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/

 

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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Decolonization of Archaeology

Collaborating in Archaeological Practice by Chip Colwell-Chanthaphohn and T.J. Ferguson

There is a commonly known phrase that states that history is written by the victors.  In the case of archaeology, history is written by the research which in many cases is someone outside of the culture being researched.  Many times, especially in European archaeological investigations, archaeologists are studying ancient civilizations that are no longer in existence.  However, in the United States (and across the Americas) archaeologists investigate the cultures and ancestors of living descendant communities.  Early American archaeologists were Western antiquarians who collected artifacts and researched monuments and graves in order to discover the history of their newly claimed lands.  The public wanted their new home to have a similar historical depth to it as their former European homes.  This research often involved excavating of graves and looting the grave good and human remains.  Thomas Jefferson, the father of American Archaeology, investigated the mounds near his home to discover who actually constructed them.  While this investigation did conclude that ancestors of the present Native Americans were the builders, he completely ignored the importance of the mounds to the current population.  He claims to have seen tribes gathered around the mounds but then continues to excavate what appears to be child graves without any concern for the tribe’s feelings.

Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith

That lack of interest in descendant communities’ cultures, feelings, ideals, and practices relating to the archaeological sites continued until the 1960s when indigenous communities began to protest sites and archaeology.  Because of these efforts, there are now laws that require consultation with Native American tribes throughout the archaeological process and enforce respect for their beliefs especially in regard to burials.  Unfortunately, these laws only go so far, and the histories of these descendant communities are still interpreted from a Western point of view.  While some people may argue that modern archaeologists attempt to interpret their finds without that Western bias, this is just not possible.  Interpretations are directly influenced but experience, culture, and ideals in which the individual lives.  With that in mind, those most qualified to interpret history is those whose history is being interpreted, meaning that indigenous people should be interpreting indigenous archaeology.  However, because archaeology is dominated by the European ethic groups who colonized the Americas, it is not possible for only those of the same background as the research subjects to interpret their material culture.  This idea also perpetuated the idea that only certain people can study certain subjects.

Access Link: https://montpelier-documents.s3.amazonaws.com/Interpreting%20Slavery%2010-30-18.pdf

The best way to combat the colonization of archaeology, is not to simply consult with indigenous populations but to directly involve them in the research.  Indigenous populations (and other descendant communities) should ask and influence research questions, guide the excavations, determine what can and cannot be excavated, and play large roles in the dissemination of information.  Participatory research also prevents the descendants from being and feeling like purely test subjects rather than active players in their own history.  They have the opportunity to answer their own questions, not just accept the answers to other people’s questions.  In the end the people who are the least bias toward history are those who are descendant from that history.  While this post has a focus on indigenous communities, participatory archaeology can be done or all descendant communities throughout the Americas and the world.

This is a tall order that will take a lot of effort to accomplish.  Not every individual in a descendant community will be active or responsive to archaeology regardless of their inclusion.  By also involving them in the public aspect, more individuals, both descendant and non-, may gain a new perspective and appreciation for the history in their own backyard.

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Sources:

Atalay, Sonya

2006    Indigenous Archaeology as Decolonizing Practice. American Indian Quarterly Special Issue Decolonizing Archaeology 30(3/4): 280-310

SAA Archaeological Record May 2010 Volume 10 Number 3 

Recognition

It is no secret that since the colonization of America, that the government has not treated First Nation tribes with the respect and fairness due to them.  Early settlers forcibly took land from the tribes already living here.  As time progressed, the government became involved in the disruption of First Nations People.  One of the most devastating government acts was the Indian Removal Act of 1830, which led to the Trail of Tears as Native Americans were forced from their homes in the eastern US to Oklahoma.

Although US-Tribal relations have improved since the 1830s, Tribes today still struggle to fight against discrimination, voter suppression, poverty, and lack of respect, all a legacy of colonization and western expansion.  For example, federal recognition is a major milestone in tribes gaining sovereignty as a nation but can be very difficult to obtain.  The tribe must prove that its members are direct descendants from one or more tribes throughout history and that they maintain their own governance of their members.  The tribe must provide documentation of membership and their government such as a constitution.  One of the more complicated criteria is that the tribe must be able to prove that they have maintained their identity as “American Indian” or “Aboriginal” from their beginning to the present.  This might appear to be simple but the Brothertown Tribe is finding this to be very complicated.

The Brothertown Tribe was created by member of many different tribes of the Northeast known as the praying tribes.  They are currently trying to become a recognized tribe but are having difficulties due to their previous adoption of European materials and ways of life.  An archaeological survey, conducted by Craig Cipolla of the University of Pennsylvania, of Brothertown sites sought to aid in connecting the current tribe to their ancestral identity.   However, according to the Office of Indian Affairs in 2009, the archaeological investigation proved that the tribe showed little evidence of maintaining an identity as Native American.  While the tribe did adopt Christianity, built a Methodist church, and lived on farms similar to those of European settlers, this does not mean that they do not identify as Native American.  In 1839 the members of the Brothertown tribe were given US citizenship and land.  By signing this citizenship act, the members were no longer tribe members in the eyes of the government and therefore did not need protection.  They lost their tribal recognition. Although, they lost recognition and their identity in a legal sense, they did not lose their personal identities as Brothertown Tribe members.

 

Brothertown Members still practice traditional crafts including beading

Archaeologists must recognize that their excavations, publications, and work can impact the public and the group they are researching.  In the case of the Brothertown Tribe, the negative and incomplete research was misinterpreted to deny a tribe recognition.  As well, what exactly makes up an identity needs to be considered.  While the government may say that the Brothertown Tribe does not identify as a Native American tribe because of their settlement style and material culture, the members of the tribe to identify as Brothertown.  They are still working on becoming recognized today.

 

 

For more information about the Brothertown Tribe see: http://brothertownindians.org  and PBS

The requirements for Federal Recognition can be read here.

 

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What’s in a Name?

Names are very important to a person’s identity.  Anyone who has a unique name or spelling understands the feeling that comes when your name is pronounced for spelled wrong.  It doesn’t feel like your name.  It isn’t you.  This is a very common problem among the Native American people.  Throughout history their tribal names have been created more by outsiders than by the people themselves.  Many of the tribal names we know of today are names that were given to these people and not their true names or identities.  For example, the name Anasazi commonly associated with the people of Mesa Verde in Colorado is derived from a Navajo term which is often translated to “enemy ancestors”.  This was likely not the intention of those naming the now dubbed Ancestral Pueblo, it has a very negative meaning.  The term Ancestral Pueblo, while accepted as a better name, does not adequately communicate the ancestral history of the Pueblo people or the far-reaching influence of the Ancestral Puebloans.

 

Along with tribal names a major discussion is in the terminology used to describe the Native American People as a whole.  These names are also impressed upon them and often used in discrimination and oppression of identity.  The first name given to the inhabitants of this land was Indian or American Indian.  This was due to Christopher Columbus’ error in thinking he had reached the Indies.  The term is widely accepted and used because of its age.  But is an incorrect description of the people it refers to.  In the 1960s political correctness came into vogue as well as a unifying sense of having one American identity.  During this time there was a trend of hyphenating original identities with “American”.  Thus, you get African-American, Irish-American, and Native-American.  Again, although widely accepted and used this term is problematic because it forces the original population into a foreign and colonized identity.  As well, “Native” has two distinct and opposing meanings.  The first is that is refers to the original inhabitants which is correct.  However, European use of the word changed it to represent a primitive or ignorant culture which in and of itself is ignorant.

So, what should we call the original inhabitants of the United States?  We should call them what they want to be called. In the 1970s inhabitants of Canada decided to start using the term First Nation but this has gained little traction and has no legal standing yet.  In general, when referring to Native Americans/First Nation People, you should use their tribal affiliation over the generalized term.  However, as stated earlier, many of these names were given by outsiders or enemy tribes.  Sioux and Apache are corruptions of words meaning “enemy”.  With such complicated nomenclature, it is also better and respectful to ask what name a person would prefer.

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