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Echo-Hawk 2000 - Exploring Ancient Worlds Roger C...

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Unformatted text preview: Exploring Ancient Worlds Roger C. Ecbowflawk "-5: ““ en Vine Deloria Jr. characterized the Society for American Archaeoiogy as “anthindian” in a 1989 issue of the Native Amer- ican Rights Fond (NARF) Legal Ram‘sw, the chair of SAA’S Public Relations Conunittee demanded a retraction Bu: noting SANS opposirion to indigo—supposed repatriation legisisrion, NARF promised instead to keep a vigilant eye on SAA. This incident highlights the state of reiatiorrs between Indians and archaeologists in the United States—weiations shaped by a powerful iegacy of What histories jsmes Riding In has aptly termed "imperial archaeology.” For 3AA members who do no: see themseives as antidndian or as conqueror anthropoiogists, it is important to deveiop appropriate forums for reviewing relations between indiarrs and archaeol— ogists, and Eor fiiscussing projecrs which have brought both commusities together as partners rather than as opponenrs. The American archaeological cemmunity has proven beyond doubt that it can study indies history in Noah America Without involving any liv- ing Native Americans, and indiz‘n historians have managed to preserve a vast array of ore! traditions about the past without any assistance from archaeology. But What would happen if archaeologists as a matter of ' course, began so work in full partnership wifh Indians? This is a question which 5AA must investigate if it is uncomfortable being viewed as “anti indian“ by Indian inteliectuals. Subsrantial areas of disagreement exist between archaeoiogisrs and indians, and while many disputes wili not be easy to address or resolve, this should no: deter our quest to understand the past, and it should not prohibit the devdopmenr of better relations between Indians md archaeologists. Even though archaeologists ougiir to work in partnership with Native Americans, not aii Indians want to make friends with “arkies” anti “asthma." American archaeoiogists have not typically sought to cultivate good relations with Indian tribes, and many archaeoiogists have felt justified in gmrposefiilw iy igrioriug Endizn sensibilities in conducting archaeological research) partio uiarly in the treatises: of Indian graves and human remains. University anthropology oepafiments have shown little iriterest in recruiting Native ' American archaeology snidentzs (or professors), and consequently, very few indians have become professionai archaeologists in this country. Under these conditioris, itis Easy for some indizms to reject archaeology as an unacceptable form of inquiry. so: {hose few Indians who may develop a . serious interest in the profession, the barriers are considerable. The term “prehistory “ conveys to sii people {he deiiberate impres— sion that Imiian historians have faiieé ro crease and hand down any form Working Together? Native Americans and Archaeologists 3 of legitimate record about human events dating back more than three or four centuries. From the perspective of popular attitudes, this has corn tributed to the devaluation of Native American intellectual traditions, and archaeologists have happily displaced indian historiaos as experts on the ancient past. Physical andtropologisto—close coileagocs of archaeologists— have exacerbated this situation by devoting great energy (Up to World War H) in an embarrassing quest to develop scientific proof for Indian intellco trial inferiority, This racist history cannot be ignored by Native Americans. Examining archaeological ioumals, indian authors are Harem—even as coauthorswand it would be surprising to find a majOr journal which has had a Native American editor during its life span. In the Plains Anthropologist, for example, one finds that during the 19805 at least 80 percent of the papers concerned Native America as a primary focus of study, out soberantially less than 1 percent of the authors were Indians, and far more dead Indians appeared in the pages of this journal than liv~ ing Indians Ii would be fair to observe that the journal’s audience has had more opportunity to learn about Native Americans from Indian skeletons than from incliao historians and Lndian archaeologists. In spite of these conditions, many Native Agnericans are curious about archaeology, and a growing number of archaeologists have worked in partnership with tribal historians. The reconciiiation of archaeology and Indian oral traditions could bring important changes to our understanding of the past, and perhaps “prehistory” can some day be replaced with “ancient indian history.” For Indians and archaeologists who believe that archaeology and oral traditions ought to be acknowledged as necessary components of ancient Indian history, it is vital that 8AA provide real lead-- ership in encouraging its members to develop meaningful dialogue and mutually rewarding interaction with inclian tribes. It is time for 3AA to explore in earnest the frontiers of cooperative archaeology. These explo~ rations will ultimately help to shape the character or American archaeolo~ gy as a new generation of archaeologists enters the twenty—first century. Some archaeologists may wonder: What exactly can Indians offer to the study of the “prehistoric” past? This question can never be answered until both indians and archaeologists cultivate a sense of mutual respect for the unique contributions of each group The entire academic commu- nity displays little regard for the historiciry of oral traditions as a class, whether told by lndians, Norse chroniclers, or any other group of people. Archaeoiogists who specialize in the study of Indian origins, for example, do not typically consult Indian creation stories, though Native American historians have preserved and handed down such traditions as historical documents. Many indians, for their part, refuse to embrace archaeological ly-based explanations for indian origins. ncommittee of leading Colorado Indians expressed some reluc- tance to accept my “Ancient Worlds” {presented in full below) as a contriy 4 ErjiloringAudenr Whrlair/Ecboifawk button to a Denver an project honoring the history of Native Americans associated with the state. They objected to my reiiance on anthropology, ararl i withdrew the essay after they suggested that all the discussion of archaeology and science by removed from the text. It seems doubtful that “Ancient Worlds” would have met. with greater approval from a committee of archaeologists—but the obiections would have centered on my use of oral literature. Until a new climate is introduced into relations between Indians and archaeologists, the integrative approach featured in “Ancient Worlds”. will find little acceptance anywhere, and the various stories told about Indian origins can never be reconciled; and we can never share a conunon history. What role will 8AA play in bringing us all together as partners in exploring the past? Ancient Worlds The first pimple dwelt in a land of lingering darkness. in some Native American origin stories, humans emerged from this region to Wow tress the son’s creation or the ordering of night and day. Thousands of years later, many indians said that their ancestors entered the world from a dark place located underground. Other oral traditions, howeverm~told in both Asia and America—describe the creation of earth from a mtery world, and these stories do not typically associate darkness with the first oeople. 3' . ' Many archaeologist believe that humans from Asia entered North. America more than 11,000 years ago. As Ice Age glaciers absorbed Water: sea levels fell hundreds of feet and “Beringiw appeared in the far north, linking Asia to Alaska. Some of the oldest human sites in eastern Beringia can be found» above the firciic Circle, Where darkness lingers over the earth. Other scholars beiieve that humans followed the coastlines of Beringia by boat into the Americas—a route which does not pass through the Arctic: Circle. Climatologisis believe that the ice Ages were swept by Windstorms of much greater power than preseneday hurricanes and tornadoes, and in one Lndian tradition, the first people Were created in the heavens and placed on earth by tornadoes. Other iridian stories say that the climate underwent a swift change when the animals (who reigned over the earth) caused summer to appear. Paleoclirnatologists have found that a very such den global warming event may have occurred 11,700 years ago at the end of the Ice Age. This date coincides with the earliest accepted archaeologi— cal evidence for the presence of humans in Alaska. Many Native American oral traditions refer to the existence of clan- gerous "monsters" and giant animals in ancient times, and other stories are set in a period when animais and birds ruled the world. Paleontologists describe ice Age America. as a realm dominated by giant animals, or I "megafauna,” Marnn'ioths, mastodons, and giant sloths towered over Working Togorber: Native Americana and Archaeologists human hunters; and fearsome short-faced bears, great cats, and other crea— tures could have made the New World a dangerous place for unwary people. In mam,r Indian traditions, a great flood covered the earth in ancient times, and some stories associate this event with the end of the age of monsters. Traditions of a mighty deluge can be found in oral and written literatures from around the world. The end of the most recent Ice Age, some 12,000 years ago, could have involved cataclysmic flooding. As the glaciers slowly melted, for example, the sudden release of a massive ice sheet into the ocean would have brought worldwide flooding. The end of the Ice Age also coincides with the extinction of many species of inegafauna around the world. Tite'first Americans made artifacts and left sites wl'n'ch archaeolo— gists can study for insights into the distant past. The ancient ancestors of modern Native Americans also created verbal documents about their expe- riences, and successive generations of Indians heard these stories as accounts of actual, not fictional, historical events. If Native American ori~ gin traditions shed light on the life Ways of people who settled in North America during the last ice Age? then Indian litosatnre preserves a remark— able legacy of documents about ancient human history in the New “World. 5AA Bulletin, Septer‘nber 1993 Postscript Discovering a Partnership Ecology Uneasy coexistence seemed the best that one could hope for in relations between Native Americans and archaeologists during the 19805 and early 19905. The politics of polarization tended to defuse the character of engagement between these communities, and it endures as a real means of gathering and exercising the power to shape the surfaces of our world. In this confrontational environment, however, a vast interfacing of mutual interests has arisen beneath our feet like an unsuspected continent a new ecology of relationships. But many Indians and archaeologists still have little interest in knowing What this land holds. For Indians who once bonded with one another through a shared suspicion of culturally insensitive anthropologists, the second coming of Kennewick Man signifies confirmation of their continuing fears that the academic world bristles with plots to undermine an empowered Native America. For anthropologists who once bonded with one another through a shared suspicion of academically insensitive indians, the second coming of Kennewick Man signifies confirmation of their continuing fears that indian country bristles with plots to regalace science with religion, For anthrophoblc lndisns and NAGPRAphobic scholars, the world is, naturally enough, a polarized spot in the universe. W 6 Esploringztncie‘ntWorlds/Ecbowflawk sit-Wit“?Wwwmsekwwwwsmmwmmwewew—nmmmsw i=1 4 .. a. ‘ Eases-nmsrfii-wflwgwrvmgaemsvrsm7-1wrs}?:é§:§§5fifitz‘r?‘mtWififi‘fié'fiFf-‘r‘f‘m For the rest of us, the ends of the political earth offer fascinatino places to visit and read about} but the growth of a new partnership ecglo- gy during the 19965 has led us to discover a map of the world that fea- tures a vast geography floating somewhere between the poles. In. this place, we can share the intellectual journeys of such persons as Roger Anyon et a1. (1997‘), William Arbogast, Forrest D. Tierson, and Alden Naranjo (1996), Robert L. Hall (1997), Steve Helen and john Peterson (1995), Barbara Mann and Jerry Fields (1997), jam-3i Specter (1993) Lyon league (1993*), and many others who have contributed to the creation of a world in which Indians and archaeologists can inieract in interesting - conw structure ways. 3 , American archaeology has changed greatly in only a few shert years, prhnarily because most archaeologists simply have never seen themselves as anti—Indian, and most indians really are curious about archaeology. As for the twentywfirst century, 1 are willing to forecast that the continuing presence of naysayers to partnership will become more a reflection of tolerable mtellecmai diversiw than an indication of intolerant intellectual apartheid. The stormy climate of the 19803 can truly 'be said to have moved during the 19905 toward a kinder. gentler rain upon the world—e rain that promises to sustain us all in the next millennium. Working Togetbefl Native Americans and Archaeologists ...
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