“For the Welfare of the Whole People”: Heritage Stewardship in Indigenous and Black Communities
Local descendant communities and Indigenous nations continue to be at the center of heritage preservation efforts. While their methods are not always recognized by academic or governmental organizations, they employ innovative, culturally appropriate ways of caring for and keeping alive their heritage in all its manifestations. This panel is comprised of leading Indigenous and Black activists, scholars, and community organizers, providing a renewed focus on contemporary conservation practices, history telling, and ways of being in the world.
Erik Denson, Lead Instructor, Diving With a Purpose Maritime Archaeology Program
Frandelle Gerard, Executive Director, Crucian Heritage and Nature Tourism
Octavius Seowtewa (A:shiwi), Zuni Cultural Resources Advisory Team
Judy Dow (Winooski Abenaki), Executive Director, Gedakina
Reno Keoni Franklin (Kashia Band of Pomo Indians), Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe
>> DANILYN RUTHERFORD: Good afternoon everyone.
Welcome to another wonderful installment of this webinar series: “From the Margins to the Mainstream: Black and Indigenous Futures in Archaeology”.
My name is Danilyn Rutherford, and I am the president of the Wenner‑Gren Foundation. This series grew out of a collaboration involving the Society of Black Archaeologists, the Indigenous Archaeology Collective, the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, the Archaeology Centers Coalition, the Wenner‑Gren Foundation, and SAPIENS. Today’s discussion is made possible by the generous support of the Archaeological Research Facility at the University of California, Berkeley.
“’For the Welfare of the Whole People’: Heritage Stewardship in Indigenous and Black Communities” is the fifth conversation in our series. We’ll be keeping the momentum going in 2021, with webinars on archaeological epistemologies, Black and Indigenous futurities, and other pressing topics.
Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that I am attending this discussion from Santa Cruz, California, which is located on the unceded homelands of Awaswas‑speaking Uypi Tribe. The Amah Mutsen Tribal Band, comprised of the descendants of indigenous people taken to missions Santa Cruz and San Juan Bautista during Spanish colonization of the Central Coast, is today working hard to restore traditional stewardship practices on these lands and heal from historical trauma. I want to honor the ongoing connection of Amah Mutsen people, past and present, to these lands and waters and encourage you to investigate the indigenous histories and living communities connected to the places that you occupy.
Our moderator for today’s discussion is Reno Franklin, the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer of the Estom Yumeka Maidu Tribe. He is an enrolled member of the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians and has dedicated a majority of his life to his people. He served as Tribal Chairman from 2013‑2018, and as Chairman of the National Indian Health Board and the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation. In 2016, President Obama appointed him to the Advisory Council for Historic Preservation. A proud father, a dedicated son and a humble servant to his people, Chairman Franklin has taught his children the importance of speaking on behalf of those whose voice is forced to be silent and being prepared for the challenges that life will present.
Chairman Franklin is going to lead the conversation with our four distinguished panelists:
Erik Denson is a Board Member and Lead Instructor for the Diving with a Purpose Maritime Archaeology Program. His relationship with Diving with a Purpose dates back to its founding in 2004. Mr. Denson is co‑founder and President of DIVERSe Orlando, a National Association of Black Scuba Divers affiliate. Erik has been a certified diver since 1992. He is a Professional Association of Diving Instructors Divemaster and a member of the National Association of Black Scuba Divers Hall of Fame. He is an American Academy of Underwater Sciences – National Association of Black Scuba Divers Foundation Scientific Diver and a volunteer diver for the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration and the National Park Service. Mr. Denson also has a day job: he is the Chief Electrical Engineer for NASA at the Kennedy Space Center. Mr. Denson has a bachelor’s degree from Howard University and a master’s degree from the Polytechnic University of New York. He has been with NASA for over 30 years.
Judy Dow is an award‑winning Abenaki educator, with degrees in education and native studies and a Masters in Teaching for Social Justice. Ms. Dow has worked with students of all ages in countless places in North America. She is the Executive Director of Gedakina, a multigenerational network that works to strengthen and revitalize the cultural knowledge and identity of Native American youth and families from across New England, and to conserve their traditional homelands and places of historical, ecological and spiritual significance.
Frandelle Gerard is Executive Director of Crucian Heritage and Nature Tours. Prior to assuming this position, Ms. Gerard served as a Business Counselor with the University of the Virgin Islands Small Business Development Center on St. Croix. As an active member of the St. Croix Community, Ms. Gerard has spearheaded heritage restoration efforts and youth career development initiatives. Ms. Gerard has served on numerous boards and commissions and is a former advisor for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. And finally, Octavius Seowtewa is a member of the A:shiwi (Zuni) tribe in Zuni, New Mexico. He is a leader of the Galaxy (Clown Medicine) Fraternity and the Eagle Plume Down Medicine Society. Among his many other responsibilities, Mr. Seowtewa also leads the Zuni Cultural Resources Advisory Team. With his wife, Irma, he is also an award‑winning needlepoint turquoise artist.
Thanks to all of you for participating in the conversation today. Without further ado, I’d like to turn the floor over to our moderator, Chairman Franklin.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Great. Right as you did that, I hit the wrong button. Let me just make sure that you all can hear me. Testing again for sound. Yes. Thank you so much.
>> I can hear you.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: I appreciate that. (Speaking Kashaya) it’s both my privilege and my honor to moderate this session. Any day for me that I get to hang out with other tribal people, other like‑minded people, other oppressed people, is always a fun day for me and I think that during these pandemic times we need to cherish every moment we get to spend with each other. So I know that I’m grateful for you all making the time to be with us here today.
You know, as I was initially asked if I would do this, it was kind of, you know, I get a lot of similar requests, but this one of course was Sara Gonzalez asking me, and so she knows that I won’t say no, and so I agreed to it. Then I got a chance to look at some of the panelists, and this is also, this subject matter, is something that’s near and dear to my heart, what most people wouldn’t realize is that my time on the advisory council on historic preservation I started this off with all Obama appointees, such a diverse group of Latino, Asian, American Indian, African American people, and, you know, your everyday European white people as well, but all with a common thread, common goal, common ideology of preservation of not just historic places, but of our tribal places as well. And being a part of that for a number of years now and watching it all change on the current administration’s appointees has been interesting, to be one of the last ones that is still standing there. But also, you know, it makes the work just as meaningful. And fortunately, the folks that have been appointed have been really good about listening and being understanding, and we’ve won some pretty key votes on preservation. In fact, some that affect my Zuni brother that’s on this call and he and I will talk about that. My Taiwa friends are some of the best cookie makers and chili makers there are in the world. That being said, I serve with a gentleman named Bob Stanton on the advisory council and Doctor, Mr., you know, just general great guy Bob Stanton is the first African American to be the head of the National Park Service. He’s the only African American to be the head of the National Park Service. Bob brings with him a perspective, and isn’t that what we all need in our daily lives, in our professions, whether you’re on the good side of archaeology or on the not as good side of archaeology as it pertains to our tribal resources.
You know, he talked to me once about not being able to see the inside of his mom’s business where she worked at a diner until he was 17 years old. They weren’t allowed in there. And when he did finally get in to go see his mom at work, he had to use the colored person’s entrance and door. Having to be bussed 45 miles one way because the only school that would accept African Americans was that far away. So sitting with Bob and getting his perspective on American Indian culture and how the African American community sees it and then having these long discussions of, you know, what Frederick Douglass meant to the world, what his opinions were of American Indian people, and if you don’t know what they were, I’m not going to spoil t but I’m smiling out of politeness.
It forced me into a position of beginning to look more broadly at my own career path and how it intersects, and it led me to the tribe and their former Chairman Bob Jerry. Okay, now I’m back. Good. Are you still able to hear me? Yes. Thank you. So John Berry and the Quapaw tribe (Sounds like) they were doing a levy project and as a part of that levee project, they accidentally hit a slave cemetery, and in the process, they went through to identify and help look for relatives or help look for ancestors of those individuals, the respect that was given, the stopping of that project, because like we would expect those to do for us, we do for others. And I think it is a launching point for today’s discussion. We think about the good things that we’re able to do with, for, and as a part of our healing with each other, archaeology plays a very, very key part of that. It is something that we look to, to better understand each other and to tell our story and to help others understand our story. And I was excited to do this today. So I’m really pleased, really happy that you all are joining me. And I’m going to ask a series of questions. If you see me looking away, it’s because I’m looking at the questions on this because I’m afraid to touch my computer. So I’m going to go through the line, and just go through our panelists one by one. And our first panelist, Erik, who dives, and I’m a certified diver but apparently only if I go to Jamaica because I don’t think it’s an actual certification. So I’m not going to try and pretend that I’m as cool as you on this. But Erik, let’s start off with you. Can you describe a bit about the work you do and the organizations you do work for? And, you know, tell us a little bit about yourself that you would want us to know. Erik? The floor is yours.
>> ERIK DENSON: Well, I’ll start out just talking about Diving with a Purpose in general and what it is. Diving with purpose is a nonprofit organization, and we’re dedicated to the conservation, protection of submerged heritage resources and we provide education, training, certification and field experiences to adults and also youth in the fields of maritime archaeology and ocean conservation. We have a special focus of Diving with a Purpose, again, as protection, documentation and interpretation of African slave trade shipwrecks and maritime history of culture of African Americans, because they have contradicted a lot to maritime history, and it’s kind of a forgotten history.
So you see mostly maritime archaeology concentrates on kind of the sexy stuff, if you will, Spanish galleon, the Titanic, those sort of things. But there’s lots of stories and history to be told again through the slave trade and other activities that African Americans have contributed to.
And as I mentioned, we offer field schools, we offer field school for adults and also for youth, and we teach the basics of archaeology and also too shipwreck instruction, artifact identification, and putting that story together, too, because all of these shipwrecks and heritage sources, they tell a story, and those stories are really valuable to be told to the public, to our communities.
We also conduct missions worldwide, and we have done work in South Africa, Mozambique, Costa Rica, Mozambique Island and we’re continuing to do work worldwide. We also participate in coral restoration programs, and we started a new program called DWP Cares. It’s a collective approach to restoring our ecosystem.
I want to talk a little bit too how we got started. We started back, well, originally started as a volunteer program, partnership with members of the national Association of Black Scuba Divers and National Park Service to document shipwrecks in Biscayne National Park off the coast of Florida but really how it got started in 2003, many NABS members were asked to participate in a documentary called The Guerrero Project and this document was a search for the slave shipped Guerrero as told by the book by Swanson, and archaeologists view and opposing story of the Guerrero was interesting, slave ship that sunk off the coast of Key Largo and again we participated in that documentary and I mentioned that Brenda Lesendorf who is one of the stars of that documentary, she was the only archaeologist in the park and she needed help to document shipwrecks there. And so we started the program, Ken Stewart, who was the program Director, teamed up with her to start Diving with a Purpose. And the purpose was to, again, provide resources to document these historic sites, but also, too, to provide training to members of the national Association of Black Scuba Divers or DWP so we could actually search for this slave ship Guerrero and actually knew what we were doing once we got there, we were taught the techniques of underwater archaeology, mapping, documentation, and then also too, she wanted us to teach others. So that’s why we started this field school. It started out with only four people in that first year, and I was one of the first graduates, and every year now, we sell out, and we’ve taught over 500 people that have participated in the program. So it’s really a program that’s dear to my heart since I was one of the first participants in the program. And again, as I mentioned, we have grown leaps and bounds and have done work all over the world.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Wow. Erik, I will say, I’m a little jealous. I’ll be looking forward to seeing you on the National Geographic channel with your new TV show that is about educating our youth on what you do with this underwater archaeology and diving. That’s totally awesome.
>> ERIK DENSON: If you haven’t looked, we do have a Nat Geo segment on the web, called divers search for slave shipwrecks and it’s a very good piece done by National Geographic, so definitely check that out.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Yeah, I will, and a little cheating here, my son just finished up an internship with National Geographic for photography so I think I’m going to have to hook him up with you so we can do some underwater photography, that would be pretty cool.
>> ERIK DENSON: Yeah, yeah. On a personal note, diving, I’ve always loved diving, I’ve been diving since ’92, but when this program started I had been diving for I guess about 13 years or so. And as divers, we’re always looking to do more. And, you know, once this program started, it really changed my life, and it took me to a different path that I would never have thought getting involved with underwater archaeology and really becoming a steward of these historical maritime resources. And I love to spread the word, so I love to talk about the work we’re doing, and I think it’s important to share the stories.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Well, certainly my own grandfather, his name was Kenneth Maieve, was a member of the Union Pacific and did his first tour around the world in a wooden boat at 13 years old and definitely had some stories about shipwrecks he was a part of and actually in World War II his boat was sunk and he was a ‑‑ wasn’t a prisoner of war but he hid out in Italy for a year while waiting for our servicemen and women to take it back. So yeah, I mean, anything maritime for a lot of us I think it kind of perks our ears up. Props to you for being an African American male and doing that and really shedding some light and career paths that a lot of folks don’t realize that are out there, and some people would look at it and say, well, I mean, how much are you going to get out of that? And then all you had to do was say Spanish Dabloon and everybody’s ears are perking up. Thanks, Erik, I really appreciate that. Thank you for that opening, and I think next, if you are done, sir, then we would move on to Frandelle, and I would like to ask you the same question. You know, can you describe a little bit about the work you do and the organizations you do work for and maybe you want to tell us a little bit more about yourself, too?
>> FRANDELLE GERARD: Well, thank you. Good afternoon. I greet you from the island Ayeaye (sounds like), land all 86 square miles of it where over 125,000 enslaved Africans landed alive. The fourth great granddaughter of a woman named Quaseba who was my first maternal ancestor on my father’s side, who was enslaved in southern Ghana and brought to this island, and she was born in 1757, she died in 1857, at a time when the average enslaved person on this island lived for maybe seven to ten years. So my roots are deep on this island of St. Croix, and in honor of my mother who is a descendant of the Taichino (Sounds like) of Puerto Rico, deep in the region. The work that we do, at Crucian heritage and nation tourism, has evolved in the ten years that I’ve been involved. I was recruited initially to bring my business sense to the development of heritage and nature tourism as a sustainable tourism tour and also to engage people of the island in the tourism industry. For those of you who have had the pleasure of traveling to the Caribbean and some of you to the island of St. Croix, the hotels are not owned by Black people, the restaurants don’t serve local food, you can’t get a local drink unless you know a local person who is going to take you to the right restaurants. And we’re not running the dive shops, yet, and we’re just not visible in that industry.
So when I got involved, we had an opportunity, because cruise ships decided to come back to our island, to train tour guides and tour operators, and our decision was to do a very in depth dive into the history and the culture of the island. We did a four week, four days a week, for four hours a day training, and we reached over 30 people, and we thought it was important that the narrative be changed and that we tell the history from an authentic African Caribbean perspective, that we honor the history of the origin has been tenants of the island, and that we shift away from the colonial post‑Columbus story. So over the course of the ten years, we’ve trained, oh, I don’t know, 150 tour guides and tour operators, we provide tours for cruise ships, and we’ve trained a number of young people especially in providing eco hikes and tours, where the medicinal plants and the uses of the flora are included in the tours. And in 2017, I guess it was 2016, I was approached by a friend and collaborator who was Chairing one of our local Art museums, and we submitted an application to Artplace America for creative place making grant, and much to our surprise, they said yes. And then they said you’re going to be starting a school. And I wrote them back and I’m like, that’s not what we said in the application. Well, that’s sort of what’s been happening. Our focus was on reviving the traditional arts because the African people didn’t have access and were not allowed to express themselves artistically, where we see it to this day is in furniture and buildings and woodworking and ironwork. So we’ve spent the last four years developing a traditional building arts program where we are reaching young men and women who are marginalized and many of whom have been adjudicated and introducing them to the traditional building arts with the intention of having them become part of a construction team, really creating a cadre of trained young men and women, because in the midst of this and doing the grant application, there was a half a block of buildings a couple blocks from where I am now, and every time I pass, you know, they talk to me and they’re like help. And with the help of a historian, we very quickly identified that entire block of hospital street in the town of Frederiksted, the six particular properties that I was looking at, all but one were owned by free blacks in 1777. And we know their names. And we have the lineage of ownership, and what is so intriguing about just those buildings is how they go from free Black ownership to white ownership to free Black ownership over the course of 100 years. And that block by 1810 or so was anchored by five free African women who were landowners. And one of whom became one of the largest landowners in the free Black neighborhood, which is referred to as Freegut because it’s on a waterway, not gut because it’s intestinal. So we’ve been doing that work, sharing that story during the tourism thing, including it in the tourism thing. And, you know, in the course of the work, had the privilege of working with the Society of Black Archaeologists, Diving with a Purpose, and a number of national and international organizations as we build out the training, build out the story, build what’s becoming an archive, and begin interpreting that place. We’re privileged to have had Gabrielle Miller, who is in the audience, do an initial dig on the property, one of the properties at number 38 Hospital Street, and what’s wonderful about that place is the buildings that are standing probably go back to about 1805, but because of the way it’s constructed, no mechanization has ever gone in to the land. So she had a lot of fun and a lot of interesting things came out of the ground. So we’re sort of doing a full circle restoration, anti‑gentrification, pro‑culture heritage initiative.
(Pause) you’re muted, Reno.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Oh, no, I just didn’t want to interrupt you. I was just saying wow. Listening to everything you’re saying, and there’s this thing, there’s a gentleman named Vince Deloria, Junior, and he wrote a book called God is Red and Custer Died for Your Sins, more importantly, he was a pivotal part of the 638 self‑governance process of tribes. And he talks about two different types of ownership of the land and the need for American Indian tribes to reconcile the two.
The first one is the spiritual ownership of the land. The second one is the political ownership of the land. And, you know, tribes will always be the spiritual owners of the land. Anybody else that isn’t will always be those political sides. But very often we see collaborations between the two, more now than before, to where, you know, in some cases people gain access, or what you’re doing, helping to interpret the spiritual ownership and helping to tell that story of what the spiritual ownership looks like. And I applaud you because you are finding a way to merge those two, the political and the spiritual ownership of land. And, you know, I think that now more than ever with climate change affecting our weather patterns and these extreme weather, that if we don’t get those things documented and don’t have that understanding, we serve, you know, potentially we’re not serving those stories, those women who first owned those properties. How amazing is that? What an honor now to get to work there, work on projects like that and tell those stories.
I know that somebody has to, and in the Indian way in Kashaya we would say those houses speak to you, those stories spoke to you, in the same way they speak to all of us and they ask and they choose very wisely who it is they want to tell their story so, so good to hear that working done in the beautiful island of St. Croix and the beautiful area of the Caribbean, what an amazing story. Thank you for that.
>> FRANDELLE GERARD: Well, thank you.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: If you are done, Frandelle, I’m going on switch over to Octavius and give him an opportunity to talk a little bit about, Octavius, talk about yourself and maybe let us know what your work has been about and how you got into this. I have quite a few friends that are from your Pueblo, Octavius, and so, you know, I always like to tell the story of my first time going to New Mexico, and no disrespect, but all I had ever seen, being an Indian boy growing on my rez, which was very remote, is Bugs Bunny door toons and taking a wrong turn in New Mexico, first time to the dessert, 22 years old, short off being a firefighter, show up in shorts and tank tops thinking I was going to the desert in December and got snowed on the entire time and almost caught the death of me being in the cold and learned very quickly at that point New Mexico is not only a beautiful state, it’s diverse and I have gone back numerous times to spend time with cultural leaders, you know, as Chair of the national Indian health board to meet with the all‑Indian Pueblo council which has now changed their name, and I have an adopted family, in Akima that I go up and visit up in Sky City. So I truly respect your culture, and I learned the hard way that green chili is actually hotter than red chili. So Octavius, if you wouldn’t mind talking a little bit about yourself and explaining what got you into this role and how you’re doing it. Thank you.
I see you fighting with the mute button. There you go, we can hear you.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: Yes, I’m the supervisor for the advisory team that consists of eight different religious hierarchy from the Zuni tribe, and so I became a medicine man first for the tribe, and I’m the leader and a member of ‑‑ once I became a member of the medicine societies, I was given an opportunity to sit in with the elders for the advisory team, and I was the youngest member at that time. I didn’t know what I got myself into at that time, but I’m very grateful to the people that actually invited me to be a participant and be a member of the advisory team.
So with that, I started working for the tribe through cultural issues within the tribe and also the Federal Government Park Service, state governments, so one big thing in my life was going down the Colorado River, and being there, being known that that is where my people, the Zuni A:Shiwi people emerged from the Grand Canyon, that I started really taking a big interest and found a lot of information that our ancestors left behind. And I was really looking for a way to get that information to my Zuni people, not only the Zuni people, but also to the Park Service, because when we first started working with the park, it was their understanding that we were too far from the Grand Canyon to be a part of it. But with a lot of the information coming from the ancestors themselves, leaving information, in 2016, got funding to do a video, I don’t know if you can see me, it looks like I’m not ‑‑ okay. With this first one, what it says here is (Speaking in Zuni). Which means in English then, now and forever, Zuni in the Grand Canyon. So with that, a lot of information started going out to not only the Park Service but a lot of people that were interested in learning about Zuni. And getting that information to my Zuni people here really opened their eyes and really started supporting the work that I’m doing for the tribe. And with that, four‑part series, Native America by PBS was made in 2018. That also showed me working with PBS on the Grand Canyon. But I also did some videos with Patagonia, National Geographic, New York Times, the Patagonia video and New York Times were both for the Bears Ears, the new national monument. So a lot of that work was just informing the people about what our ancestors left behind. Ancestral sites, petroglyphs, pictographs, shrines and trails, really wanting me to put the Zuni information out there, not coming from any other person but myself, because all the information out there was done by non‑Zunis, and when you start reading that information, some of it didn’t make sense. So I wanted to be the one to do that. And with that, I did a project with Marion Hopkins and we did sacred trails (Speaking in Zuni) and this was the book that came out called the continuous trail, continuous path, through studies in anthropology and this is Pueblo movement and the archaeology of becoming. That came out and was really an eye opener to work with a lot of archaeologists and Native people, and being a part of that group started opening up the eyes of ethnographers, archaeologists, and having that information coming from the people themselves started a movement, and this is the Pueblo movement and the archaeology of becoming.
The main thing is this book here ‑‑ in the Zuni world. (Distorted audio) and not through the eyes of the Native people themselves, but we didn’t see the boundaries, the issues with people not giving us permission to go to all of these sacred places. So we wanted to put that information out, and this book was done by artists that some of them are really well‑known and some of them are up and coming artists, but they are a part of this book. It has information about Zuni lands. It has information about trails. It has information about all the places that our Zuni people have mentioned through the teaching of oral history.
So I’ve been working with different people, trying to get that information out to let people know that, you know, Zuni is an isolated language, and we’re also very isolated from all the other Pueblo people, but just because we’re here in New Mexico within our own small reservation doesn’t mean that we have a big history within the Southwest, the entire Southwest. So it kept me busy being away from family working through all these different places, but I’m really satisfied with the information that has been put out on the Zuni people. And that’s my main work. I wanted the rest of the world to know about Zuni history and coming from a Zuni individual that acquired all this information from elders through oral teachings. So I’m glad to be a part of this webinar, and hopefully put more information out there who the Zuni people are. Thank you.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: I appreciate you saving that with us, Octavius, and educating me. In Kashia we have one of our cultural laws like you we have a lot of cultural laws that we have to do things in a certain way, in a good way and one of the laws we are taught is that no one can define for Kashia what is sacred, only Kashia, and only for Kashia will never define for another tribe what is sacred for them. That’s real serious stuff that you speak of and I think it certainly isn’t lost on me. I think that the more that we get these professions that become ‑‑ have positions to where they can affect those things that are special to us, the more we can explain to them that only we can interpret those things, as it’s great to hear that you all, and no surprise, that you all are championing that as well.
And to have a career built on interpreting your own story, it’s a thing of beauty, a true thing of beauty. So much respect to you, sir. Thank you for sharing that with us and sharing your books as well. I have yet to get into a National Geographic video. I imagine that I will someday, but I don’t think it will be anything as cool as what you two or three have done so far. I’ll keep working on it.
We’re going on switch over to Judy, and I wanted to make sure, Judy, are you here with us? I knew there was a little bit of challenge getting you signed in a few minutes ago.
>> JUDY DOW: I am. We’re having a snowstorm.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Oh, terrific. I always joke around, this is a total joke, so don’t get offended, but you can always tell to the Indian people are on the call because typically we have the worst WiFi, just depending on how far our reservations are. So yeah. Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us, and the question is just maybe if you can describe to us a little bit about the work you do and the organization that you work for or have started and a little bit about yourself. Thank you.
>> JUDY DOW: Sure. I am Abenaki, and some people say Abenaki. The original word is Wabenaki, Waben is white, aki is land, it’s the people from the white land or dawn land, Dutch had a lot of settlements along the Hudson work down into New York and they pronounce the word at ah‑benaki and English pronounced it as Abenaki. The French had no sound for W so Wabenaki became Abenaki. If you hear me say Abenaki, the most common word you heard probably was Abenaki. The name of our organization is called Gedakina and it means our world, a way of life. It was originally founded in 2002 by our Executive Director who became ill four years ago, and I was on the board for 12 years, and so I was asked to step into this position. We’ve been following pretty much the road map that has been originally set up. We work to help the women and youth that we work with to self‑determine and to develop leadership skills, and a lot of our focus is on food security and cultural revitalization, as well as early reader literacy.
So what we’ve discovered is a lot of our children who were getting bullied was mostly because the teachers didn’t have appropriate literature to help them understand that there was even bullying going on.
So we’ve started one shelf project where we are giving away the staff choose two institutions each year, and we send a set of 50 books that we have reviewed for historical accuracy and cultural appropriateness, and we send this one shelf of books off to libraries and prisons and various institutions to help ultimately to educate others that will help indirectly our children. We’ve always worked with food insecurity, and when COVID‑19 hit us, we had some major problems to deal with. We have five sweet grass groups, groups throughout New England that help with our families and our culture to help reclaim culture and knowledge and traditional ecological knowledge, and most of these people are enrolled members who do not live on a reservation. And if you live 25 miles away from the reservation you’re enrolled in, any support, financial support that the tribe would get does not go to those people living 25 miles away. So our focus has been since April to help these people with food and heat and rent and computers for children for school, all kinds of things, WiFi.
What we’ve discovered during this period of time is there’s disconnect between the youth and the elders. So we’ve been working to make that happen, to have them call each other, have tea and cookies, and share a conversation on the phone with an elder who might be lonely and a youth who might be rambunctious because he’s got to sit in the house and do a Zoom call for school all day long. So a lot of our programs, as I said, hams to do with food security. We’ve been maintaining gardens where we practice seed saving and reclaiming old techniques of agriculture and pest control. So this year, we ramped it up, and we have about five acres of gardens, and we grew a lot of root plants, squash and beats and carrots and potato because we were giving the families food throughout the summer, like tomatoes and cucumbers and peppers and things, but we knew we were going to have to have help through the winter. So we started saving about 2,000 pounds of root plants that we grew all by hand and watered by hand, everything, no technology involved. And we grew a lot of medicinal plants to help people. We taught our children how to harvest elderberries and strawberries and blueberries and apples and all these different things, and we’ve been running gristmills to grind the corn into cornmeal, and we’ve been teaching canning lessons, and we bought several freezers, and just this September, we started with agreements with hunters and good fishermen, and we’ve started a sustainable program for over 50 families where we give them fresh venison, duck or fish along with our fruit and vegetables that we have preserved over the fall, the course of the summer and the fall. So we’ve been able to help a lot of these families who would have nothing. And that’s been really rewarding. Everybody who works for Gedakina feels really good when we can help these people with basic necessities. So in the process of doing this, we’ve reclaimed a lot of traditional techniques that had been lost over time and been able to get some of them from the elder and youth communications that have been happening. So it’s been a full circle thing that has been so rewarding to us. We have another branch of educational programs in which we help the staff and the members of our groups to learn about leadership skills, learn about how to identify domestic violence, how to seek help, and there’s another thing we’ve been addressing a lot, which was pretty dominant in New England, was eugenics, from the 20s and 30s, in which many, many people were sterilized or institutionalized. So that historical trauma lies in their minds today. Especially with the way the politics of the time has been going, we have a weekly conference call where we talk about various things, and people were actually afraid of being scalped again. So we support each other this our conversations. We talk about what we might do to counter whatever is happening within each community, and we do a lot of research on things like the eugenics programs in our states to understand how this historical trauma has impacted the people that are living through this, and then we help to correct the direction that people’s mind sets are in. So we’re busy.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: You’re definitely busy. And you definitely have made me hungry. It’s like, what time is it? It’s 1:50 out here. I don’t know about where you’re at. But man, what great work. And the pandemic has just been so horrible, you know. We’re losing our Native speakers, and that I think is the most alarming thing is the number of our elders that are passing, and certainly here in northern California, we had a span for our neighboring tribes where they lost elders daily. And it was just heartbreaking to watch, you know, and the hope that the group of people who came out of underneath these rocks that were ‑‑ I was happy with them being under there, by the way, you know, just keep your little racist opinions to yourself, but they have been clearly enabled and felt that they now had a platform at the highest position in the land to inflict foolishness upon all of us. So I think that we can all learn a lot from the programs that each other are doing to empower our youth, to empower our elders, and not just in Native communities either. I mean, that expands to all communities, but in particular, you know, people who are oppressed or vulnerable in that way. So hats off to you. What an amazing, amazing program that you’re running out there. Congrats.
>> JUDY DOW: Thank you. It’s been so rewarding to talk to the elders and reclaim these stories of isolation from the very early pandemics that we received here, and then find out it’s relatively easy to protect yourself. The word is isolation, you know.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Yeah. I get it. Where exactly are you located at? What area? Are you in western New York or further up?
>> JUDY DOW: I’m in northern Vermont, just a little bit of a ride from the Canadian border.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Great. We’ll talk of maple syrup in Vermont. I’m okay with that. I’ve had the privilege of being on Oneida while they were doing their maple syrup, and I didn’t realize they were trying to trap me there because who leaves that stuff, it’s so tasty. But awesome. And I appreciate the work, I appreciate what you’re doing.
Let’s get on to the rest of our questions, too, folks. I see Erik is just so patient waiting as all divers are more patient people than others. So Erik, let’s get you up here and let’s talk a little bit about what was the deciding moment when you knew it was necessary to start or join an organization and to do the heritage work that you’re doing? Let me tell the rest of you, you’re up next. Erik is the first one lucky enough to answer the question. Start us off, Erik, you have the floor.
>> ERIK DENSON: Like I mentioned earlier, I participated in the documentary called A Search for the Guerrero, and at that point in time, again, DWP was established. And at that point in time, again, I mentioned that I was diving for some time, but I wanted to do more, and when Diving with a Purpose opened its doors, I was one of the first ones who signed up to it. And again, I was always interested in archaeology, but this took it a step further. So at that point, too, that’s when he knew I wanted to do more, too. And over the time, I had realized the importance of our work and the importance has increased dramatically. And I have celled my outreach efforts too. And again, our motto is restoring our oceans, preserving our heritage. And the DWP Maritime Archaeology Program allows me to do just that and preserve our heritage.
So what I mean about preserving our heritage, I mean it in physical and also a spiritual manner. We document shipwrecks physically, but telling the story is most profound, and that makes it spiritual to me. So as I’ve gone through this journey, we start out again just documenting shipwrecks, but I realize these shipwrecks had stories to tell, and it was very, very important to me. So again, as I’ve grown through this program, my interests and how I get involved has really grown and progressed.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Thank you for that. I know that my own career path started as a firefighter, and that was a lot of fun, maybe too much fun, I got beat up from it, and still if somebody had told me, hey, all the little nicks and dings that you do to your body when you’re in your 20s and teenagers, playing football and fighting fire, you’re going on pay the price for that once you turn 45, it all goes sharply downhill from that point and every little nick in your knees and shoulders shows up in pain. After I came back and worked for tribe, winery bull dozed the whole damn thing into the creek, heritage site, into the creek and thought that was a good thing to do and our Chairman said hey I could use a little help here, that was my turning point, I never looked back, the rest is what the, I can respect that and I totally get it, I’m curious to hear from you, Frandelle, when was your tipping point, so to speak, in the words of Malcolm Gladwell? At what point did you realize this was time to get engaged and start to do the work that you do?
>> FRANDELLE GERARD: Ah, thanks for the question. I guess I had always been engaged. Mostly serving as a member of a board of organizations, you know, one of the things that I did, it’s been a while, but as a member of the board of the St. Croix foundation for community development, we spearheaded the acquisition and reclamation of properties and telling the history. So I think I’ve always been involved, but this opportunity, a woman whose father had mentored me, my father had mentored him, and I had mentored her, recruited me. And they made me, you know, an offer that sounded really exciting. And like most nonprofits, you get in and then you really look at the numbers, and it’s like, okay, got to go fundraise. And then witnessing the continuing degradation of the built environment in our historic towns, our towns are national historic towns, which creates barriers for local owners to restore their buildings because suddenly your costs have gone through the roof. I mean, a big piece of our training program and our Art place programming was around the actual restoration of four buildings, and our original budget for the one, number 38 Hospital Street, it’s still the one we’re going to start with, we figured was about $120,000.
Well, after you get hit by two Category 4 ‑‑ actually, Category 4 and a Category 5 hurricane, and the rest of, you know, parts of America get hit, the cost of construction goes through the roof, and we’re now at 365,000 for the restoration of what right now is a 400 square foot building, a 600 square foot building, and then the restoration of an old oven and putting in a couple of bathrooms and, you know, meeting ADA requirements.
So it’s that opportunity to get involved, change the narrative. And I think more importantly for me, it’s really preserving the voices of the elders because like many communities, we call our elders culture bearers, and we’ve lost so many in the last year or two, and we’re very fortunate to have begun recording them, because our tradition, a lot of it is oral. So it’s being able to then pull young people in to that process and introduce the young people and educate them because we’re a colony, we are a possession of the United States. We don’t have agency around our political system. But in keeping and promoting and building on our cultural heritage, and that’s really important given the onslaught of the Americanization and westernization of our culture over the last ‑‑ well, with the add vented of cable TV, really, that was the turning point. So yeah. So it’s a lot of work and a lot of fun.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Yeah, I can see why you would want to do it. I know that one of the problems we have at the Advisory Council of Historic Preservation is we’ve been working for some years now with the Historic Black Colleges and Universities to get more African Americans into the field architecture and more in our part of that as architectural historians. What we started off with I want to say six students who did the initial internship, it quickly grew to double digits and more than 40. And prepandemic, it was ready to include four to six of the HBCUs, you know, wanting to raise, wanting to get more people involved, people of color, and specifically outreaching African American people. And wanting to get ‑‑ you know, less than five percent of architects are African American and less than one percent are African American females so really trying to bridge some gaps there. So I think everybody has those catalyst moments that push us to where some get nudged. He know a lot of people get pushed. Some of us willing, some not willing. But we all get into these careers that we’re doing and take these paths. I love hearing your story, and we’re definitely going to come back to you for more questions. Octavius, good afternoon again, sir. You are up. And maybe you can tell us a little bit about yourself when you had that moment that it was time to start doing the work that you do and go down the path that you have chosen to go down, the very honorable path. Octavius, the floor is yours, sir.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: There we go. I think it was just a little bit of a mute thing, sir. Double‑check that. It could be me, but I see you, I just don’t hear you yet.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: Okay. Can you hear me now?
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Yes. Yes.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: Okay. Yeah. I had dogs barking, so I muted myself. It started for me when I read all the books that were done by Bonsal, Cox Stevenson and Cushing and I only read about a quarter of the way before I realized that these books were a lot on assumption of who the Zuni people are. So I thought, how could they write about the Zuni people without living our lives? So I wanted to make sure that whoever wanted to hear and learn about the Zuni would listen and hear it coming from a Zuni person. And a lot of that information was given, passed on from generation to generation, oral history. And a lot of that information came from elders that were a part of the religion societies. I joined them at a young age, and listened, learned, and a lot of that information coming from those books, like I said, were assumptions. They were here for a short time, and here they were writing books like they were part of the Zuni history and culture.
So just doing a lot of things, trying to learn from my elders, and then using that information to counter what was written about us. So I know it’s a big undertaking, a big project, but because a lot of those books are still being used by universities, and that information should change and hopefully coming from the tribal members themselves should hopefully not turn people around about Zuni information but make them realize that we are a unique tribe, and we’re trying told want Beth we can, and I agree that this COVID ‑‑ the best that we can, and I agree that this COVID pandemic really did a lot of damage on our elders and religious leaders. We lost quite a few of the knowledge keepers of Zuni and some of that information I hope was passed on because we’ve lost a lot of information by the loss of elders, and hopefully that information will not disappear, and work with my fellow religions leaders being advisory team, we’re trying to make sure that that information is either recorded or put down, that we will never lose that part of our history. Thank you.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: It’s a very prolific statement there, and, you know, I think that all of us, we share in your concern and your pain as well. The statement of I hope that it’s written down and I hope that it’s been preserved speaks to the difference with tribal culture and histories and that not everyone is privy to that information, not everyone is supposed to know it, not everybody is supposed to be a part of it. There are ways that we hand those things down, and I know that I thought the same thing when some of the elders that we have lost in not only my own tribe but our neighbor tribe as well. So we’ll keep you and your people in my prayers, sir, and thank you for sharing that with us, thank you for sharing those inspirational things that we all experience that push us over the edge to it’s time to do it, in the words of Mr. Lewis, it’s time to get in good trouble.
Judy, can you talk to us about the good trouble moment that you had? What made you decide to then switch over to probably just getting many plain old trouble to getting into good trouble on behalf of your people and helping with this heritage preservation? Judy?
>> JUDY DOW: I have done a lot of good trouble. I have been an elementary school teacher for decades, and as I said before, I was on the board of Gedakina for twelve years and then our Executive Director got ill. So as an educator, I participated in many Gedakina events teaching about traditional ecological knowledge, eugenics, all kinds of things that I had written about and done research on. So it was at that point where the board had to decide do we dissolve or do we jump in and take over the organization until we can get an Executive Director, when I realized how important the work Gedakina was doing and how it was impacting our children and our elders both. So that was the exact moment. It was at a board meeting and people were crying, what do we do, we do such good work, we’ve got to make it work. So that was the exact moment when I realized the work that I had been just on the sidelines of before, I now was intimately thrown into the bowl to be mixed up with everybody else. And it’s worked out fine. We’re doing great. And it’s just such a good way to teach about relationships and responsibilities and all those other R’s that we always talk about, reciprocity, it’s such a great way to interact with people and get those values out there.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Yeah. Reciprocity is such an important thing, I think that every not just Native person but the non‑Native people as well, and that’s a whole different subject, though, isn’t it? So congratulations on getting in good trouble, by the way.
>> JUDY DOW: Thank you.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Let’s stay here with you, Judy, and while we’ve got the ol’ brain juices thinking now, we’ll get you this next question.
>> JUDY DOW: Okay.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: This one is, as a heritage steward and cultural practitioner, how would you describe the relationships you’ve had with archaeology or historic preservation, and what kinds of tensions have there been? How have these changed? And what role do you see yourself in these relationships and how you grow them in the future with historic preservation or archaeology?
>> JUDY DOW: Well, my daughter lives next‑door to me, and she’s an archaeologist, and as she was going through college and I would see her papers she wrote and stuff, I would say, Jessica, you know that’s not true. Why are you saying that? And she would say, I’m going to the University of Vermont, not the University of Judy Dow. This is what they want to hear, so that I can pass. And I was like, oh, God, help me, right?
So it was at that point I decided, well, if she’s not going to do it, I’m going to do it. So before I got into working for Gedakina, the good trouble that I got into was name changing and protecting the land. So a lot of the people who the college had buildings named after eugenicist, Vermont had their book award named after eugenecist, all these things were going on and I had had enough of it, so I did the research, I appeared at committee meetings with piles of books and documentation, and I fought the good battle to get these names changed. So I have brought that kind of stewardship directly into Gedakina. So some of the youth we work with are now doing their own research to get names changed and things to happen like that.
But also involved in that, with these gardens, we’ve been able to do a lot of reclaiming of traditional ecological knowledge, and that’s been so amazing for us to have a common good to work towards that has helped our people immensely. So we have dug into that, and we kind of use the saying that the stewardess says when she says put on your oxygen mask first before you help the kids sitting next to you. So we use that metaphor for our staff, you know, let’s have some training, let’s learn about this, let’s do some research, and we’ll put our oxygen mask on and help the families we work with. So that approach has been worthwhile for us and has worked because it helps to create interest at all levels.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Awesome. I love that metaphor, by the way. Yeah, that’s good. That’s really good. I might have to steal that, so I apologize in advance if you hear me say that on another call someday. Erik, let’s jump over to you. You’ve been waiting patiently, sir. Once again, I’ll pick on the diving thing and say all divers are very patient. I probably should have told you that my uncle taught diving school in Marina, California, for the military base that is there and also taught it, funny enough, during World War II and of all places in Alaska. I didn’t know they did a lot of diving up there until he told me about it. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about, you know, as doing what you do and being a steward of our heritage and historic preservation, cultural practitioner, you know, how would you describe the relationship you have with archaeology? And what kinds of tensions have you experienced? Have you experienced any? I imagine there’s probably some little conflicts here and there or some great ones that are fun to deal with. Maybe you could talk to us a little bit about that and the roles that you have and the relationships you’ve developed through that career.
>> ERIK DENSON: Thank you. We have developed, Diving with a Purpose has developed quite a few relationships. Some of our main ones are with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, National Park Service, we also have what we call a slave wrecks project and that’s in collaboration with George Washington University and the Smithsonian, and we have a lot of strategic partners that we have done work with. Typically when we do our work, we do work with principal investigators, from those different organizations, they help us identify various wrecks or sites or maritime things of interest that we would document, so we have a good working relationship with archaeologists.
That being said, there’s always some conflict, too, with potential salvages, if you will so there’s always some of that contention too as well. So there’s always a fine line between archaeology, if you will, and also too telling that story, again, of the artifacts and there’s always a discussion bringing up artifacts and what do you do with them. But we have a Code of Ethics that we have with our Diving with a Purpose that guides our principles and how we deal with artifacts and archaeology in general. So we have a great working relationship again with archaeologists and the work that we do. So that’s it.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Thank you. Thank you. Yeah, it seems like right away, I think that was something I was thinking about too, how do you handle, you know, the stuff that people find and maritime law is what it is, especially if it’s underneath and depending on what kind of borders and all that kind of foolishness.
>> ERIK DENSON: Right. We have guiding principles that, you know, we have developed as part of our organization, and we abide by those. And you have to respect the sites because some of the sites that we do could be graveyards, if you will. So you have to treat them as such. And these artifacts too, though, sometimes archaeologists, to be honest, they just want to leave things in place and don’t touch and just write a paper about it. But these things tell a compelling story, and so sometimes we need to raise those artifacts again, we treat them, we preserve them, conserve them, but also too it’s a good way to educate the public. Sometimes these shipwrecks or these artifacts, they’re not doing very good if they just stay in one place or in a warehouse somewhere, you know. So we’re big into telling the story, educating the public, getting the community involved.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: One of the neat things about here is off Marin County’s coast we have a lot of those artifacts that wash up from the early explorers and Drake and his crew that came through and a lot of the china that washes up and it’s always interesting to see how Indian people would take that stuff from the shipwreck and repurpose it into Indian uses. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen was a case where one of our traditional games was adopted into that. So thank you for that light into what it is that you do and how you do it and your experience with archaeology.
Octavius, I would like to kind of just go right over to you and hear a little bit about your experience with archaeology and any of the challenges that you’ve had. And maybe you could talk a little bit too about how things have gotten better, and I’m assuming they have, and I certainly hope they have, but if they haven’t, maybe tell us about that as well. Octavius? Can’t quite hear you yet. Maybe there’s dogs barking in the background again?
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: Yes, I turned it off. Anyway, past archaeologists gave our people all these different names, paleo, archaic, basket makers, solado, then changed are the ancestral to Anasazi, Pueblo are the same people that were around a long time ago and we want people to especially archaeologists to start realizing if you go to a Pueblo community and ask a young person if they can take you to a kiva, the young person will take you to a kiva. If you ask an elderly person in one of these Pueblos if they know where the plaza is, they’ll take you to a plaza because we all have the same shared culture that we still use today.
And I think our archaeologists now, especially the young archaeologists that are coming through, they’re actually listening and not being so biased or not trying to force their teachings on us because I think now archaeologists are listening to us, and they’re learning from us.
A good example is that we, the Puebloan people have changed from Anasazi to ancestral Pueblo, which includes all of us, the Puebloan people of the communities, from Hopi to Zuni all the way to the Rio Grande and with working with archaeologists they’re now listening and wanting to know how these people survived, how these people lived, and then coming to a conclusion that these people didn’t change. We just moved onto our different places of destination. For Zuni it was the middle place. For Hopi it was the center of the universe. We all had different places that were given when we emerged from all these different places. But during the migrations, we did have a chance to meet these different people and learn from each other, and we’re still using the same practices, and our way of life and our culture hasn’t changed. We just moved on to different places. That’s what we want archaeologists to understand, that these people didn’t disappear, they didn’t abandon these places, we still go to these places and leave offerings and shrines, so we still have that living connection with all of these sites that were once called abandoned, and I think the young archaeologists now are listening to us and they’re taking some of those words out and making their reports like abandoned and we don’t want to use the word ruin. It should be ancestral site. And I think they’re in the process of changing that type of information. I’m really looking forward to working with these young archaeologists because they’re fresh out of school, they’ve got their doctorate and they want to learn. And these are the people that will be out there putting information about our people, not just the Zuni people, but the rest. Puebloan people and I’m glad that it’s changing because that’s what we needed.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: It brings to mind a memory that I have of when we talked about oral histories and, you know, references to Kashia stories as being fables, and that was one of the first lessons that I got from my elders when it came to archaeology and ethnography was that they’re historic accounts and they need to be viewed as that and I need to change my view and not let them influence my own personal world view of my culture to downplay that as a fable or story. It’s a historical account, it needs to be told that way. So Kashia is really strict about that. Sara will tell you she’s gotten lectures, many of the same ones that I have on that exact subject.
So Octavius, thank you for sharing that for us. Frandelle, let’s get over to you and hear about how your experiences with St. Croix or any of the islands that you probably get to puddle jump to, and I imagine that’s a lot of fun, maybe you can share with us a little bit about your experiences with archaeology and share a little bit of the good and the bad and hopefully like you just heard, there’s been some changes, things have gotten a little better. So Frandelle, the floor is yours.
>> FRANDELLE GERARD: Well, thank you. My experience with archaeology has been mixed. In 1917, the United States bought the Danish West Indies, and in 1927, Danish archaeologists came to St. Croix and excavated one of the largest intact Taino metates, the ritual, they call it a ball field, but it’s a ritual site, from a site that’s now a National Park and Virgin Islands park, it’s also where Christopher Columbus got shot at by the Taino people. Yeah. And he packed it up and crated it and took it back to Denmark. And today, those metate stones sit in the bottom of the Danish archives, and we have no authority to demand them back. It has to come from the United States. Government to government. Right?
And throughout our time here, what one of the challenges we have is, you know, from arrowheads to something we call chaney which is bits of pottery and porcelain that kind of comes up out of the ground whenever it rains, or people find it in the ocean, are being collected and taken ‑‑ sorry about that ‑‑ being collected and taken, and our government has collected, you know, lots of artifacts. And there’s no place for them. So they sit in a warehouse unprotected, including the bones of our ancestors that have either been washed up because of a flood or unearthed because of some development. And although we have a state archaeologist, we have no ‑‑ we’re just beginning to get people’s attention to understand the importance of having a proper place to honor and store and display and interpret the archeological finds, as they say. But we have to have a place so that we can reclaim that which is Denmark or in the United States, and in our case with the small dig that was done on our site was the University of Tulsa and Gabrielle Miller, the University of Tulsa is the custodian of everything that came out of that ground until we develop a proper place where we can exhibit it and store it. So that’s one of the challenges. And then on the historic preservation side we have a real challenge because a lot of Black Virgin Islanders do not believe in preserving the relics of the slave owners. And, you know, people come to these islands, St. Croix has over 120 standing mills that were built during the heyday of sugar, and they’ve been quite romanticized. But when we tell the story, they’re places of death and extreme injury, and they’re places that created the white golds of sugar on the backs of the enslavement of men and women. So we’re retelling those stories but one of the things at that we understand is there wasn’t a Danish construction crew, there wasn’t a Danish engineering crew, there wasn’t a Danish even design crew. When you look at our buildings, these were engineered, built, and many designed by Africans.
So it’s getting historic preservation to go from that, you know, Danish colonial language to understanding the importance of the craftsmen and the artisans and the designers that were not European. They were Black. They were Africans. They came here as engineers. They came here as master builders. Life did not start when you got off the slave ship. You know, these are men and women who come from rich architectural design cultures.
So getting our historic preservation initiatives and the people involved to understand that preservation and our community that preserving a lot of our historic sites is about preserve being the work of our ancestors and honoring their work. So that’s part of the reeducation, I think, that’s ongoing.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Well, thank you for that. You know, certainly preservation starts with interpretation and that being like, to use my fire vernacular, your anchor point. You want to anchor your fireline somewhere where it’s not going to come around behind you, otherwise all of your work is easily undone.
And to speak to having been to the Caribbean myself and one of the first things I noticed was some of the slave houses that still exist. And certainly they do here in the states as well. But it made me instantly think about the plight of American Indians and, you know, in particular, Lackflamboy (sounds like) tribe up in Minnesota or is it Wisconsin, if any of them are listening they’ll hate me, we’ll go with those Great Lakes states, they still have one of the boarding schools on their reservation and burials were outside of it and those boarding schools were horrible places of rape and genocide that were inflicted upon our children because the cowardly acts of the unethical people who ran our country at that time decided to go after our kids, kill the Indian, save the man, and that model of the board boarding school system. At the same time Lockheed flambeau rather than tear that school down rehabbed it and make sure that people know that this is a part of our history, that that’s right, this happened, we’re not going to erase these horrible things that were done. So it’s a double‑edged sword almost, it’s a fine line that you walk, and I think it’s amazing that when people can figure that out, they go all in, you can’t go halfway on that one, that’s for sure. So great point. And I know that we have about 25 minutes left, so I get to ask you all the golden question, as forwarded to me by Dr. Sara.
And she said that I better ask you all this or she will attack me. Sara Gonzalez put that in writing. So let’s start, we’re going to stay right here with you, Fran, and I’m going to ask you, what is your hope for the next generation of cultural practitioners and heritage stewards?
>> FRANDELLE GERARD: My hope is that as elders, that we have transferred the information and engaged them in the work and fed the fire to maintain it because for us it’s not just the built environment, it’s our natural environment, it’s our music and our food and our dance and everything that is culture, our medicine, and it’s so easy for that transition of information, that transfer of information not to happen. So that’s that piece.
And then the other piece is that we’ve built the institutional support to keep the work moving forward, because so much is happening in the nonprofit world, that we’re able to build the sustainability in those institutions to keep the work going forward.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Great words. Thank you for that.
Let’s go to Erik. Erik, you know, what is your hope for the next generation? We talk about cultural practitioners and we’ve talked about the protectors of our heritage, this nation’s heritage and heritage that doesn’t belong to the nation, it belongs to the tribes. What is your hope for the next generation? Go ahead.
>> ERIK DENSON: Yeah. Well, as I mentioned before, we think it is very important mainly because we need to continue to tell our story, and I mentioned this before, when we talked about preserving our heritage, I meant it physically and spiritually, and again, physically we document the shipwrecks but telling that story is most profound, and that’s what makes it special and spiritual. And this is especially true when it comes to African Americans and maritime history and culture, but it is so important to share this rich history for generations to come, training and education and teaching our youth and that is very important. And our program like Youth Diving with a Purpose, it opens doors that they didn’t think existed, and it allows them to see people who look like them and they think they can do these same things and participate in these type of programs, and again it is financial correspondent see that because it sparks their interest and they say, hey, I can do this too. And that way we can keep our heritage growing and continue to tell that story for generations to come, or else it will die and disappear, and we don’t want that.
So we have to engage our youth, engage them to become stewards of this maritime history and culture, and they will teach. So our goal is to teach to the youth and for the youth to teach others too and spread the word. So that’s my hope, to continue this legacy, especially with the Youth Diving with a Purpose program.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Certainly you have done your part to facilitate that process, and my hats off to you, and I think all of us, we invest every bit of time and energy and effort into our youth with the knowledge that it carries onto the next generation and the generation after that and the generation after that, and our family units, our tribes, our people, there are the few that are blessed with the authority to do those types of things and congratulations on being one of those for your community and keeping in mind that when you do this, when I do this, when Octavius does it or Judy or Frandelle, we do it for all people, not just our own, and that I think is the true beauty of what history represents to all of us. Judy, let’s go to you and maybe you can talk about your hopes for the next generation and enlighten us on what you would like to see, how you would like to see that ball carried forward.
>> JUDY DOW: Well, I would say ditto to Erik and Frandelle, but I would also add that I think it’s important for the next generation to remember the past, to try and understand today, and if they understand today, they can direct the future in a good way. So on top of everything else that’s already been said, I would hope that they wouldn’t forget the past. The other thing I would want, my hope would be for the next generation is for them to remember it’s traditional to adapt, and adaptation is traditional. Adaptation to social, political, environmental and ecological changes is what has allowed us to survive, so for getting that it’s traditional to adapt could be problematic for the next generation. I think it’s important for them to remember that.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Thank you. I accidentally almost hung up on my end because as you were speaking of adapting, my old self isn’t quite adapting as well as I probably should to some of this technology, but I’m trying.
>> JUDY DOW: Tell me about it.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: I’ve got twin daughters that have something to say about that.
But you know, I was just looking at some of the questions that are being asked too, and I saw that a former colleague and he’s asking questions about how do we bridge the gap of shearing sacred information because it becomes vital to protection of our cultural sites, and we do that, and it’s something that as tribes we’re thrown into, we’re forced often to do that, whether it’s, you know, to discuss winter sites during the spring when we’re not allowed to, but we have to in order to protect it, or we’re dealing with human remains on a site or sacred objects that we know we couldn’t ever touch or aren’t even supposed to look at but yet here they are because archaeology is forcing us to look at it, and then how do we use archaeology in that way to protect us. It has to be more than just ask the white guy to pick up that stone because you know you’re not allowed to touch it and a lot of people that have worked with me have been asked to pick up that stone because they know I can’t touch it and in a lot of cases these are the folks that get it and help us to bridge that gap. I find that interesting when I see that but at the same time scared because I know that at 47 in a few years I’ll be that old guy that’s supposed to tell the young buck not to touch that and make the archaeologists do it and by the way just because you made that guy touch that artifact it doesn’t stop there, now you need to do ceremony for him and his family because you’ve asked him to do something and the law of reciprocity says what is taken away is given, you’re asking him to do something, you have to do the counterpart to that so it becomes whole. How am I going to teach that to the generation next, how will I do that with the influence of non‑Indian, these things are merciless Indian savages, right? As they called us in the Constitution. So these are all challenges that I see, I’m sure you all see, you know, and as we move forward and look to what we want to see from our next generation and the one that’s up and coming, it doesn’t just rely on the traditional things, at least not for my tribe or for me and myself, I want to also see them use the nontraditional route for noninvasive ways of protecting sites, that curation does nothing for us, that there are alternative means of protecting these items. So this all leads into Octavius who I’m really interested to hear from you as a person who is a practitioner of medicine and those traditional ways that as myself of being somebody that, you know, understands my place in the world where that exists, I’m curious to see, Octavius, what you see for our future, what it is that you would like to see, and I think I would respectfully challenge you a little built too, we’re so used to seeing things from Indian eyes, whether it’s from a piece of paper, a pen, a tree, a beautiful painting, that I would say maybe we talk about this and what you would like to see for our African American brothers and sisters that are in archaeology and you were as well. What do you see, and calling on your wisdom, what would you like our next generation to focus on? And I would turn over to you, Octavius.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: One of the things ‑‑
>> RENO FRANKLIN: I think you just muted yourself. You unmuted and then you muted right back.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: How is that? Okay. Well, I was listening to all the presenters, and they touched on what we here in Zuni are also teaching our youth, to be good stewards of our ancestral lands, of our sacred places, but also we need to get away from tribes, all tribes, get away from past animosities, past conflicts to work together to preserve each others’ heritage, teaching our youth to work together to protect all of our sacred places, we never were in the process of teaching our youth that whatever was taught was taught to us by the white man. That’s because of the white man that we as tribes were put against each other, and that has stuck with us all these years in order for ‑‑ I’ve been with the Bears Ears commission as a traditional knowledge, and I’m with that commission, and we have our elected leaders that come and go, but the traditional leaders for the Commission are there and I’ve been there since it first started with Obama the first year, and it was really difficult for us because for tribes working together to try to save Bears Ears was difficult. All the other tribes were either put in lawsuits against each other and the first year was really hard until we decided that we need to turn the page and work with each other to protect what we all consider sacred.
And for the African archaeologists, they’ve been in the back burner of any information that they had for their history because everything was about the white people and every information that came was not worth printing or not worth mentioning because it didn’t involve them, but it was our history, it is still our history, and that’s what we need to teach our young children in order for them to start protecting all of this place, not just the southwest, but the entire United States as being Indian land, as being part of our sacred places. And we need our youth together working as a group. And the different sites. I told them, if you consider this item, this place sacred, I’m going to stand by you, I’m going to help you, we’re going to write something to protect this place. So I think that’s what we need to do is to inform our youth that in order for the greater good, we need to band together and come with a unified group. And I’ve always said that the African Americans, the Asian Americans have really strong voices in Washington because they band together. The tribes have never done that. We’ve always been at odds, and I think that’s one of the really big problems that we have now.
(Distorted audio connection).
So to work with individuals. Inform our youth, especially the technologies that they have and the technologies that they use, that they can help each other from places like all the way up to New York City with what we’re doing now with the Zoom meetings, is having people, good‑minded, young people to sit together and work together and come up with strategies to start working together.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: Thank you for that. And I love that you’re bringing up the fact had you all are doing some work in New York City. That’s a long ways, Zuni to New York, but I’m sure there’s been some of your runners that have actually made it, especially going back to the old days, I know that we had Zuni runners that would come up here to northern California and they would race. Very famous races that happened from up here, in Ukaya all the way to Zuni Pueblo, New Mexico. In fact, some of my relatives did it. Good stuff.
>> OCTAVIUS SEOWTEWA: Right.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: I know that I would love to see that with any of your organizations, you know, to facilitate Indian organizations, meeting with African American organizations that serve you and vice versa, I think that there is an opportunity for a connection there, whether it’s through diving or the beautiful music and food of the Caribbean, to coming right out here to the states and understanding a little bit of our culture and sprinkle a little built of that tasty stuff that Judy was talking about a second ago.
I want to take a couple seconds here before I turn this back over and say that, I would encourage you guys that our panel members, guys and gals, pardon me, that take a look at the chat. There are some questions that are directed to some of you as individuals, and, you know, while we’re not going to get to every question live on the air right now, you can take them as follow‑ups and I’m sure those folks would appreciate it. And at 2:52, I know we don’t have a lot of time left, and Christine I know is going to need about five minutes to wrap up, so if you all don’t mind, I’ll do my three minute wrap‑up on what it has been to listen to all of you talk and hear your perspectives.
First, let me just say thank you for imparting your wisdom not just to myself but to the folks who are listening and to the people who will be listening and watching this as it’s being recorded. You know, we take these times and we put these little threads of history and time when they come together and opportunities for people to share things across generations, and everything that you all do is cross‑generational work, and that’s the beauty of it.
Right now, we’re in a time of what I like to call what started off as the Me Too Movement turned into the Only Me Movement, to where you had people who were selfish enough to not care about elders passing away or medically vulnerable people passing away from COVID‑19. We had an administration that openly mocked people who were handicapped, and I never understood why it didn’t all end there, but it didn’t. And those kind of traumas and pains African American people and American Indian people have been experiencing for generations. I think that while we don’t forget that those things happened to us, we don’t forget about the slave ships that went down, we don’t forget about the slave‑related structures that exist and we don’t forget about the genocide that happened to all of us, whether it’s through the boarding schools or the reservation systems or the outright murdering places that are now named after the people that did the murderers, that when we look at those kind of things, we remember that as African American people and as American Indian people, we’ll always remember those events happened, but we will not let it define who we are moving forward. And I think that that’s the big piece that we as a society miss and that the work that all of you do help us to better define who we are, why we are who we are and who we will be, and I think the most important part of that is the who we will be. So I want to say that it’s been my pleasure and it’s been my honor to moderate this session for you all. I apologize for some of my dry humor. I’ll let you know that this is the longest I’ve gone without cussing probably in the last five to ten years, so it’s truly a challenge for me, and today is an accomplishment.
I know that I need to hand this over to Christine to wrap things up. She’s got five minutes, and Christine, are you still there?
>> Christine: I am still here.
>> RENO FRANKLIN: It’s all you, ma’am.
>> Christine: Can you hear me? I’ve unmuted myself, so hopefully I’m here. I’m here as the current Director of the Archeological Research Facility, which is a consortium of archaeologists that are working and connected to the University of California Berkeley. And it’s a three to five year position, so I’m a temporary person, but I’m honored to be here now when this event this year event of webinars is occurring because it’s really enriching and wonderful. So I want to welcome all of you to Berkeley in a way, Berkeley, California, and to acknowledge the University of California territory of the Huichin, the ancestral people and unceded land and that we respect that land, itself, and the people who have stewarded it throughout many generations especially the elders who as many have talked about today continue to enrich the lives of the Natives as well as the rest of the world and the people who live here. I briefly want to just say a few things that I’ve been really struck by today and actually Reno just brought up the naming, the naming of these things that are painful, but we don’t want to erase those because they teach the youth and they teach people, so naming. But also unnaming, and many of you mentioned the problem of the bad naming in the past to try and kind of push things up, make things permanent that shouldn’t be permanent, and that various groups thankfully are beginning to unname things around the U.S., like statues coming down. And at Berkeley just last week, two buildings were unnamed. So it’s happening, slowly but surely, so I’m really happy to see that, and I’m sure it is elsewhere too.
But also the other thought that really seemed really important to me that I wanted to just close with is reciprocity. All of you talked about reciprocity and the world view of people who live on the land, who live with the land have the sense of reciprocity because the land and the world and the living beings give to other living beings, all living beings should be reciprocal in nature. And you all mentioned that in different ways in your stories. It was wonderful to hear your stories and perspectives and those really stand out to me and also your commitment to the landscape or I should say the underwaterscape as well because that’s part of the local heritage and just the bringing out of the ongoing day in and day out local heritage but also the local heritage of people, of teaching your youth and also just teaching the world about these things. So hopefully this whole talk recorded will go forward and teach more people. So I want to thank you all so much for agreeing to do this and sharing with all of us and the many who are going to listen to this in the future. Your thoughtful comments, stories, perspectives, and wisdom, thank you.
And I just want to conclude with saying that the next webinar hosted by the Society of Black Archaeologists and the Indigenous Archaeology Collective in conjunction with Wenner‑Gren and SAPIENS is taking place on January 13 from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. eastern standard time, which is 1:00 p.m. West Coast time, our time, and it’s titled: Unsettling a past, radically reimagining archeological knowledge, and that will be, that webinar will be sponsored by the Stanford Archaeology Center. So you can register ahead of time for free at the SAPIENS website, which should be noted in the chat box, and I see it there right now, so you should be able to see that and you can grab that right now if you want to register for that. So I just wanted to conclude by saying thank you and stay safe and take good care of those you love and those around you, both the plants and the animals. And keep in touch. Thank you very much.
(The webinar concluded at 4:00 p.m. EST)
* * * This text, document, or file is based on live transcription. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART), captioning, and/or live transcription are provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings. This text, document, or file is not to be distributed or used in any way that may violate copyright law. * * *
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We’re glad you enjoyed the article! Want to republish it?
This article is currently copyrighted to SAPIENS and the author. But, we love to spread anthropology around the internet and beyond. Please send your republication request via email to editor•sapiens.org.
Accompanying photos are not included in any republishing agreement; requests to republish photos must be made directly to the copyright holder.