforts of the population. One such marker is situated near the corner of Philadelphia Street and South Sixth Street and tells Anthony Hollingsworth’s story. Hollingsworth was one of the known freedom seekers who traveled through Indiana and was the victim of a kidnapping by bounty hunters. Hollingsworth ultimately received legal assistance from the abolitionists of Indiana and eventually settled in Canada.

The Indiana Courthouse circa 1856, the site of the Hollingsworth’s kidnapping trial. Source- Blairsville Area Underground Railroad 2021

There are Underground Railroad sites dispersed across Indiana and Blairsville, including historic buildings and potential archaeological sites. However, there is no definitive inventory of Underground Railroad related properties in Indiana County. The impetus for this thesis was an interest in researching a viable method for recording and preserving a delicate portion of the historical record.  This thesis examines the utility of the National Register Multi Property Documentation Form (MPDF) as a tool for preserving Underground Railroad resources in Indiana County by analyzing three case studies. These case studies are based on MPDFS submitted for Underground Railroad resources in three states: Massachusetts, New York, and Ohio. Examining the MPDFs for these states indicates that cultural resource professionals can utilize them to identify and document Underground Railroad sites.

This thesis’s field component focuses on a historic property

An interpretative sign describing the life of John Graff. The marker is a part of the Blairsville Area Underground Railroad’s driving tour.

in Blairsville linked to the Underground Railroad. The John Graff House was constructed for John Graff during the early nineteenth century. Graff was a prominent entrepreneur, politician, and philanthropist who held abolitionist ideals.  Graff was one of the reported abolitionists of Indiana County who reportedly assisted individuals that utilized the Underground Railroad. Local history suggests that Graff constructed a tunnel under his property that ran to the bank of the Conemaugh River, allowing for discrete travel in and out of Blairsville.  The Graff Property was the subject of a Historic Resource Survey Form (HRSF), which included an architectural survey of the house. A ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted to ascertain the presence of a tunnel on the property. The HRSF was intended to serve two functions, including the documentation of a known Underground Railroad related property and a potential starting point for developing an MPDF for Underground Railroad resources in western Pennsylvania.  MPDFs offer CRM practitioners the ability to develop a framework for identifying and documenting historic properties and archaeological sites. There is considerable potential for an MPDF to aid in preserving the Underground Railroad resources of Indiana County.

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Nathan Bokros Thesis: Investigating a Wagon Shop

Written by Nathan Bokros

GPR survey to detect anomalies that could indicate the presence of the historic wagon shop

A field can hold much more than grass or corn. There can be much left on the surface or within the soil, like a projectile point, a foundation wall, and even a scatter of broken ceramics, all of which can reveal a story of past human experiences. My thesis focuses on a 19th century wagon making shop that was and still is located within a farmer’s field. The issue, however, is that there are no surface remains or scatter of artifacts on the surface that would indicate a wagon shop was once there. The family who lives on and near the property say that there used to be a wagon shop (or blacksmith shop) at a location in the field where there are three brown stones on the surface, which are said to be the foundation stones of the wagon shop.

So now what? Should the who field be surveyed using shovel test pits (STPs)? Should only the area around the stones be excavated? What if the wagon shop was in another spot in the field or if the stones have been moved since the 1800s after the wagon shop closed down? My answer was to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) to survey the field within three 30 x 30 meter grids. The idea here is to see what is underground without having to dig STPs by using radar waves and a computer to note differences within the soil that may indicate places where potential features like foundation walls or hearths may be. Looking at the data collected by the GPR, see Figure 1, one can figure where it would likely be best to place a larger excavation unit based on patterns and unusual spots collectively referred to as anomalies. The use of GPR rather than STPs saves a lot of time and effort, which is very helpful when there is limited time and help in the midst of a global pandemic.

Results of the GPR survey

Excavation Unit 1 wall showing stratigraphy

Based on the GPR data, three excavation units were planned with Excavation Unit 1 (EU 1) placed to bisect a strong circular anomaly found within the middle of Grid 1, EU 2 placed to bisect the rectangular anomaly found within the bottom right of Grid 1, and EU 3 placed where there was an unusual anomaly in the bottom left of Grid 1. Interestingly, no unusual anomalies were found in the ground near the surface stones. The other two grids had anomalies that were more reflective of the furrows made by plowing, so opening an excavation unit within those grids would not be helpful in finding the wagon shop. Two excavation units have been completed so far, though nothing that could be connected to the wagon shop has been uncovered, only a few pieces of modern refuse. Figure 2 shows the stratigraphy and the lack of features and artifacts of EU 1 that was characteristic of EU 2 as well. With one more excavation unit to go and a possible fourth excavation unit planned near the surface foundation stones, there is still a chance to find something related to the wagon shop or at least eliminate possible location for it.

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African Diaspora Archaeology

The past few years, and especially 2020, saw the reemergence of massive racial equality movements (i.e., Black Lives Matters).  The last time this type of movement was of such large scale and presence was in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement.

Map showing how worldwide African diaspora is because of the vast spread of the slave trade.

Not only did this movement help to move racial equality forward, but it also allowed for the rapid development of African diaspora archaeology.  One of the first African diaspora excavations was at the Kingsley Plantation in Florida conducted by Dr. Charles Fairbanks.  While his methods were not of the New Archaeology style that was emerging during this time, he was responding to the desires of the African American population to be included in the archaeological and historical record.  African diaspora is the study of the transatlantic slave trade, slavery, and post-emancipation society.  Like most archaeological investigations, it uses an interdisciplinary approach encompassing archaeology, anthropology, architectural history, landscape studies and more.  One of the most important aspects of African diaspora that is too often forgotten is the interpretations, oral histories, and information that can be gained from working with the descendant communities.

African diaspora is heavily rooted in politics.  The capture, treatment, and injustices suffered by the subjects of this archaeological discipline were imposed by a white supremacist political ideology.  Fairbanks’ excavation was conducted without a lens of politics (at least for the most part) because he tried to simply state the facts and provide science-based interpretations.  However, because the racism and extreme ideologies exist today, it is important to view archaeological research with some degree of political slant.  This will help guide interpretations and presentation of data in order to prevent extremist interpretations and combat negative stereotype perpetuations.  If only the data were given to a group of people, each one would have a different interpretation, some good, some bad, and some just plain nutty.

By nature, archaeologists bring the past into the present.  We rediscover forgotten memories of the past, such as the presence of slavery in northern area like Long Island, the lives of the enslaves populations,

Ruins of the slave houses at Kingsley Plantation

and the struggled of post-emancipation former slaves.  Our work can also help to explain the present through the past.  Christopher Matthews brought up an excellent point in his 2008 article in the African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter.  He pointed out that while many homesteads and structures that were occupied by whites in the past are still be occupied and used today, but the structures and communities from African American past population are no longer visible, let alone being used (Matthews 2008: 3).  If the struggles of these people in the past are hard to find, how can their current struggles be made visible? History is an important part of reform and activism.  We can map the ideologies that formed racism and how that people are all the same.  By involving descendant communities in the interpretation of their own history, we give them a voice they might never have had and the authority to take claim of their past.

 

Preventing African diaspora from being seen can only hard activism, treatment of descendant communities, and perpetuate false and inaccurate history.  It is still unclear how the current political climate will impact archaeology as a whole and African diaspora archaeology.  I hope it will bring more light to these excavations and provide more incentive to include the descendant communities.  Only time will tell.

 

Matthews, Cristopher, N.

2008   Archaeology, Obama, and the Long Civil Rights Movement. African Diaspora Archaeology Newsletter 11(4): Article 3, 1-8.

https://scholarworks.umass.edu/adan/

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John Wesley Gilbert 1st Black Archaeologist

As many of us in the archaeology field are aware, there is a large disparity between the white (European ancestry) archaeologists and African American and descendant group archaeologists.  This is a pretty whitewashed field for one that studies so many different cultures.  Many organizations including the Black Trowel Collective and Society of Black Archaeologists are trying to diversify archaeology through outreach, education, and financial support. On the homepage of the Society of Black Archaeologists, there is a panel hosted by Ayana Flewellen on Archaeology in the Time of Black Lives Matter.  I highly recommend listening to it.  The link is here. In honor of Black History Month, this post will highlight a major figure in archaeological history, classical archaeology, and black history.

Photo of Gilbert Source: https://kentakepage.com/

John Wesley Gilbert (1864-1923) is considered the first black archaeologist in America and holds a number of other firsts.  He was the first black person to receive a master’s degree from Brown University in 1891, first black professor at Paine College, and the first person to map Eretria in Greece. Because of his passion for ancient languages, he attended the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (still active today) with a scholarship.  This was where he discovered, excavated, and mapped the ancient city of Eretria. When he returned to the US, he became a professor at Paine College.  He criticized the European based textbooks and education system, seeking a new system that would allow African American students to thrive.

Gilbert faced many struggles to even begin his

Gilbert and Pickard with an unknown Greek man at Eretria Source: https://www.ascsa.edu.gr/

education. He was born into a slave family in who were freed after the Civil War.  He lived with only his mother in Augusta, GA who worked as a domestic servant and Gilbert attended segregated public school.  He began his high school education at the Augusta Institute for black ministers and teachers.  Eventually, he attended Paine Institute where he was mentored by minister George William Walker who helped Gilbert attend Brown University. He became the first black student and one of the first 50 scholars to attend the American School of Classical Studies in Athens where he explored Greece and along with John Pickard excavated and mapped Eretria and the tomb of Aristotle.

Gildert’s map of Eretria Source: https://www.ascsa.edu.gr

This highly accomplished man not only paved roads for future African American archaeologists but also provided valuable information about classical Greece and spent his life inspiring and teaching others, specifically a wealth of languages.  Among his students were Channing Tobias and John Hope who would become leaders of the NAACP. His accomplishments also extend past archaeology.  Between 1911 and 1912, Gilbert went on a mission trip to the Belgian Congo where he translated the New Testament from Ancient Green to Tetela.  He was also an active patriot during World War I.

With this very impressive history and achievements in archaeology, I would have expected to have learned about Gilbert in the classics-based ungraduated archaeology program.  While I do not remember all the archaeologists I learned about during that time, I am pretty sure that Gilbert was not mentioned or possibly only mentioned in passing.  This is a shame and should be fixed in the future.  I even attended an excavation hosted by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, where his major accomplishments were done and heard nothing.  One of the main ways to encourage others to pursue fields such as archaeology is to provide role models.  While anyone can be a role model, those that are most effective are often the ones that come from similar backgrounds as the up-and-coming archaeologists.  Female archaeologists inspire female students, indigenous archaeologists inspire indigenous students, and black archaeologists inspire black students.  The more visible minority groups are and the more their accomplishments are appreciated the more inspiring their story.

For more information:

John Wesley Gilbert: The first African-American Archaeologist

https://www.ascsa.edu.gr/news/newsDetails/john-wesley-gilbert-room

John Wesley Gilbert (1863-1923)

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PHAST Activity: Rugh/Haymaker Mill Site

Written by Gage Huey

Haymaker Run Bridge

The Rugh/Haymaker Mill Site (36WM1204) is a historic-period archaeological site located in Murrysville, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania. This summer, four IUP Archaeology students in the Pennsylvania Highway Archaeological Survey Team (PHAST) recovered diagnostic artifacts from deposits associated with late 18th and early 19th century grist and sawmills that were constructed along Haymakers Run by two early Euro-American settlers, Michael Rugh and his son-in-law, Jacob Haymaker. These early mills used the water from Haymakers Run as a power source for the lumber saws and grinding stones. These mills are indicative of the kinds of early agricultural and industrial enterprises that settlers in this region developed to facilitate both longer and larger-term settlement of this region. Early maps of the region often focus on the industrial and extractive potentials of resources showing major rivers used for navigation, streams for mill placement, and indicating mineral rich for extraction.

This site was identified through a Phase I archaeological survey conducted by PHAST in order to comply with Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA) of 1966.  The NHPA requires federal agencies (and the state agencies like PennDOT who use funding from federal agencies) to take into account the ways that their undertakings may affect the archaeological resources both above and below the ground surface. The bridge where State Route 4041 crosses Haymakers Run is in need of replacement and because bridges and other transportation related infrastructure falls under PennDOT control, it also falls under NHPA regulations.  In addition to replacement of the bridge structure itself, attention must be given to the construction activities and temporary access needs during construction (i.e. right of way, easements, drainage and erosion control measures, and/or temporary staging or runaround). The improvements may also affect archaeological resources, so cultural resource professionals (CRPs) must employ strategies to determine what may be affected by this undertaking.

In order to begin the Phase I investigation, background research was conducted using resources such as Pennsylvania’s Cultural Resource Geographic

Shovel Test Pit

Information Systems (CRGIS), soil surveys, topographic maps showing landforms, historical maps, and historic period aerial photographs. These sources help us understand what kinds of activities were or were likely happening in a particular area in the past. Once the likelihood of finding archaeological resources is assessed, CRPs visit the site to conduct a pedestrian survey. This field view helps CRPs identify areas of prior disturbance, which informs the development of a below-ground testing strategy. For this project, the excavation of five shovel test pits (STPs) was planned at a regular 15-meter interval to test the below-ground potential for intact archaeological deposits. This summer, the PHAST crew recovered a variety of historic artifacts through the course of excavation.  The recovery of cultural material in the initial 5 STPs resulted in the need for additional testing to confirm the extent of these deposits. Each STP was dug according to Pennsylvania State Historic Preservation Office (PA SHPO) archaeological guidelines, with a diameter of 57 cm to a depth of 10 cm into sterile subsoil to test for all periods of human occupation on this landform. In total, 11 STPs were excavated, recovering 125 artifacts and contributing to the identification of the Rugh/Haymaker Mills site.

Diagnostic ceramic sherd recovered from STPs

Of the 125 artifacts recovered, 69 could be attributed to a particular time period.  These diagnostic artifacts included ceramic sherds, glass, animal bone, and a cut nail. The ceramics were analyzed by PennDOT Senior Archaeologist Angela Jaillet-Wentling who calculated a mean ceramic date of 1815. This date was re-calculated to 1817 based on the presence of olive-colored glass and a machine-cut nail. Accounting for a time lag between artifact manufacture and deposition, the material culture correlates well with the documentary evidence that the Rugh/Haymaker mills was constructed by 1809 and operated until at least 1875. Although the faunal remains from this site were not relevant to the dating of the deposits, the presence of a humerus from a domestic pig (Sus scrofa) certainly adds a depth of detail to the everyday lives of the settlers at the site. The fragmented humerus showed possible evidence of butchery which, along with other faunal remains found on the site, could provide important data to help improve our understanding of the type of foods early Euro-American settlers were raising and/or eating.

 

Pig humerus fragment recovered from the site

Overall, the archaeological resources encountered during the Phase I Survey resulted in the formal identification of the Rugh/Haymaker Mills Site. Because this potentially eligible site was located within the proposed project area for the bridge replacement, CRPs were tasked with making a choice for the future of this site: further investigation or avoidance. Thankfully, we were able to avoid additional investigation and impacts thanks to early site identification and flexible design. When the work for the Haymakers Run bridge replacement project begins, temporary construction fencing will be placed to protect the Rugh/Haymaker Mills site from any negative impacts that the bridge replacement may cause. This way, the intact archaeological deposits at the site can stay in situ; in other words, the cultural resources will stay where they are for the foreseeable future. This outcome is a best-case scenario because it allows for cooperation between the goals of archaeology and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). The proposed bridge replacement over Haymakers Run is able to go forward without major impediments or changes to the project and the undertaking will not negatively affect the archaeological resources associated with the Rugh/Haymaker Mills Site. At its best, Cultural Resource Management gives archaeologists a seat at the table when federally funded undertakings are planned in locations with potential for archaeological deposits. This is a great example of the things that can be accomplished through compliance with Section 106 of the NHPA.

You can read more about their summer here:(https://iblog.iup.edu/trowelsandtribulations/2020/09/25/phast-2020/)

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Commonplace and Miraculous

President Joe Biden taking the Oath

While a few aspects of the US Presidential inauguration are set in stone, such as the Oath of Office and the date, many other aspects are left up to the president-to-be.  The decisions of those presidents and the culture, ideals, and innovations of the time and made each inauguration special in its own way.  Today’s inauguration is anything but an exception.  Not only is president-elect Biden being swore in during a global pandemic, first with a female and minority

Presentation of the flags

vice-president, first First Lady with a doctoral degree, the first masquerade themed inauguration, and the first to have the ceremony and capitol guarded by thousands of military and law enforcement personnel as protection from domestic threats.  President Trump is not the first president to decline attending the inauguration of a successor.  In 1801, President John Adams was the first to refuse to attend the swearing in of President Thomas Jefferson.  He was followed by John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson.  Actually, the first time both the incoming and outgoing presidents arrived at the ceremony together was in 1837 when Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren rode in the same carriage.

The election itself was filled with challenges, but again, this is not the only one.  One of the most dirty and combative elections was the 1828 race between John Quincy Adams (who lost and did not attend the inauguration) and Andrew Jackson.  Jackson’s marriage to Rachel Donelson Jackson was brought into legal and moral question by Adams.

Lady Gaga preforming The National Anthem

After Jackson’s inauguration is when things got really out of hand.  Things began as normal on March 4, 1829, when newly inaugurated Andrew Jackson hosted an open house at the White House, a tradition started by Thomas Jefferson.  Soon the White House was crammed with over 20,000 party animals basically turning the event into one huge raging house party you might see on a college campus, even down to the washtubs full of juice and whiskey on the front lawn.  With social distancing requirement, that is not likely to happen this year.

Vice President Kamala Harris taking the Oath

While I write this post, I am watching the inauguration on live stream.  Bill Clinton’s inauguration was the first one to be live streams.  This one looks quite different from other’s I have watched.  The lack of spectators is quite shocking.  This is an extremely historic event regardless of the year, state of the nation, and president and without the thousands of people spectating, it feels someone lack luster.  What was not lack luster in the slightest was Lady Gaga’s performance of The National Anthem, J Lo’s performance of America the Beautiful, and Garth Brooke’s performance of Amazing Grace.  And the Pledge of Allegiance recited by Fire Captain Andrea Hall who not only led the pledge but also signed it.  The poem “The Hill We Climb” was written and presented by Amanda Gorman the youngest inaugural poet.  This poem was intense and inspirational, and just simply amazing.  Along with the many firsts of today our first minority and female Vice President was given the oath by Sonia Sotomayor the first Latina justice in the Supreme Court.  The entire ceremony went off as planned, peacefully, happily, and with a little bit of snow magic. “Democracy has prevailed” (President Biden Inauguration Speech)

The past year has seen an unprecedented amount of upheaval, tragedy, and all-around crazy events.  2021 did not start off, as many had hoped, with a chance for a new start.  Hopefully, the new leadership in the country will help to initiate a new and better 2021.  I hope to see the unity President Biden called for in his speech.  This inauguration both lives within the words of Ronald Reagan and expands upon them.  The 59th Presidential Inauguration was indeed “commonplace and miraculous”.

 

*Photos taken as screenshots by me while watching the inauguration on the Biden Inauguration Committee Youtube Channel*

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Thanks for Cooking!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Everyone has their traditional dishes that must be present at every Thanksgiving meal.  Often this is a turkey, green bean casserole, mash potatoes, and stuffing/dressing.  Here are some other recipes you might want to consider adding to the table.  These are precontact style dishes that can be made using foods that were present in the country before Europeans arrived.  More recipes can be found at https://www.firstnations.org/knowledge-center/recipes/.  The First Nations Development Institute collected traditional recipes through the Native Agriculture and Food Systems Initiative in partnership with USDA’s Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) to not only preserve these traditional foods but also promote healthy eating and sovereignty.  Many tribes are beginning to plant traditional foods on their own lands and providing those foods to their families and communities, making them more independent from the highly capitalistic food industry.

Dry Meat Soup

Ingredients:

Dry Meat

Potatoes or Hominy

Salt Pork

Water

Directions:
Boil water in a large saucepan, add the dry meat. This process will take a while as you need to get the dry meat soft.  It may take three or four hours.  Water can be boiled over a stove, fire, or with heated rocks.  During this process, you can change the water out.  Once the dried meat is soft, add the potatoes or hominy and salt pork.  At this point, you do not want to change the water because this is where you capture all of the flavor.  Bring the soup to a boil then turn to medium heat until remaining ingredients are cooked through.

Berry Pudding

Ingredients:

Berries

Water

Flour

Sugar

Directions:

Boil berries in a large saucepan, the water should be a couple of inches above the berries.  Boil approximately 10 minutes. Strain berry juice and save.  Mash the berries to release the juice. Set aside the berries. Mix enough flour and water to make a thick mixture but not a paste.  Using the same boiling pan, pour masked berries and less than half of the saved berry juice back in the pan.  Heat at medium-high, slowly pouring the flour mixture in the pan.  Keep stirring. If liquid gets thick, pour more berry juice, but not too much. Keep stirring the pudding until it comes to a boil; immediately remove from the stove, there should be some juice left.  After the pudding cools, add sugar to taste.  Do not leave pudding cooking, it needs to be kept stirred.

More recipes from Native American chefs can be found here in the Smithsonian Magazine.

Hope you have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving.  Thank you for your support and reading these posts.

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Happy 30th Birthday NAGPRA!

Written by Gage Heuy

This week marked a major anniversary for archaeologists and the Tribal Nations whom they work with: the 30th anniversary of the passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). Starting November 16th, 1990, the world of cultural resource management would forever be changed with the forging of new relationships between Native Americans,

museums, archaeologists, and federal agencies. NAGPRA  ensures that human remains, grave goods, and other objects of cultural patrimony (defined in the act as “an object having ongoing historical, traditional, or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual) (NAGPRA Sec. 3001.)  found on federal land or residing within federally funded institutions is repatriated to the Tribal Nation or Organization whose members or ancestors are associated with those remains or cultural items. In fact, this law goes even further to clearly state that the lineal descendants of those ancestors or the Tribal Nation associated with those remains or sacred objects are the rightful owners of any human remains, funerary objects, or objects of cultural patrimony. This is a far cry from the early days of archaeology and museums where the objects found during excavation (regardless of how significant they were to living peoples) belonged to the archaeologist who “discovered” them, or the museums who accessioned them into their collections. In the 30 years since NAGPRA became law, the culture within archaeology has taken a dramatic shift, where more and more professionals within academia, museums, and CRM understand the necessity to respect the ancestors and material culture of Native Americans and are committed to working alongside their governments to ensure that this respect informs every step of the NAGPRA process.

The law outlines a process that requires special cooperation between archaeologists and Indigenous communities that ultimately results in repatriation, or a “giving back” of the ancestors or sacred objects. Repatriation looks different on a case to case basis, but essentially, any institution who Let Our Ancestors Rest map of the United States showing the places where the most remains have not been returned. Many of these are along the Mississippi River, California, and Florida. Many of those states have over 10,000 remains not returned. receives federal funding (be that museums, universities, etc.) must compile an Inventory of Indigenous human remains and associated funerary objects; identifying any ancestors or associated funerary objects present within their collections and formally reaching out to the Federally Recognized Tribe or Nation with a possible cultural or geographic relation to the individual whose remains are held by the agency. Once face to face consultation is initiated in accordance with the principles of Government to Government consultation, a determination is made on whether or not the individual(s) held in the collections can be culturally affiliated, meaning that a relationship of shared identity can be traced from the deceased individual’s culture and a present-day Federally Recognized Tribe or Native Hawaiian Organization (NHO).

In a case where association of an individual cannot be linked to a Federally Recognized Tribe, those individuals and any items that they were interred with are referred to as “Culturally Unidentifiable”. A museum or federal agency who currently houses “Culturally Unidentifiable” ancestors and funerary objects must offer to transfer those remains and objects to either the Federally Recognized Tribes whose present Tribal lands the individual was buried and subsequently removed from or the Tribe(s) whose ancestral lands the individual was discovered on.  The Summary process is similar, though instead of specific ancestral individuals and associated funerary objects, this process is concerned with unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and other objects of cultural patrimony. A summary is simply a general description of what objects in those categories are present within the holdings or collections of museums or Federal agencies that serves as an invitation to begin a consultation process with the Federally Recognized Native American Tribes, Native Alaskan Villages, or Native Hawaiian Organizations.  Lastly, NAGPRA prohibits the removal of Indigenous remains or culturally sensitive items on Federally or Tribally owned lands without first receiving a permit issued under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act (ARPA). Once the permit is received, consultation is still required to ensure that the remains or artifacts are handled properly and eventually repatriated. The law also outlines a process that archaeologists and CRM professionals must follow in the event of an inadvertent discovery of human remains.  It states that the appropriate Federal agency or Tribal official must be contacted immediately and the project that disturbed the remains or objects is halted until consultation takes place in order to develop a plan for the safety and proper disposition of the individual.

 

Repatriation and burial service. Source: nps.gov

 

While NAGPRA is seen as a great improvement in the relationships between Federal agencies, archaeologists, and Indigenous peoples, it hasn’t always been viewed favorably in the three decades since it was passed.  One critique of NAGPRA that was very common throughout the 1990s and 2000s is that this law undermines scientific authority and is a determent to archaeological and bioarcheological research because it removes artifacts and remains for the realm of research.  This critique is not entirely well founded and stems from problematic ideas about archaeologists’ role in the removal and study of Indigenous bodies and cultural goods.  Archaeologists and anthropologists have a long history of claiming ownership over Indigenous remains and the material culture that was interred with the deceased. NAGPRA reasserts Indigenous sovereignty over their ancestors’ remains and possessions, and from the perspective of some (see Gonzalez and Marek-Martinez 2015), the NAGPRA process actually provides an opportunity for archaeologists to develop new kinds of research questions and to work alongside Indigenous peoples as that research is developed.

Repatriation Comic Link here

While archaeologists seem to have finally come around to embracing this re-assertion of Indigenous sovereignty, there are still hundreds of thousands of Native ancestors whose remains are currently held by Federally funded museums, universities, and agencies. Nationwide, it is assumed that 60% (around 120,000 individuals) of the ancestors held by universities, museums, and other institutions have not been returned to Tribes through the NAGPRA process. This could be due to a number of reasons, but regardless of the reasoning, it is clear that much more work is to be done in returning ancestors to Tribal Nations and respecting the sovereignty of Native Americans. I firmly believe that the next 30 years of NAGPRA will see an increase in awareness, respect, and accountability on the part of settler archaeologists who are finally coming around to understanding our role in the ongoing colonization of the Indigenous peoples of this continent.

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For more information about NAGPRA see:

Carrying our Ancestors Home, Association for Indian Affairs, 30 Years of NAGPRA Discussion w/ ArchyFantasies and Dr. Krystiana Krupa, The National NAGPRA Program

Preserving Heritage

Native American heritage is an important part of the history and culture of the Americas.  Like many other descendant community cultures, many of the traditions and ways of life are at risk of dying out.  Many organizations, both within the government and provide non-profit organizations, strive to work with tribes, craftspeople, and the public to ensure the survival of traditions and to education people about the importance of such heritages.  Within the government, the leading body in preservation is the

from doi.org Indian Arts and Crafts Board

National Park Service.  The National Historic Preservation Act mandates that the Secretary of the Interior (through the NPS) establish a National Tribal Preservation Program. The program works to preserve traditions and resources important to Native American tribes, Native Hawaiian organizations, and Native Alaskan communities.   One of the main programs it offers is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officers (THPO) program which is specific to federally recognized tribes.  These tribes are able to submit forms to petition for the assignment of a THPO who acts in the same manner as the State Historic Preservation Officer but is in charge of tribal resources rather than the entire state’s resources.  Once a THPO is granted the tribe is then eligible to receive Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) grants which provide funding for locating and identifying cultural resources, preserving historic structures listed in the National Register, creating comprehensive preservation plans, documenting oral histories and traditions, and building a Historic Preservation Program.  The THPO program was first initiated in 1990 and in 1996 twelve tribes were approved to assign a THPO.  In 2018 180 THPOs have been approved.  Pennsylvania’s Delaware tribe is not among those recognized or approved so the THPO officer responsible for this state’s First Nation resources is from the Seneca Nation in New York. The issue of federal recognition was discussed in a previous post which can be accessed here.

PBS Utah Native American Heritage Collection

Because many tribes are not federally recognized, such as the Delaware from Pennsylvania, and are not eligible for a THPO and federal support, more localized organizations take on the responsibility of preserving traditions and educating the public about their culture.  One such organization is the Native American Heritage Programs group focusing on celebrating the Lenape culture.  The group provides educational programs and tools to schools, libraries, historical societies, and other groups.  They have a traveling educational group that will bring the culture to the students.  This in person experience tends to make more of an impact on students (child and adult alike) than do reading about the culture.  One slightly less localized program is PBS Utah’s Native American Heritage Collection which has created many documentaries on the First Nation tribes located in Utah.  These documentaries focus on giving a voice to the people and tackle not only culture but also topics such as Native American boarding schools, veteran treatment, and the Bears Ears Monument debate.  These documentaries can be found here.

University of Florida’s oral history recording program

Programs such as these are important to preserving the heritage that this month celebrates.  Not only is it important just to record the oral histories, traditions, craftmanship, and culture of descendant communities, but it is also important to educate the public about them and their significance.  It is quite likely that most people do not realize that these ways of life are in danger of becoming extinct or even that modern day tribes still retain traditions dating back hundreds or thousands of years.  Unfortunately, government programs focus almost solely on federally recognized tribes with little regard for the unrecognized tribes.  Thankfully, many other organizations have been trying to record all of the traditions from every group possible.  The more the public is aware of the need for preservation, the more likely they are to help in that preservation.

Sources: https://lenapeprograms.info/about/, https://www.nps.gov/history/tribes/Tribal_Historic_Preservation_Officers_Program.htm

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The Vote

The 2020 election has been a wild ride for all parties and people across the country.  For better or worse this has been a rather historic election with unprecedented conditions, turnouts, and outcomes.  This is especially true for the many First Nations people who have been elected to offices in the local and national levels.  At the federal level, Yvette Herrell a Cherokee member from New Mexico became the

third First Nation woman to hold a seat in the 117th Congress’s House of Representatives.  She will join Deb Haaland (laguana Pueblo from New Mexico) and Sharice Davids (Ho-Chunk Nation from Kansas) who won their seats in 2018 and were reelected this year.  For New Mexico, this is the first time that two First Nations women will be representing the state.  Another record for First Nation women was that highest number of women (18) were running for congressional seats making up 2.6% of the women running for election. In total, six indigenous person won seats in the House of Representatives Tuesday.  This includes Native Hawaiian Kaiali’I Kahele for Hawaii, Tom Cole (Chickasaw Nation) and Markwayne Mullin (Cherokee Nation) for Oklahoma, and the three women previously mentioned. Many more ran and were elected to positions at state and local levels. Details are reported on Indian Country Today and can be found here.

The COVID-19 pandemic further eliminated the lack of consideration for and hardships of Native American tribes and reservations.  Lack of health care, clean water, internet, and electricity on reservation lands made it difficult and sometimes impossible for the people living there to stay safe.  It also showed how little the government has done to help the tribes and others living in similar situations.  However, this year also showed the country what an important role First Nations can play in politics.  Groups like Native Vote aim to increase awareness of how important it is to vote.  They register voters, discuss issues, recruit poll workers, and education people about the election system in order to increase voter turnout.  In the past, First Nations people have had the lowest turnout rates because of various barriers placed upon them.  First Nations votes have changed electoral outcomes in the past and have the ability to do that same in this election. As of last year, there were 1.2 million eligible First Nation voters who were unregistered. See more from GlobalCitizen here.

 

 

 

While statistics are not yet available for the turnout at this election, the impact has already been felt.  More First Nations people have been elected to office this year than any other.  Their voices are beginning to be heard and it appears organization such as Native Vote have been successful.  Only time will tell how those results will play out in the presidential election.  The long-forgotten constituency is finally making waves in politics. Let’s see how big they get.

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