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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#notyourcostume

For many people Halloween is associated with the fun of dressing up in an elaborate costume, attending

Native American protesters stand outside the Phoenix office of a retailer of “sexy Native American” costumes last year. For some ethnic and racial groups, Halloween has long been haunted by costumes that perpetuate stereotypes and instances of cultural appropriation.

parties, and trick-or-treating.  Costumes are a huge part of many different cultures and have very significant meaning.  These costumes are often used as Halloween costumes.  People, adults and children alike, will dress up as a Native American, geisha, Día de los Muertos costumes complete with skull makeup.  Many people may see these costumes as accepting of other cultures but, in reality, it is cultural appropriation that makes culture into a caricature.  All meaning is lost, and negative stereotypes are reinforced especially when they are degraded into a “sexy” costume.  It is important to be aware of these stereotypes and the negative emotions felt by those whose cultures are being represented.

 

One of the main costumes every year is the Native American.  This has a number of problems.  First, the costume itself

The Ghost Dance Shirt that many costumes are based off of. It looks similar to those seen in stores.

is based on the clothing worn by tribes during a period of American expansion westward.  This was an extremely violent time when Native peoples were killed, forced from their homes, starved, and given many illnesses such as tuberculosis and smallpox.  Each time someone wears one of the standard “Indian” costumes, they are returning the still present Native American culture to a time of violence and colonial domination.  The costume itself is a form of continued domination over descendant communities by those in power. Not only do these costumes freeze Native American culture in the violent past but they are often based on the traditional Ghost Dance shirt.  The Ghost Dance shirt worn during traditional events was meant to protect the wearer from harm, specifically the harm inflicted by the U.S. Cavalry.  This movement ended with the bloody massacre of 300 men, women, and children at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890.  This shirt is not a costume, it is a representation of an extremely violent period and a symbol of protection.

 

Another common costume is the catrina dress worn during Día de los Muertos.  A quick Google search of “catrina dresses” results in Amazon and Esty costumes, a Pintrest how-to link, and images mostly depicting sexily dressed women in black, red, and sometimes colorful dresses with skull make up and flowers.  This is not right or accurate.  Many people see Día de los Muertos as a Halloween spin-off

Traditional Dia de los Muertos garb and makeup

but in reality, it is a deeply seated cultural practice to honor and celebrate the dead.  The only connection it has to Halloween in a date (although it lasts for three days) and a skeleton motif.  It is part of someone’s culture that is being exploited for the entertainment of others who do not understand the meaning behind the outfit.  The Eiteljorg Museum is hosting a virtual celebration of Día de los Muertos between October 28 and November 2 featuring traditional dances, music, talks, art, and so much more.  The link is here.  Event like this teach people about the importance of understanding someone else’s culture by allowing people to experience it.  If you want to dress in a catrina, become part of the culture and truly celebrate the event as it is meant to be celebrated.

Wearing a cultural costume for Halloween is offensive and diminished the meaning of that culture.  It is racists and should not be done.  Instead of dressing as an Indian warrior or princess, use the opportunity to teach the public, children especially, how to respect other cultures and bring awareness to their current plights rather than keeping them frozen in their violence filled past.

 

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Some related and interesting links are here-

https://www.bustle.com/life/10-culturally-appropriative-halloween-costumes-you-should-never-wear-11941912

https://www.npr.org/2019/10/29/773615928/cultural-appropriation-a-perennial-issue-on-halloween

https://www.lakotatimes.com/articles/anniversary-of-return-of-ghost-dance-shirt/

 

Let’s Go Ghost Hunting

Ghost stories are an extremely popular form of entertainment and even education.  Many historical sites give ghost tours and authors compile all the tales of specific areas to publish in one collection. This is especially true during the month of October and Halloween when we feel closer to the supernatural.  Archaeologists work with ruins, remains, and up close and personal with the ghosts of these stories.  Many of us have likely been asks if we have seen a ghost or what was the most haunted place we worked and have told our best creepy tale in response.  Ghost stories and archaeology can work hand in hand and often do.  April Beisaw in her 2016 paper Historical Archaeology as Ghost Hunting discusses the idea of our interactions with ‘ghosts of place’.  These are not your typical ghosts that pop out and say “BOO” but are the memories and phenomena attached to a particular place.  The excavations and research conducted by archaeologists are able to bring the ghosts of places to the present and inform the public about their existence.

Ghost hunting can also be used to teach history.

Ghost stories tell the same stories that archaeologists do.  Neither tales contain all the information and leave plenty of holes, specifically names, dates, and other specifics.  For example, we are excavating a set of ruins. We can tell that they were a house, likely during X time period, and were inhabited by this culture.  Likewise ghost stories have a house where a person died which was followed by a series of events when now led to the haunting.  Most of those stories are based in reality which archaeologists can help to find.  Archaeologists as storytellers and truth seekers bring memories and ghosts from the past into the present.  Along with the physical remains of things the ghosts left behind the ethnographies we rely on are also their own form of ghost stories.  While not always about ‘ghosts’ (memories of people) they are always about phenomenological ghosts like previous traditions and ways of life.  Memory is a form of ghost because it is the past which is in the present.

Using ghost hunting to educate the public is a great way to gain interest and make a lasting impression.  Such tours (mostly of historical sites) engage the public by used their interest in the paranormal.  But those tours also have a wealth of information about the sites.  The histories of the site are just as important to the tour and the visitors as the actual ghosts.  Without the backstory, the ghost doesn’t exist.  Archaeology can be difficult to communicate to the public and more often than not, people go straight to the paranormal and morbid questions.  So why not use that interest to our advantage.  The haunted Native American burial ground that people like to talk about can be explained by archaeologists and its importance can be better communicated through the cultural background and the who, why, how, and when.  The stories with the best reactions are always those that involve something creepy and unexplainable.  There will always be those things that cannot be explained, and ghost stories allow for those holes to remain.  In those cases, it is important that a person died in a specific room and less important to know their name or date of death.  The event can tell a story and can feel much more acceptable when told as a story instead of a fact. Just remember if you are going ghost hunting as for permission first.

Paranormal detecting instruments for your phone

Archaeologists ‘hunt’ ghosts of places and tell their stories.

For an interesting podcast about this topic check out here

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A Stroll in a Cemetery

Cemeteries are not just these spooky, misty places where monsters and ghosts hang out.  They are also a pumpkin full of information that archaeologists can explore.  One of the first things that people tend to think of when discussing archaeology and graves is grave robbing. In the past (Indiana Jones) archaeologists would have been considered grave robbers.  Many were sent to collect rare and priceless artifacts by museums, many of which were either located in graves (grave goods) or in other sacred sites.  Graves tend to have the precious metals (Agamemnon’s gold death mask) and intact artifacts that were deliberately placed with the deceased.  Nowadays, archaeologists try their best to leave graves undisturbed if they can.  Sometimes this is not an option, especially when graveyards are in the path of infrastructure projects.  During those cases, archaeologists work with the community and descendants of the deceased to relocate the graves with all the respect that they deserve.

Another aspect of graveyard archaeology people tend to think of is that archaeologists uncover unmarked graves from war, Native American and other past and ancient civilizations, very old unrecorded Christian cemeteries, and pyramids.

Deetz’s examination of Puritan Gravestone engravings and their frequency over time

While true in many cases the marked more modern-day cemeteries in church yards can offer a lot of information to archaeologists.  Much of this information is gathered by means other than excavation.  Excavating and analyzing human remains is a very controversial subject that brings into spiritual and moral issues.  While human remains can provide plenty of information, there is also plenty lying on the surface in the tombstones, cemetery layout, and church records.

A famous study conducted by James Deetz in 1977 examined the different engravings on headstones in New England Puritan cemetery and discovered a gradual change in cultural identity and ideology.  The markings shifted from the Death’s-head to cherub and finally a willow and urn design.  Each one represents a softening of the rather harsh death’s-head engraving.  Deetz also discovered that the inscriptions changed from a rather individualistic phrase to the now common “In Memory of…”.  Other archaeologists examined similarly aged cemeteries in New York to see if the trend was more local or denominational rather than regional.  They discovered that this trend of softening and commonality was true for other cemeteries.  Deetz and the other archaeologists were able to track iconography and cultural changes without putting a single shovel into the ground.

GPR Survey of a cemetery. The horizontal (usually white colored) lines are potential graves

Just because something is buried in a graveyard does not mean it is outside the reach of archaeologists.  Geophysical techniques such as ground-penetrating radar (GPR) make it possible to see changes under the ground without disturbing it or the spirits who rest there.  GPR sends radar waves into the ground and measures the time it takes for the wave to bounce off an object and return to the sensor.  Different objects, such as a coffin, and soil compositions, like a grave shaft, will bounce signals back at different times creating an anomaly in the GPR recording.  While GPR and other geophysical methods cannot specifically tell an archaeologist what an anomaly is, they can provide information of what possibly lies below the ground.  Graves then to be 2-meter-long rectangles that line up side by side with one another.  If such an anomaly pops up during a graveyard survey, it is likely a grave, especially when it is associated with a visible tombstone.  These types of surveys are great to locating possibly unmarked graves, determining the extent of an unmarked cemetery, and seeing if the current locations of tombstones line up with likely graves.

Using these non-invasive methods of cemetery analysis lessens controversial nature of the investigation.  Descendants and caretakers might be more willing to allow research that will not disturb the souls at rest.  These investigations also prevent the researchers from being haunted by the spirits that roam the grounds.

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Spirit Cave Mummy

It is now October, and Halloween is quickly approaching.  This means tricks, treats, and a lot of scary monsters.  One such monster is the infamous mummy! While mummies are usually associated with the cloth wrapped ones in the pyramids of Egypt, mummies can be found all over the world.  The United States has its own share of mummies including the Spirit Cave Mummy found in the 1940s in Nevada.  What distinguishes the Spirit Cave Mummy from those of Egypt is that it is a natural mummy, meaning that humans did not dehydrate and preserve this person as they do in Egypt.  In fact, radiocarbon dates determined that the Spirit Cave Mummy is 10,600 years old making it the oldest naturally created mummy.  While his age is extremely interesting for archaeology, it is actually his DNA and the issues surrounding his repatriation to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe that are most informative.

Spirit Cave has long been claimed as ancestral land by the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe of Nevada.  The discovery of a set of mummified remains in this cave would further their claim on the land.  The mummy, discovered by Georgia and Sydney Wheeler in 1940, was determined a 40-year-old male who

Drawing of the Spirit Cave Mummy as he was discovered.

was wrapped in a rabbit-skin blanket and reed mats.  He was also wearing moccasins and associated with three other individual remains all of which were either cremated or partial.  Originally the Wheelers dated the remains to be 1,500-2,000 years ago, however, carbon dating revealed that they dated back to 10,600 years ago. Of course, the tribe wanted both the remains and associated artifacts to be returned for reburial.  According to the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), the tribe should have been given the remains back. However, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided against this action in 2000.  In 2006, the tribe sued the government but all that led to was the US District Court ordering BLM to reconsider their decision.

The mummy was stored in the Nevada

DNA sequencing project conducted on various controversial remains throughout North America

museum and only available for limited research to determine ancestry.  Anthropologists Douglas Owsley and Richard Jantz examined the remains and only determined that the mummy’s skull was a different shape than current First Nations people’s.  The BML, with reluctant agreement from the Tribe, decided to allow DNA analysis to be conducted.  In 2015, evolutionary geneticist Eske Willerslev from the Natural History Museum of Denmark conducted the analysis and discovered that the mummy was more closely related to modern North and South American indigenous groups than another other modern population.  The remains were repatriated to the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone in 2016 and given a private burial in 2018.

Evolutionary geneticist Eske Willersley talking to two members of the Fallon Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

While valuable information about the movement of early humans in the Americas was gained through the DNA analysis of the Spirit Cave Mummy, it brings up an important issue surrounding the implementation of NAGPRA.  NAGPRA states that human remains should be returned to tribes who have a geographical association with the burial.  Even more DNA, the tribe had claim to the remains and the remains should have been returned when the tribe requested the action.  However, the problem with repatriating remains as old as the mummy is that it is difficult to prove that they are in fact First Nation.  We know so little about the early inhabitants of the continent that it is possible some remains discovered are entirely unrelated to the modern First Nations.  This problem was easily remedied through DNA analysis and the technique is likely to be employed on other controversial remains.  But the next question is does DNA relation to modern people actually matter in such a context?  The Spirit Cave Mummy’s DNA showed that he was actually more closely related to peoples from South America.  While some might say it does if the person is actually a relative, others may believe that everyone who inhabited the land before them is their ancestor.  This question is better left to the tribes.

Sources: https://www.history.com/news/oldest-mummy-discovery-spirit-cave-shoshone; https://www.nature.com/news/north-america-s-oldest-mummy-returned-to-us-tribe-after-genome-sequencing-1.21108; https://www.biotechniques.com/news/resolving-lawsuits-and-revealing-humanitys-genomic-history/

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REAL Destruction

Location of the border wall along the south border of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge

Border wall location: Source NY Times

Many readers are likely aware of the construction of a border wall taking place along the boundary of the Organ Pipe National Monument.  While construction and infrastructure expansion are an inevitable part of society and has the potential to impact archaeological sites, this construction project has completely negated all cultural and environmental resources legislation and is currently destroying culturally sacred sites to the local Native American Tribes.  Normally, such projects go through a survey process laid out in the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 to identify and mitigate damage to potentially important archaeological sites.  However, the REAL ID Act of 2005 allows the Secretary of Homeland Security to waive all local, state, and federal laws that would impacts construction along the border, negating all the efforts of past government officials to protect not only cultural resources and descendant communities, but also the environment and protected federal lands.

Numerous groups such as SAA

The Border wall going through Monument Hill Arizona. Source: Tuscon.com

and the Sierra Club have condemned the act and the actions following its approval.  SAA detailed their grievances in a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf demanding that all construction efforts cease until proper compliance regulations are completed (Link to letter here).  The construction has thus far destroyed many archaeological sites, sacred Native American burial grounds, and is currently threatening an oasis site which is not only sacred to the Tohono O’odham people but also of natural importance.  The project is using explosives to level Monument Hill, a burial location for Apache warriors.  Not only did the REAL ID Act of 2005 threaten irreplaceable resources, but it also threatens the checks and balances foundation of our government, give the Secretary of Homeland Security power over any law.

Image of Monument Hill showing a dust cloud from an explosion

Explosives being used on Monument Hill likely destroying burials. Source: azcentral.com

It is not only national and international organizations that have condemned these actions, but also news media outlets such as the Washington Post, The New York Times, NPR, and Smithsonian Magazine have also reported on the construction of this 30-foot high wall.  The lack of respect toward remains and burial grounds is not only morally abhorrent but completely goes against the principles of the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, one of the many acts subverted Homeland Security.  All the laws in place that have been waives for this wall exist for a very good reason.  They are meant to protect human rights, culture, the environment, and endangered species while also allowing for infrastructure expansion.  These laws work in harmony with construction projects not against them.  Amazing things can happen if those at the top simply understand why these so-called blocks on progress exist, how they work, and their actual impact on construction projects.  They do not stop construction or prevent the destruction of all sites.  What they do is mitigate damage in creative and efficient ways.  This might mean a full-scale excavation of the impacted area, or a rerouting of a road, or it could be simply recording what is found and proceeding with the project as planned.  Archaeologists and environmentalists are here to help infrastructure not prevent it.

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PHAST 2020

Written by Miriah Amend

From the backwoods of Meadville, to the capital of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Highway Archaeological Survey Team (PHAST) traveled around the state to conduct Phase I survey for several PennDOT projects this summer. The PHAST program provided archaeological field experience for four students from the IUP Department of Anthropology as well as GIS experience for a student from the Department of Geography and Regional Planning. The 2020 PHAST Crew completed 13 projects this summer, at most projects this consisted of digging shovel test pits, or STP’s, each one ranging from a few centimeters to a meter deep in the ground. We worked in a lot of different environments, forests, open fields, even a steep slope. What all these places had in common was being right next to a road or bridge that is planned to be improved or replaced by PennDOT.

 

Adapting to changes brought on by the COVID-19 Pandemic, the PHAST team did things a little differently this summer. Masking up and distancing during field work and van rides were new challenges, but this summer had familiar field challenges as well- many projects were surrounded by poison ivy or stinging nettles! With all of our projects being off busy roads, we always had to be careful when working, especially when crossing roads or bridges. Weather-wise, the crew was lucky, we only missed one day of field work due to thunderstorms! We spent this rainy-day cleaning artifacts and working on writing and making figures and maps for our reports. At the end of the day, archaeology could still be done, rain or shine!

Working alongside Dr. William Chadwick, the PHAST crew also assisted in a cemetery relocation project just outside of Indiana this summer. The crew took turns using ground penetrating radar (GPR) technology in order to locate potentially unmarked burials. Getting experience running the GPR was a great way to get our feet wet in the exciting world of geophysics, and the preliminary analysis of the data suggests that there we did in fact pass over a few unmarked graves.

Another project the team tackled was between Titusville and Meadville, up in the northwestern part of the state. There, our crew pulled out a variety of historic artifacts such as early 1900’s bottles, ceramic pieces, and various metal scraps, including an old metal shoehorn. This project area was near the foundation of known historic mill, so we weren’t too surprised to find historic material in this area, although I don’t think any of us expected it in this quantity!

 

Wrapping up the summer, the PHAST crew found even more artifacts- early historic pottery, glass, and even faunal remains! These were recovered during our last project, a bridge replacement near Murraysville. With these findings, additional STPs were required and this project turned from taking one day, to several. Who would have expected historic artifacts to be underneath a dense layer of rock just under the surface? It just goes to show the importance of Phase I survey, you never know what may be just below ground until you look!

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