Unsettling the Past: Radically Reimagining Archaeological Knowledge
For decades, Black and Indigenous archaeologists have rightfully called for a radical reimagining of how archaeology interprets and understands the past. The formulation of archaeologies by, for, and with Indigenous peoples and informed by Black feminist experiences are a testament to the desire of scholars to create a field rooted in decolonial and liberatory praxis. These decolonial interventions work to unsettle the past—reveling in the human complexity of Indigenous and Black life. This panel, comprised of leading Indigenous and Black archaeologists and artists, focuses squarely on the continued work of scholars who are helping to decolonize Black and Indigenous pasts by reshaping how archaeological knowledge is created.
Sara Gonzalez, Curator of Archaeology, Burke Museum, University of Washington
Sven Haakanson, Curator of Native American Anthropology, Burke Museum, University of Washington
Mateo Romero, Contemporary Pueblo Painter
Cheryl White, Senior Lecturer in Archaeology, University of Suriname
Whitney Battle-Baptiste, Ph.D., Professor in Anthropology, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
>> ADAM SMITH: Good afternoon, everyone, we’ll allow people to get filed in from the waiting room, and then we’ll get started in about 30 seconds.
Welcome, everyone, we’re just letting the participants file into the webinar, then we’ll get started.
>> ADAM SMITH: All right. Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today’s installment of this webinar series entitled “From the Margins to the Mainstream: Black and Indigenous Futures in Archaeology”.
My name is Adam Smith, I am director of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies, one of the sponsors of this series in collaboration with the Society of Black Archaeologists, the Indigenous Archaeology Collective, the Wenner‑Gren Foundation, and SAPIENS. Today’s discussion is made possible by the generous support of the Stanford Archaeology Center at Stanford University.
Let me give you first a brief orientation it the webinar format. Only our panelists will be visible during this discussion but we do hope to hear from you through the Q & A button that is at the bottom of your screen. Feel free to use that to pose questions and to upload questions from other attendees in order to make sure that we get to as many as we possibly can.
This conversation, the sixth in our nine‑part series, is entitled: “Unsettling the Past: Radically Reimagining Archaeological Knowledge”. In the coming months, additional installments will address topics from Fugitive and Marooned Archaeologies to Black and Indigenous futurities.
Before we begin, I want to acknowledge that I am attending this discussion from the campus of Cornell University, which is located on the traditional homelands of the Cayuga Nation, members of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy. The Confederacy, an alliance of six sovereign Nations with a historic and contemporary presence on this land, precedes the establishment of Cornell University, New York State, and the United States of America. I want to honor the ongoing connection of Cayuga 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 Professor Whitney Battle‑Baptiste, Director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Center and Professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Welcome Professor Battle‑Baptiste.
>> Thank you.
Professor Battle‑Baptiste is going to lead the conversation with our 4 distinguished panelists:
Sara Gonzalez is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington and Curator of Archaeology at the Burke Museum. Welcome Professor Gonzalez.
>> SARA GONZALEZ: Thanks. Glad to be calling in today.
>> ADAM SMITH:
Sven Haakanson is Associate Professor at the University of Washington and Curator of North American Anthropology at the Burke Museum. Welcome Professor Haakanson.
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: Thank you. I appreciate to be on the panel as well today. Thank you.
>> ADAM SMITH:
Mateo Romero is a Contemporary Pueblo Painter and a former Dubin Fellow at the School of Advanced Research. Welcome Mr. Romero.
>> MATEO ROMERO: Thank you for having me.
>> ADAM SMITH:
Lastly, Cheryl White is the Archaeology Coordinator at Anton de Kom University of Suriname and Advisor to the Government of Suriname’s Ministry of Education, Science and Culture. Welcome Professor White.
>> CHERYL WHITE: Hi, good evening. Happy to be here.
>> ADAM SMITH:
With those brief introductions, let me hand the floor over to our moderator, Professor Battle Baptiste.Take it away.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you for everyone joining us this evening. I want to start off by saying we are going to have a lively and exciting discussion, one that needs to become one more of commonplace in our field of archaeology so with all of our introductions I’ll just start off with a really basic question, and please use the Q & A as folks in the audience watching, toward the end of our discussion, so that it will continue with your participation.
My question is for anyone. In your own work, how have you reimagined the past through the lens of material culture?
>> I will.
>> I see you kind of giving that nudge.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yeah, Cheryl.
>> CHERYL WHITE: First of all, I’m happy to be to be here and part of the panel. I do think it’s a necessary conversation to be here, I hail from Suriname where I live several years, and in the last five, six year, we started this archaeology program at the University which is the first at the University is we’re also seeing this growing movement with maroon communities in terms of establishing themselves, in terms of, you know, establishing what their heritage boundaries are as far as how they work with people. So we’re in this sort of dynamic milieu of being able to explore heritage and write policy for heritage so for me it’s been a very challenging period and also a very productive period because earlier when I first started working here for my dissertation many years ago and I excavated one of these marooned site my focus on African diaspora archaeology but more specifically archaeology of maroon.
We have about six tribes of maroon, that’s what their legal title is that of tribe, and I excavated one particular site for my dissertation and, you know, it really got me thinking about this whole concept of ancestral settlement, right? You know, because maroons, each of these six tribes traces their lineage to just a handful of females.
There are very specific characteristics of these settlements. There’s sort of like this ringed formation, quasi mound, there’s remnants of activity because we know for about 100 years after late 1600s to 1700s, there was a guerrilla war between maroons and their Dutch counterparts, we know there was ritual activity taking place through the same ritual activity that you can observe in maroon community now and we know that maroons, these settlements were an appropriation of Amerindian settlement and we know that really because with oral history testifies to that but also are the carbon dates also situate some of these site in the historic period as well as pre‑Columbian period.
So for me, it’s really a matter of understanding maroon sites in terms of like their ancestral representation, these female figures, so I’ll talk a little bit more about that later on as we go on in the discussion.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Okay. Thank you. Material culture, we all love it. Anyone else want to tackle that? Or I can move to the next question.
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: No, I would love to tackle it, because for me, in my own work, using material culture is a way of us taking back our history. I’ve had the privilege to work with masks, open boats through my community, so taking both archeological and ethnographic materials and working with community by empowering them with that knowledge, then they can use it to relearn not only about the history that’s been stripped from our communities, but put it back into a living context so they can start celebrating who they are, and again, I’ll share more about that as well. That’s something that’s really important for me to share with communities but also to raise an awareness of how powerful and how important material culture is in this process of us taking back our history and using it in the living context again.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you.
>> MATEO ROMERO: I have a slide I would like to toss up that addresses this. I’ll try to share it now. So this is an image of my brother and myself, Diego Romero, he’s a southwestern potter, I’m a painter and this is a piece we did called pot hunters and it was based on an idea we had of taking this narrative, it’s a photographic portrait with some paint on it of my brother and myself, and we’re actually dressed up in this kind of archeological sort of you know, costume, and we went to a local Jackalopes in Santa Fe and bought Mexican pottery and painted it up as Anasazi and went out into Santa Fe and buried this stuff and dug it back up and photographed ourselves doing it and it was an idea that in the southwest Native peopleless and Rio Grande Pueblo in particular have been sort of the object of a discourse for so long that as art Is we wanted to Tate opportunity flip it on its side and subvert it in the sense of humor and look at it and sort of reclaim this narrative of an imagined past, an imagined archaeology, an imagined history.
River, how do I get back out of this?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: That’s amazing.
>> MATEO ROMERO: It’s funny, right?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: It is.
>> MATEO ROMERO: In the piece there’s imagined writings, like, you know, at the time we’re listening to people like SAR and Mayak in Santa Fe and talking to us about Adolph Bandelier’s notes, are the entries are ethnographically charged and there were discussions about the measurements of Native cranium and skulls and just these weird sort of ideas. Yeah, there’s just this fantastic sort of body of information, largely romantic about Native people, and we took this stuff and just kind of flipped it over and said what is it like when the Native person is the one behind the camera? You know, what is that perspective like? And it was hilarious. I mean, people actually would come and do shows and you would get people that were actually reading the journal entries and I would just listen to them and they actually talk about, they would say these are actually, these are the notes from Bandelier’s footnotes that he’s re‑created and put on the page.
And I was like they’re not, they’re actually humorous ideas about the size of cranium and about Native coolies that were used to excavate places like Chaco and Mesa Verde and conversations that came up, people would have narratives and talk about these people and canon and it was based on history and weirdly present in this kind of odd way of self‑portraiture and humor and be and satire and rife with the destruction of romantic notions and maybe even a reinforcement of romantic notions. A lot of people actually took it at face value and said this is actually what it was, you know, this guy has actually gone back into the historical record and re‑created historical record for you to look at. I’m like, it’s not that at all. But it was funny. We just thought it was funny.
>> SARA GONZALEZ: I love the irony in it. It plays on a long tradition in archaeology of the archaeologist being the storytellers of an archeological record that was not produced by and large from, you know, the communities that they’re a part of.
For me, as a scholar, I see it as a witness of material record of belongings that are owned and are part of people who I now work with today. So that’s a little bit about how I’ve tried to reimagine it, is, you know, setting aside my own authority as a storyteller to as a builder of relationships and as a listener, listening to the stories that are shared with me, both from community, living community members and also from the material record that I work with in my job. So that’s a little bit about how I try to approach it. I would also like to say like all of this work is dependent upon the relationships that I have built with community, with tribal nations in Washington, Oregon and California and the perspectives that I’ve developed are a direct result of, you know, the knowledge that they have shared with me and have entrusted, you know, have entrusted me with to be able to work with their belongings.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yeah, I’ve thought a Missouri lot more recently about as archaeologists that focus on material culture, when we become the object, which is beyond the artifact, right? We become the object. We become what is discussed, and, you know, for us, well, in terms of what I’ve thought about, it’s about the humanity of our humanity and how can we move from object back to subject, which actually we never changed being subject or a living being, right? It is how archaeologists have painted us.
I think that another question is, what hand does archaeology, by and for Black and Indigenous communities, have in the creation of radically reimagined past? What impact does this work have, your work, have on the present, and what do you think the kinds of work that you all are involved in, what implications does that have for the future of archaeology, for my last kind of general question before I hone in on each and every one of you? Any takers?
>> CHERYL WHITE: I’ll throw myself on the sword again.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you.
>> CHERYL WHITE: You know, as I mentioned before, archaeology here is very young, institutional archaeology as well as community, but community based and community awareness and understanding of what archaeology is and growing together. And as we’ve kind of grown through this process, it has been a challenge to not just educate the community about what the science is and the benefit of the science, maroons had to sue their government years ago, Indigenous people and maroons got together to sue their government to me I see the future of the archaeology embedded in this rights based approach, right? This is sort of language that’s been promulgated by the United Nations, rights based, throughout the world, I see a lot of archeological discussions and approaches, when we talk about this whole decolonization, discussion and approaches, being sort of situated in what does heritage mean legally. Like how do people use “heritage” legally to bolster themselves?
Here in Suriname we have this situation where tribal maroons and Indigenous people inhabit 95 percent of our land mass. Only the coastal area is physically developed. The rest of the country is one of the most pristine swaths of rainforest in the world and that’s where they live. And they are essentially gatekeepers to the forest. You can’t do archaeology without dealing with the people, you really can’t.
It’s akin to being in someone’s backyard and never knocking on their front door and saying good evening, may I chat with you? You know. That’s what it’s like in term of working in the interior. And people have gotten very savvy, communities have become very savvy over the last few years, and they understand now that whomever chooses to engage with them, regardless of what it’s about, whether we can look through ‑‑ we’re looking through it through an archaeology lens, they want to know how this knowledge is going to benefit us, we need to go and talk to government officials about our land rights. What information is your skill set producing that helps me argue for what it is I need, which is a demarcation of my traditional territory.
So within this context here, I really do see archaeology falling under that banner of that rights‑based approach.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: I’m going to actually do some focused questions now, if that’s okay with you all, unless Mateo, did you want to kind of ‑‑
>> MATEO ROMERO: Yeah, I was going to chime in. I think one of the things that is exciting to me right now is in the Southwest, we’re seeing the emergence of sort of nontraditional roles in archaeology, in curation too, in that part of the future of this for me, which is exciting, is that we’re seeing, you know, Native voices, Native curation, Native women, we’re seeing people that have kind of existed in sort of marginal capacities largely to this kind of, you know, this project of sort of archaeology and anthropology, and we’re seeing that emerge. And it’s actually kind of beautiful.
If you’ve been here for the last 30 years, which I have, and every, you know, person you’re consulting with is a White male anthropologist or archaeologist, not to knock that, there’s been tremendous information too, but to see this kind of growth and growing of this sort of ‑‑ this voice, it’s a voice that’s been here for so long, and it is actually becoming more crystalized or manifest and I think it’s kind of amazing that we’re seeing, you know, first with curation, but I think also with younger Native students that are becoming trained in archaeology and anthropology, you’re seeing like Indigenous like literal Indigenous voice, not sort of a proxy or some kind of like, you know, some kind of imagined connection, but like this literal outpouring of the voice from the community. So that to me is very hopeful. I look at that and I think, you know, I love that, I love this idea of Native voice, that Indigenous voice, female voice, you know, LGBTQ, all these marginal perspectives that have not really been given their lights because the time of Deaf but because of training and because time the art field is maturing and the archaeology and anthropology field, the curation field and beginning to mature.
So 30 years ago which I was undergraduate at U of M studying with like Alfonso Matisse, largely the world was dominated by non‑Native and nonfemale so now we’re seeing there’s this kind of outpouring which I think is very hopeful, I think it’s embedded in this marginalized voice are of this experience of this world view so instead of having a subject‑object discourse, instead of having this kind of idea of, you know, people from outside the community trying to connect with this history, there’s more nuanced approaches which are based on language, Indigenous language, they’re based in different gender perspectives, they’re based in different ideologies, and I love it. I mean, 30 years I’ve been kicking around and talking with the same people about pottery and now I’m hearing alternative amazing things coming out and I love that. From the art point too, from the art perspective, the field is maturing, and 30 years ago when I began studying this stuff too as a student at U of M it was not this, it was pretty conservative, it was pretty patriarchal and now we’re seeing there’s a paradigm shift occurring and I guess that’s really all I would like to say, I love that aspect of it, it gives me hope that there’s more of an emerging voice that’s more inclusive.
>> SARA GONZALEZ: Following up on that, I think reimagining the past requires us to reimagine the present in which we occupy. That’s such an important thing what you were talking about, Mateo, about the changing voice of young scholars today, the representation of Indigenous and also Black and other people of color in archaeology, it’s a radical shift that’s dependent upon kind of the hopes and hard work of a dedicated community of scholars that want to grow kind of these margins and expand them into the mainstream. I think that’s a really important thing and work that’s been undertaken in the last several decades and that we’re just starting to see some of the fruits of that with, as you talked about, Mateo, you know, now meeting other archaeologists, Indigenous archaeologists, Indigenous women, you know, LGBTQIA folks occupying those roles. Like that’s something that was unimaginable 20 years ago.
To pick on Sven a little bit, within the Indigenous archaeology community, we try to keep track as best as we can to see how many Indigenous archaeologists with Ph.D.’s there exist, and I think Sven, what number were you? Number five. Yeah. I think right now, Ora Marek‑Martinez one of my colleagues we’ve put together lists I think the number is 33, that’s the entire span of Ph.D.’s given out in anthropological archaeology and the majority of those degrees have only happened within the last ten years, yeah, last ten years, since about 2010 is when you had more than a doubling of Indigenous archaeologists with Ph.D.’s in the field.
>> CHERYL WHITE: I just wanted to ask, do you see that as the sites of indigenization of archaeology, it’s written by the people for the people, is it intentional in the U.S. or is it sort of kind of like is it accidental, is it just the trend that’s going on now?
Because in this setting, what I mean is, you know, it’s pretty much sort of a maze of people here, everybody looks like me, for the most part, but archaeology when it was done many, many years ago, in the ’60s, ’50s and ’60s, it was all Dutch people. This is a former Dutch colony. There weren’t even archaeologist, they were geologists because most of the work was kind of haphazard, it was done because, you know, the industry was earth moving activity and a bunch of things in the ground and therefore geologists took the hem of studying ‑‑ helm of studying these objects and we really didn’t have a real interest in archaeology. There have been spotted people throughout the years doing that, but there was never really any effort by that Dutch guard of archaeology in the past to really make it, to indigenize it in the country, you know what I mean?
So I’m just curious if in the U.S., is it intentional? Because here it’s very intentional. I mean, we’re a very new country. I am older than Suriname in terms of it being a country. I am older than this country, a very young country, so the institutionalization of history, of exploring your own history, it’s fairly new. Structurally it’s fairly new. There have been spottings here and there, courses here and there and so forth, but the intentional of having it done by Surinamese people, it’s on purpose, it’s with purpose. And is it like that in the U.S.? That’s my question.
>> SARA GONZALEZ: I would say yes. I mean, talking about where the majority of people have been trained, it leads back to a couple central figures people who have consciously changed how they did graduate admissions, the kinds of students they were committed to taking in and the kind of discipline that they wanted to create. And I mean, I know both Ora, who I just mentioned, and I, both of us have been trained by consider are Cakki and Ken Lightfoot at Berkeley, and the reason archaeologist coming out of Berkeley is their commitment and that’s been a project that’s been going on for decades now. It’s since expanded now a little bit more that people have come, those students and whatnot have come to occupy other kind of faculty roles, or the roles within agencies and heritage management organizations here, but you can still kind of trace like all of our academic lineages all come together in this really messy way, but you can also clearly see the intentionality of the individuals whose commitment have now been paying off.
For graduate students now, if they want to come to a U.S. University and specifically work on community based and/or Indigenous archaeology, the number of institutions that you can really do that work and work with people who know what it means to engage in that, it’s thankfully growing, but it’s still fairly small. University of Massachusetts Amherst Whitney’s University is one of those places, University of Washington with Sven Haakanson and Denison and myself is another one you can do this, Berkeley still remains, obviously there’s other campuses but those are the ones that kind of really come to mind for where people are being trained and where there’s support and also Indigenous faculty on staff now.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yeah. Sven?
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: Yeah, I just wanted to say, some of these things also started out when we started to have a voice within the museums or within places that have interpreted who we are. And that allowed us to have a voice but also showed us that we can actually have a career in this, this part of the world that was dominated by one group of people, and that has really changed, so that now we’re able to share our stories. We’re able to say this is who we are, instead of having somebody come and tell us who we are.
And that means so much. Not only for an Indigenous person to share it, but it means so much for that next generation. And that really does radically change how we see our past and understand our past. So yes, I mean, all of these things have culminated to where we are now, but we have a lot more work to do so that we can continue to empower or communities to give them voice but also give them the knowledge and ability to actually share that.
>> CHERYL WHITE: I wonder also, because I’m not Surinamese, I’m a transplant to the country, so I also have to exercise some amount of reflection and think about my role here, when you’re asking people all these questions that they sort of perceive as mundane and stupid about their history and being kind of the mouthpiece for that history as well.
And I have to be mindful of myself and be mindful really of what my role is. And I’m here to, you know, borrow your watch to tell you the time. That’s not what I’m trying to do here. I have a specific skill set that I can offer, you know. So I wonder if like for you as an Indigenous archaeologist, do you have ‑‑ is there like a disconnect to the community, or because of the perspective from which you now sit at the sort of vantage point from which you now have, to the people who are like, well, we live this, we don’t need to calcify it in the halls of some museum or somewhere, you know. How do you reckon that within yourself, if at all? Maybe it’s not an issue.
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: No, I mean, honestly, I don’t really try to reckon with it. I live with it, like with my community, and try to make sure that what I do not only within my position as a curator, but my position in my own community, I try to combine those together so that they’re not separate, so that the community members I’m working with don’t see me as though that person up over there. I’m not up over there. I’m right here with you.
And that way it keeps us not only sharing the same stories, but helps us push that same story of truth of who we are forward. And it is a balance. But at the same time, it’s really important to keep, make sure that we are sharing that same story, and again, carrying it forward together, not having somebody tell us how we do it. We do it ourselves.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yeah, I appreciate Cheryl’s, I think I’m going to steal that from you, borrowing your watch and telling you what time it is, because I think it’s an experience that we have been used to in the field of archaeology. Yeah?
>> CHERYL WHITE: Yeah, it’s someone else’s phrase, it’s some old adage that I read somewhere, so those are not my words, but it is phrasing that I came across somewhere, that someone said to me, actually, to be honest, someone said it to me.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yeah, Mateo?
>> MATEO ROMERO: Yeah, steal that line. Say it’s yours!
>> CHERYL WHITE: No, I don’t want to steal it.
>> MATEO ROMERO: Like you’re really ‑‑ we’re artists, steal a line, right?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: I want to do a quick focus questions, they’re not quick, but focus questions for each of you and starting with Sara. With your work in the intersection of Indigenous Studies, tribal historic preservation and public history, can you share more about the low‑impact archeological approaches you take in your work and the amazing, I put that in, amazing impact they have for the field?
>> SARA GONZALEZ: We certainly hope at that they have an amazing impact because really they’ve been designed in concert with the nations that I’ve worked with to change and reframe the dialogue that we have about what it means to care for and protect Indigenous pasts and also their futures.
So I want to explain a little bit about what Whitney is referring to there with the low‑impact approaches. From my first community‑based research project with the Kashia Band of Pomo Indians within Fort Ross Historic Park and recently with my partnership with the Confederated Tribes of can Grand Ronde nation, I’ve worked are together to develop an approach with reservation and tribal lands that works for and in accordance with those communities protocols, values and kind of views on how to interact with and engage the past. And as part of that, it’s really forced us to radically reimagine how to use archeological tools, like within the field right now there’s so much emphasis upon, you know, upon low‑impact or minimally invasive tools like LIDAR, geophysical surveying, all of these kind of things, that they provide opportunities for collaboration, that is, that we can minimize our impact. But what I’ve seen less of a discussion of is how collaboration and actual engagement with those community protocols and values can help inspire new approaches to using those technologies in ways that are beneficial for us all.
In my case of my work with Kashia and Grand Ronde we’ve specifically implemented low impact methodology where we use a series of minimally invasive to noninvasive techniques to build up our understanding of the ancestral places that we’re looking at. We use All those different, all the different methods at our disposal from doing research to going into the tribal archives to understand exactly the history of the community, to lock being at all the other like earlier field notes and whatnot, to doing vary various forms of site survey and reconnaissance before we ever consider the option of disturbing the earth through more invasive archeological methods like excavation.
So within that, one of the techniques we’ve developed is called the catch and release surface collection strategy and the name itself is kind of a reflection of having a conversation with one of the Kashia elders and Walter Antone a big fisherman, like Kashia is on the coast and we were sitting around our lab table with the former tribal Chairman and talking about how we could implement a way of doing site survey and surface collection that would ensure minimal disturbance to the ancestral places that we were working at and also ensure that all of those belongings would be returned to exactly where they were intended to be, that is, that they would essentially be repatriated, reburied at the sites that we had collected them from and in that discussion as the archaeologists were describing this technique, Walter was like oh, it’s kind of like fishing, it’s like catching and releasing and we’ve kept that name to kind of honor the spirit of that conversation and that relationship that we have with one another. And since implementing it within the work at Fort Ross state historic park I’ve worked with Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to figure out how we might adapt it to the unique both the context of the sites they have there on reservation in Northwestern Oregon and also to their unique cultural context, what makes sense from their perspective on how to work with and engage at these ancestral places and at these sites.
And those experiences really have like I said taught me the value of engaging with multiple like epistemologies, use a fancy academic word, just engaging with people’s beliefs and their values and their ideas about how we should appropriately care for and protect.
Obviously the method that I’ve just described is something that’s dependent upon those specific communities and nations’ values and their approaches to dealing with their heritage, and it’s not a one‑size‑fits‑all model or solution for archaeologists working with tribal heritage, but it is an example of kind of the creative outcomes and strategies that can develop when we begin to take these different perspectives, these different epistemologies seriously within our work. It really does increase our capacity to be able to care for heritage in really new novel ways and ways that are also meaningful for archaeologists, like in ensuring that we rebury surface collected belongings, we’re ‑‑ there’s also opportunity to come back to that place and be able to use those belongings again to answer specific questions or to help mitigate damage on sites that’s ongoing or happening.
So there are distinct benefits for us as archaeologists to engage with this, but I try to approach it from what are the benefits to community in approaching their ancestral places in the ways that they should be approached, and that’s more significant because it directly connects to people’s health and well‑being in the present.
You know, for us, like I understand as an invited guest working that the places that I work at are living places. They’re places that have to, you know, you have a specific kind of responsibility to them. That’s what I’ve been taught and that’s what I’ve tried to carry in, and part of that responsibility is listening to community and working with them to figure out what ‑‑ how and what ways they can use archaeology to work for them.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you. Thank you. My next question is for Mateo. As a contemporary Pueblo painter, can you speak more about how artwork reimagines the past, present and future of the Southern Keresanh thank you h the Southern Keresan Cochiti people, what role do you believe artists have in the creation of their own liberation histories?
>> MATEO ROMERO: Sure. Had I have a second slide I’m going to toss up just so I can start this conversation. It’s very different from the first one I showed you, but it also has direct bearing on this question. So I’m going to toss up the second image, and then I’ll begin the response. Can you guys see that one? Is that visible?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes.
>> MATEO ROMERO: This is a landscape painting I did, this is a recent piece I did, and it’s part of a series that I’ve been doing on landscape in northern New Mexico. And part of this series, which is so interesting to me beyond just the kind of physical qualities of the painting and the surface and all the texture is that I’ve used Indigenous names, mostly Taiwan names, even though I’m a Keresan, southern Cochiti Pueblo but I’m married to a northern Taiwa woman and I live in her village, Melissa is my wife, she’s Pojoaque, and Santa Clara Pueblo, all Indigenous Taiwa villages and I live in a Taiwa village and title of this is (?) original name for the Indigenous Taiwa name and C is ‑‑ C is flint, ping is mountain, and Owinga is village of. There’s actually an ancestral Anasazi historical Pueblo ruin on the edges and I’ve been using this whole concept of Indigenous language to talk about the Indigenous world view here and there’s a whole ideology embedded in the original language of this place. Santa Fe is Opobo (?) I think it’s White shell water place, Santa Clara is Capa Owinge, village of the wild roses, where I live is called Suwaguay, that’s the water drinking place, so embedded in this project of landscape is also a kind of Indigenous value system based on Indigenous voice, and, you know, the essence of the Rio Grande Pueblos, it’s a very different perspective from a European on man or woman’s placement within the landscape. There’s kind of a history in European figurative painting and landscape painting of the sublime and this kind of separation, this kind of existential separation of the person from the landscape, this kind of, you know, the experience of the viewer. But in the Rio Grande Pueblo world it’s more about the inclusion of the person as being subordinate or part of the landscape.
And the Taiwa term for this kind of existential idea I’m kind of getting to is oh‑ah, which is breath of life and the breath of lifer is something that moves through all things, it moves through the pictures, through the space, through people, through rock and water and plants and are trees and everything, through the paintings and it’s an idea of inclusion in the landscape, that human beings in this sense are seen as an extension of the landscape.
So in this, in this idea I have, it’s a direct reimagining of the Native voice, right? Instead of being this kind of passive voice where we’re kind of responding to things and some of the historic cannon that exists outside of our Indigenous thought world view, we’re kind of reimagining this in terms of this Indigenous, this nuanced Indigenous perspective based on language, based on the space, it’s based in existential ideas. So I think, you know, that these artists potentially ‑‑ and I use the term artist inside a very broad sense. You know, filmmakers, writers, poets, actors, videographers, cinematographers, anyone doing anything creative at this time it all goes to this Native voice and I’m very positive about this, the feel, we touched about this earlier on this growth in the field of archaeology and anthropology, but it’s happening in all these fields, playwrights and poets and all this stuff is happening and 20, 30 years ago when I was at U of M I keep going back to that memo, it wasn’t like this. It was very kind of homogenous, it was a homogenous group of people training Russ, not that many of us. Now there’s an outcropping of us, there’s so much U.S. Department of Education money that’s been focused on Native communities to train and educate Native people and we’re seeing now especially well casino economies being involved, scholarships for Native kids, we’re seeing the training level jump exponentially and correspondingly after a generation of this the field had emerges, it’s a more mature field. So for me the essence of this all is Native voice and Indigenous voice and female voice and this kind of marginal voice, right? Freud called it the return of the repressed right? It’s kind of the rise of the repressed.
Maybe that sounds kind of, you know, radical or something, but I think it’s simply, you know, these voices which haven’t really been heard. These artists and lecturers and writers and teachers and poets that really haven’t been given their time but now they’re actually in the light. And I think it’s extraordinary.
And my challenge, when I was teaching, I talked to students, I used to each studio art and I would talk to talk on these college students mostly Native and say this is your time to use your voice, and I was less interested in what they said. I wasn’t super interested in what they had to say, 18, 19‑year‑old kids but I was like this is your moment, take this moment to use the voice and to proceed forward with a voice.
And the other thing I would tell them is if you don’t, there’s someone who is not possessing your qualifications, who is not from an Indigenous community, who has not been marginalized, who hasn’t paid this price. Someone will step forward from this mainstream society and speak for you. They’ll take your place. They’ll take your microphone. They’ll take your place at the podium can get your publishing contract. So for me, I think it’s an amazing time for Native artists to step forward and to use the term that’s very broad, people that are communicating at this point in time, people that have a story to tell, whatever the medium, whatever the story is, it’s time for people to step forward. If we don’t do this, we’re complicit in our own silence, which is what we’ve been dealing with for so long. We’ve gone on record saying, you know, we’re not being listened to, we’re not getting the same attention mainstream artists are, we’re not covered from the same publications, et cetera, et cetera. But now there’s this moment where there’s actually this potential, yeah, you could potentially, if that’s what you want, you could get that attention, you can get that venue. And I’m less interested in a mainstream venue, but I’m more interested in emergence of a voice. And I’m not even particularly, you know, concerned about what the voice is saying.
I just think that the rise of the voice and this kind of authorship, this sense of Indigenous authorship, this female authorship, this marginal position that’s now becoming front and center, there’s tremendous changes happening in the world right now, tremendous cultural shifts that are occurring, there’s riots in the capitol, right? This moment of extreme American paranoia and the chickens have come home to roost, this American trajectory, which is based in killing Indigenous people and taking the land and making Black people into slaves and keeping women and gays on the edge of everything and marginalizing everybody. It’s all coming into focus now, right? The history of America, its very bloody and violent history, Native people know that, Native people have been at the bottom of that for so long, when this stuff was beginning to happen, these riots and all these massive protests and all this insurrection and everything, I was talking to some of my friends, I grew up in the East Bay, Berkeley, I’m a Berkeley liberal as well as being a Pueblo guy which is kind of almost like an inconsistency or some kind of sort of odd inconsistency and I was talking to people and said hey, I’m surprised that there’s this seething American, you know, experience of hatred and paranoia and racial fear. And my friend who is an instructor at UC Berkeley laughed at me and said you guys should know that, you guys have been being beat up for 500 years, been being put down by the mainstream mechanisms of society and how can you be surprised?
So I think that having said all this, touching on all these different things, this is the moment, right? This is the moment to take the microphone, and if you’re not super‑polished because a lot of us aren’t, you know, that’s okay. Just say what’s on your mind, say your peace, and we’ll take it in in a loving way.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you.
>> MATEO ROMERO: Was that too much? Did I touch on too many things is.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Never. That was fine. Thank you, Mateo. No, it was great.
>> MATEO ROMERO: Next person can comment on insurrection, archeological histories. What is archeological histories of the Anasazi have to do with insurrection in the capitol? Connect those dot, right? Dots to be connected. It is the trajectory, it is the mass narrative of the country, right? It is all related to the country. When I was at Dartmouth lecturing they told me not to talk about stuff like that, they got pissed off. After 9/11 we did a show called Native acts and Dartmouth Native instructor said don’t talk about that 9/11 stuff, I’ll get fired. If you bring it up in my class, I’ll get fired. So I don’t know. I’m going to mute myself now. I’ve been drinking too much coffee.
Where is the mute button?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: I have questions for Cheryl and Sven, but I know we have a lot of questions in the Q & A area, believe me, I am going to get to them, but I just want to give Cheryl and Sven a little bit of time to answer these two brief questions and then we’ll go straight to the Q & A. So just hang on because I know the questions are there, and I will ask them of our panelists.
Cheryl, with your work center odd decolonization ‑‑ centered on decolonization, human and land rights of tribal peoples, because we want to shift now to Suriname to the global south, archeological heritage management and community based archaeology methods, can you share more about how you have been able to engage communities in Suriname in the unearthing and preservation of their heritage? And I want to say that I know you touched on this already, but I think that I also wanted to highlight the fact that you are doing all of those things that I just named in a place where many of us don’t have a connection or don’t understand the kind of histories of what indigenity and Blackness look like in South America is very different, I wanted to highlight and let you talk a little bit about your work in Suriname.
>> CHERYL WHITE: Okay, I’ll do that. Let me share a couple things. Hold on. Let me see if I can get this right. You’re not seeing ‑‑
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: We see it.
>> CHERYL WHITE: The current slide, okay. I don’t want to inundate people with like a basic history lesson, so, you know, my focus is these maroon communities and just, you know, to reiterate this is where the slaves, the South Africans that ran away from the plantations, began run ago way as early as mid had ‑‑ and ran to hinter lands of the country and distinct groups, we have six well defined groups living in the country living in different locations and my work has really focused on trying to identify like I said these ancestral communities. So if you receive in the yellow there, that’s the Saramaka, one of the largest groups in the country, they trace 20, 30,000 people strong, they all trace their lineage to twelve females, because they all stem from a clan structure, so that entire group of people traces their lineage to twelve women. Likewise with the Paramakans, they trace their lineage, about 7,000 strong, they trace their lineage to three females, just three women, because during that time when there was that large flight of Africans from the plantations, you know, it was more favorable for men to be running away, they would grab a woman here and there, you know, kids weren’t the best travel partners at that time. There’s some oral historical accounts of infanticide, they did drown a lot of babies just to maintain that level secrecy.
So from 1650s all the way into the late 1700s, 1760 to be specific, there was a series of peace treaties that were signed because the Dutch couldn’t deal with it anymore, they couldn’t deal with the barrage of attacks on the plantations and I want to emphasize to you that what you’re seeing, that yellow bit there is probably a good 300‑odd kilometers. To get to that river section area where these communities live, you’re talking about a three, four hour drive. Back in my day when I started doing my field work in 2,000 I think it was an 8 hour drive down a road and another 8 hour bolt ride along the river to get on a village, and then from there, we would then walk into the bush, another two days maybe hike to get to some of these what we call the ancestral settlements. So it’s quite the journey to get to some of these villages, where the concentration of some of these villages are.
In that scope of trying to find these ancestral settlements, these places where those apical female figures resided, we’ve had to really engage very participatory method, because in the past a lot of the anthropological work that was done you had everybody writing about maroon history, you had physicians writing about maroon history, a loft accounts from the missionaries in the late 1800s, physicians in the early 1900s, Richard and Sally Price very well known husband and wife anthropology team wrote quite a bit in the 1960s about maroon culture, particularly Saramakans so I borrowed a lot from that, but we kind of needed more updated information in terms of where some of these ancestral settlements are located and then the satellite settlements.
It wasn’t until the 1760s after the peace treaties that people then descended to the riverside, still living in the hinder lands but at least now living openly on the river bank, not hiding in the bush anymore.
So a few years ago we partnered with Probobanpost, in English it’s tropical forest foundations, Dutch NGO, participatory three‑dimensional mapping project. Let me see. Oh, these are just some images so you have an idea. So these are before, let me back up a little bit, just to give you a better overview of the culture. The clan system, that apical female figure is referred to as the low. You can know any maroon by then simply telling you their low, you know what river bank they’re from. Then you have the wu and it’s just another level of womanhood that actually birthed some of the villages that you find along the river bank. And these villages are just small, maybe 50, 60 people living in a village, some of them are much larger, some of them are a couple thousand people but the average village is pretty small, probably 20 to 50 people living if a small village and they’re all family, they are all related, they’re all family. So it’s a very slash and burn kind of subsistence style of living.
They have a tradition of authority, there’s a paramount chief, each of the six tribes has a paramount chief and each village has a captive and Mushlia so each village has like a village head and the one that you sort of interface with when you first go and talk to them.
So when we decided to do this participatory exercise, very popular in Amazonia with Indigenous and tribal groups, much of it is paper based, a lot of the ones that started maybe ten years ago are very paper based, giving community members this one dimensional map and asking them to plot places that are historically significant to them. But we worked with an organization to do this participatory three‑dimensional model of Samakaran’s traditional territory and it was interesting because what they did was basically it was a lot broader in term of what some of the other paper based maps had produced in the past in terms of what their traditional territory looked like, and they reported places of both tangible and intangible heritage, tangible sites were what they referred to as (?) which means our old village that’s in the forest, as opposed to (?) which is an old village of the Amerindians that you can find in the forest, a very clear demarcation from what is there versus what is Indigenous. They also reported sites of ritual praying areas, sites that are spiritually negative, hunting locations, this is where they hunt only for ritual purposes, I was really surprised about, I thought people just hunt, they go into the bush and shoot whatever they find but there are specific locations where they hunted only for ritual activities. And they ended up basically demarcating their traditional territory, the breadth of the country, the breadth of the country, you know. They also identified migration routes. This is the finished product. So you have an idea of kind of what it looked like, because it was physically built by them. So this is their physical representation.
I mean, they painted it, they kind of cut the styrofoam into the shapes, you know, identified the rivers, the creeks, because the creeks were a main route of transport, a main travel route during that time of grand maroon age when they were escaping from the plantations, they didn’t go by the river because that’s out in the open, they went by the creeks, within the forest itself. A lot of these old ancestral settlements are located at the headwaters of creeks in the forest, which is really interesting in and of itself because we see a pattern of that with other maroon tribes in the country as well.
So this was an opportunity for them to kind of provide that kind of a broader breadth of information from their perspective of how they experience their landscape, which, you know, like I said in the past were primarily paper maps, paper map exercises that were done. When I did this exercise, I tried to sort of use these like benchmark time lines because we know they were appropriating Amerindian settlements in the 1600s, we know that decolonization caused mass ‑‑ of everybody, everybody was running, Indigenous were running, Africans were running, everybody was running away so a lot abandoned many settlements and they appropriated them, they made them their own. That was in the 1600s, so you expect to find a greater preponderance of Amerindian type artifacts.
Interesting, they were reappropriating some of those objects for themselves, so if you go into a contemporary, I should say modern maroon village now, you’re going to find in the center of the village what they call (?) prayer shrine and in this is a bottle thing of white clay, they use it during ritual practices, rub it all over their face, there’s a bottle of that clay, there’s a ceramic bottle and also a large ceramic bowl and it’s Amerindian, I would ask people when I was doing a lot of my field research, I would ask where did you get this pot from? Did you make it? They said no it was given to us by the Indigenous, they called it Amindian here (?) it was given to us by the Ingi, my grandmother’s grandma’s grandma and they only use it for one purpose, they only use it for ritual activities, they use it for washing, this ritual washing with leaves. They don’t do anything else with those pots.
So when we found these pots, in archeological record, at these old Amerindian sites and the site fell in again in the period about 1608 but also fell within the historic period in the 1600s, that was C14 dating of the site it give us this impetus to how they were reusing the objects and reusing them for their own ritual practices. Before the battle of the Dutch they would do this ritual washing of themselves that would tape place and we found in archeological record locations of where this ritual washings took place because there was such a large concentration of these pots called (?), of these pots.
So this baseline study, which the participatory three‑dimensional model map exercise, and by the way, this is a digitize, they indigenized this. We excluded a lot of the sensitive places s places that are deem ritualistically negative, burial sites for children we exclude that had from the digital map itself, but this was the first effort in the country to produce to kind of oral historical account of what the landscape, of what they perceive their landscape to look like. And I just want to point out also that when I say that we’re all kind of growing together, we’re all sort of young together, you know, after they sued the government, the Saramakans and also this group of Indigenous village elders got together and sued the government back in 2000 for land and human rights violation, when that case was adjudicated in 2007, one of the primary outcomes of that case was that the government had to demarcate traditional territory, they had to demarcate tribal territory, which, will you know, it’s been a minute. They still haven’t finished doing that. But it gave the community a huge impetus to really define what their cultural heritage is, what does it mean beyond just where our houses are along the river. Right?
So after that event, the government hired the Amazon concentration team, the old guard, I want to make note of that, the old guard of the ACT to create a participatory map, it was a paper map and this map gave the representation of the community living within just the confines of the river, which is just not a good representation of how they live on that landscape. And they tossed it, they weren’t happy with it. Instead, what the Saramaka association for Saramaka authority did was they went to every other maroon tribe and Indigenous tribe, we have about five or six Indigenous tribes in the country, and using the oral history, they said what was ‑‑ according to our oral history, where is the line of demarcation, what creek are you allowed to exploit resources, do your hunting, your fishing, fell wood, to make boats, fell wood to build your homes, up to what point in the forest are you allowed to do that?
And after doing that, going to every single Indigenous and maroon tribe, they essentially demarcated the entire hinterland for themselves, among themselves, and of course no government is going to go for that, they’re not going on give the majority of the land mass to the smallest population of people. But this was another step in that process, you know, this sort of demarcation, representation of what they perceive as their land. This was another step in that process. And they’ve since put together community engagement strategies that they’ve even presented to me. You know, I’ve been asked to do a contract, right? Fill in a contract with them in terms of what my archaeology can do for them, how my archaeology can benefit them in this initiative. Whitney?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you.
>> CHERYL WHITE: Sorry. A bit much.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: The questions are piling up, and I really, really want to talk to Sven.
>> CHERYL WHITE: Sorry about that.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: No, no, no, don’t apologize, because it is an area which we do not know a lot about, and I think for me traveling in places like Brazil and Columbia you recognize the Indigenous and Black descendants is not what we have in the U.S. and I think that is extremely important for us who call ourselves African diaspora and/or Black and Indigenous archaeologists to not engage in the global south and understand that the Americas is not one country, right?
>> CHERYL WHITE: No.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Theirs many, many things going on. I would like to shift to the space of museums and Sven. With your experience at the Alutiiq, did I say it correctly?
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: Alutiiq.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: And now the Burke, how have Native American perspectives on museums and museum practices transformed the function of those museum spaces and their relationship with Native peoples?
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: That’s a really big question but also an important question in terms of how can we share our voices within a system that’s been interpreting who we are for us instead of actually listening to us. I want to do a quick share of some of the work I’ve been doing through the Burke Museum but it’s tied into some of the work I’ve been doing starting with the Alutiiq museum, even before that. Let me do a screen share here. Can you see that.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes.
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: Are you seeing the screen?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes, it’s perfect now.
>> SVEN HAAKANSON: I start with a vessel called an Angyaaq and in my community this was erased from our living knowledge, our living community, and it’s something that I kept bumping into, you see in drawings, I would find, I’ve only found 15 models so far around the world in museums, there’s none in Kodiak, well, there is now, and I was curious, we had this archeological pieces, but we have no living knowledge of this, and one of the things that I felt was really important was how do we take this knowledge back for ourselves? And within each museum there’s hundreds if not thousands of cultural pieces and every one of those has knowledge that’s embodied within them.
So for the last 20 years I’ve been looking at collections of how do we take this knowledge and how do we put it back into a living context? So when I started my job at the Burke Museum, one of the first things I felt was how do we share this living vessel, which used to be used by, owned by the women, used by the community to move from their winter camp sites to summer camp sites and back, but we had no living knowledge of it. So again, it’s taking collections from museums and figuring out how do we put it into a living context.
So working with the Burke Museum, with Beck Kirk, our collections manager and our collections, we sketched this model out, I made kits, we went back to Kodiak and working with the village of Akhiok and made these model kits and the leader of the camp said let’s make a big one so we figure out how to do that, working with community, working with the Burke Museum, we went from not having any living knowledge in 2014 to by 2016 we had two functional Angyaaqs, so we’re taking collections and putting them back into a living context, in a way that allows us to learn from what museums have but also what we can be doing within our community. For example, this one model piece here, see that paddle? That’s the only paddle I’ve ever seen from my tribe with this Angyaaq that is a steering paddle, and if you see it here, I took that example and made a full size one for us to use in our Angyaaqs today. And again, it’s these little nuances that we’re taking, I’m able to take from museum collections and then working community members who still have living knowledge, Alfred, the last traditional kayak builder, to bring and put and share this knowledge with not only within our community but with the world at large of hey, it’s not just a kayak, there’s more information in there that we need to learn and understand.
Again, using the museum as that practice. Coming to the Burke Museum and the new Burke, working with local communities, Tyson Simmons and Keith Richards, who created a shovel‑nosed canoe, and for the first time they used it on the White River to go fishing and now that piece is in our museum for people to engage with, to collaborating with Peter Yape and a graduate student, Nolan, creating a model of an archeological piece to having George Swanoset Senior actually creating this vessel, so going to something that wasn’t known about to putting it into a living context.
And again, these are us taking the museum spaces, working with both ethnographic, archeological and Indigenous communities and taking that knowledge and putting it into a living context so that within our space, and I can’t speak for other spaces, we are taking this knowledge and putting it so that if you look at the middle of the slide, the youth are the core of our future. This is where I feel it’s really important for us to push how we can change the museum experience but also change how we understand who we are as Indigenous peoples because this is some of the first things that our communities and cities are engaged with and seen. And one of the other things too is not being afraid to acknowledge these violent legacies of colonialism. And these are really important for us to bring forward and share and not step back and say oh, I’m going on keep my voice silent, and speaking up.
Mateo, as you were saying, we have a voice, use it, and this is what we’re able to do at least I’ve had the privilege to collaborate with my colleague Holly Barker to make this happen so that we can share our voices and we are heard in this setting. And this is just one small museum that I think has an ability to say hey, this is what we can do. We can take collections and knowledge that’s been erased, put it back into a living context, so that the next generation in my community and other Indigenous communities, they have that power of knowing our history, our past, our present, and our responsibility in our future.
And again, all of this is tied in with how we change what museums say about who we are and how important it is that it comes from our voices. It takes the time and ability to stop and listen and be respectful. I’ll stop with that because I know there are a lot of wonderful questions wet with it thank you. I’m feeling very hope.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you. I’m feeling very wonderful but I’ll jump into some questions and everyone does not have to answer each question, so if we can just kind of, so I can get through some of these questions, which are really, really quite engaging, okay, this one is from George Nichols. As someone who has been working in and promoting Indigenous archaeology for over 30 years, I find this symposium and others in the series illustrating a more hopeful future for archaeology than I could have anticipated just a few years ago. His question is, how do we make lasting change in North America in particular when the discipline of archaeology still sometimes dismisses Indigenous feminist and Black archaeology as political correctness? And there were several 39 likes on that and comments. Please, I want to hear this too.
>> This is actually, as Sven was wrapping up, I mean, the example that you shared of the Angyaaq connects directly to how at UW and at the Burke Museum we’ve been reimagining how we do business, and that centers on the next generation, on students, like the example that Sven provided there is a perfect example of how in educating the next generation we have an opportunity to create a new future for ourselves, and that’s something that I think is so incredibly critical. In my own work, I know in Sven’s work and Holly Barker’s work and many others here participating in a program called Research Families, it kind of models what intergenerational and collaborative learning looks like in Indigenous and other communities, and replicates that within a context of providing undergraduate students direct experience of doing research in Indigenous Studies with faculty members here on campus.
And that for me is a perfect example of how we can begin to transform the field because it really is, like I’m in this space, this space being at a University instead of working for a government agency or doing anything else with the archaeology degree that I have, I’m in this space because I have the privilege of teaching for this next generation and of also transforming the dialogues that we have in archaeology. Like, you know, I know there’s often this really big divide between academic archaeology and public or professional archaeology within the cultural resource management world but what is available to me in this space is through the writing that we do, the communication, like this webinar that we do, we can change the dialogue that others are using and using to inform the work that they do the on ground every day.
So that to me, those two things, like the teaching of the next generation and modeling for them why it’s important to listen to the margins, why it’s important to begin the work with community rather than, you know, telling each other what time it is, as we discussed earlier, like that’s the transformative work and the other transformative work is shifting these dialogues so that people change the language it they use. Those things have really definable impacts. Does change come automatically? No. Like this is something, you know, we’ve been struggling nor. Until a couple years ago, I think the only articles written in American antiquity about American archaeology was a takedown by Robert McGee and then we had, you know, a series of several responses by a number of Indigenous archaeologist, you know, Mike Wilcox I think was in that and Chip Colwell, Dorothy and others I’m forgetting right now, but that gives you a sense of how controlled those spaces have been, so it’s really exciting to be part of something like this where we’re allowing people’s voices, we’re giving space to those voices and privileging them in the work that we’re doing.
>> And I think it’s important for us to realize as we move on and think about the future in ways that archaeology impacts communities, museums, the ways in which we interpret art and how we see it, the spaces in which government creates policy and thinking about the ways in which folks live on the land and understand the land should influence the ways in which the land is interpreted, but in all of that, it’s like I really, you know, like I’m tired of being in the margins, like it’s time to like break the border, like, you know, knock down the wall, whatever, that never got finished ‑‑ sorry, political ‑‑ but how do we get to a space in which we seriously it’s not about political correctness, it’s about this is the future of anthropology, this is the future of archaeology and, I don’t know, deal with it is perhaps an answer? Maybe not? Yeah, Cheryl?
>> CHERYL WHITE: I’m glad that you made that point, to deal with it, you know. That’s really my attitude. Because we don’t have a lot of the issues here will political correctness and things like that, we don’t really have those issues here because it is an ethnically diverse country. The Dutch were everywhere on the planet basically from Southeast Asia and Indonesia, South Africa, West Africa, you know, Caribbean and here, so we have a very diverse mix of people here, and every ethnic group is a national holiday. We have an inordinate amount of national holidays in this country celebrating everyone. Maroon day is a national holiday h Chinese New Year national holiday, emancipation day national holiday, on and on and on, so Suriname really prides itself on its diversity of people. With that said, there’s still these real political issues in the country in terms of tribal people demarcating their territory, having the legal demarcation of their territory, these are very real things, this is why I say at this juncture, really for heritage, not just for archaeology, but for heritage, it is a rights based approach, and that term is cut and paste in everything.
It’s cut and paste in documents and cut and paste in community strategies they have put forth for how people must engage with them. Our history department is, you know, we are shamelessly about Suriname, there’s no issue here in term of, you know, being politically correct, being too much about, you know, ethnicities and so forth because are this country is only about 45 or something like that years old, hasn’t had time to really develop its own identity.
So that being of being about Suriname for Suriname is woven through all of the faculties at the University, all of our departments, it’s a part of our research perspective and our department within our faculty, you know, it’s the enhancement of Surinamese culture and language and history is at the forefront of our department. It’s not negotiated at all.
So when we have to work with our Dutch partners and we do a lot of that work with Holland and the Dutch government and universities as well, there’s an assertion, sometimes there’s a push and pull before that, there is an assertion that look, decolonization here, you had your time, you have had your time. You know? The history books are saturated with your face and your names. Enough of that now. Enough of that.
So I mean, for us, there’s really no mincing of words.
>> I look at it as doing the right thing. It’s as simple as that for me, and when you are engaging with communities and writing about their histories, where is the people’s voice? How do you do the right thing by them? And I work with nonnatives all the time. It’s not about political correctness. It’s doing the right thing. When you engage with communities, community members and members in that way, everybody benefits. So again, it’s just doing the right thing.
>> SARA GONZALEZ: Cheryl also brought up a really important point about all the archaeology heritage work done in Suriname it’s a rights based and that’s very much the approach I think that unifies the various Indigenous archeological approaches that we see here is it’s rooted in a fundamental recognition of the sovereignty of Indigenous nations. That’s a concept that surprisingly enough or unsurprisingly enough has yet to fully filter down within the discipline of North American archaeology and archaeology elsewhere, that is something that for whatever reason has been the most difficult thing to be able to teach that next generation of archaeologists, and I think we see this clearly, you know, there was just a new book published about repatriation by a faculty member at San Jose State University and if you’re online you can see lots of reviews of this, and really, you know, that we still continue to see things like NAGPRA be represented as an issue of ethics rather than tribal sovereignty telling me within the field we still don’t quite grasp the rights of Indigenous nations to determine their few tours and to have dominion over their heritage so that for me is still a sticking point and one that we have yet to fully address and/or kind of move that to the margins a little more within the field.
>> I would like to say the reason that I am focused on this whole rights based approach is sort of Suriname the laws here are just nonexistent, you know, we don’t even have an environmental law, yet we have these huge mining companies doing all this earth moving activity here. But we have watchdogs, environmental watchdogs that do a pretty good job monitoring them, so we really have to rely on all of these international directives and guidelines, all of these sort of UN directives and guidelines in order to kind of push or keep track of who is it coming here to do what, mining companies or impact assessment or whether it’s academics coming into the country, making sure heritage regulations are being met, we really have to rely very heavily on international directives for that, and that’s basically because we just don’t have that national, we just don’t have enough laws to acknowledge heritage the way it ought to be acknowledged. The community is very aware of that as well, so everyone really does focus on the international directives of the UN and that’s really the language at that we speak when we do heritage here.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: So I want to jump in and ask a question from Craig Stevens, with our shared affinity for material culture in mind, what are some productive ways in which archaeologists and artists can collaborate? Where can we be most effective ‑‑ I’m sorry, where can we be most efficient in creating content that allows for archeological data and narratives to be widely accessible?
>> I would say bring us in and give us access to your budgets as artists, sponsor an artist to do some work based on material art in your collection, all these museums have budgets, you would be amazed at what artists can do if you give them just a little bit, they’re not trying to sell you work for your collection necessarily, but just design, you know, work which actually talks about some of these issues we’ve been speaking about so ill say just invite people in.
I look around and part this vibrancy we’re talking about this afternoon, it’s happening all around. One of the ideas I love also is the idea of artists curating other artists, that’s an interesting concept, that you can get a local artist in the community and bring them in to curate and create ‑‑ curate objects and create a context for understanding what those objects mean, provide some interpretation, curation, art manufacturing, make an effort to collaborate. These artists are dying to do this stuff. These artists are waiting around and challenging the bit. They’ll make themselves accessible. They’ll do whatever they have to do to get to that moment where they can communicate their message.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you. Richard Sabor, I’ve seen some folks turn away from trying to decolonize anthro departments and move towards area studies departments or other alternatives. As archaeologists of color, what are the merits of challenging institutions and/or departments from within versions starting something new?
>> SARA GONZALEZ: That’s a big one. Whitney, do you want to answer that one, as newly promoted and one of the only Black professors? What about doing this work within your department?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Well, I mean, for us who have the privilege of being tenured and full and all of that, I think part of our work is to, again, I don’t ‑‑ I’m not marginal because I’m part of the global majority, right? So I’m not really that much of a minority, but that idea for us to be in spaces where we challenge, quote, unquote, traditional issues that ‑‑ or, you know, for us to push against kind of archaic models of what qualifies for tenure, right? To push community‑based archaeology, the ways in which Indigenous, Black folk, folks of color are reimagining the ways in which they do their work, right? The time it takes to be engaged in a community project is not the time it takes to dig, excavate, interpret and write a report, right? So these are different things. And we need to bring a new literacy to these institutions. We need to teach them how to read our work in a way that it’s not us doing all the work, but it is us engaging in a system that has kind of in many ways been designed for us not to kind of be there, right?
So if we’re at that point where somehow we have got there, right, then we need to use those positions of power to really push it so that those folks in the future, they don’t have to struggle as hard, you know what I mean? The reason why I’m there is because of my advisor Maria Franklin, I was her first student. The fact that there’s more archaeologists that look like Cheryl and I, that’s great, but there’s still not enough of us. So it’s the ideas behind the fact that, you know, Sonya Adelaye and I are at UMass and we’re like these beacons because there’s two of us in one department, what do we do? I would say that yeah, we just have to push these institutions and use those positions that we’re in to, yeah, not create something new, but open up spaces for folks to come through and come through whole, not broken. So take care of ourselves.
>> Yeah, that whole versus broken thing is a really important thing. I’m an Associate Professor now I went through the tenure process and I can say comfortably say without the continued support of my graduate advisors as well as the community on our campus called Wired, women investigating race, ethnicity and difference, a women of race color support group, without their support I wouldn’t be in this space, because it is a struggle and it is a fight and that’s not to like you said, Whitney, we’re in a pretty privileged space, but even then, it can feel sometimes overwhelming to feel like you are constantly fighting for something, even if it’s a good thing and it’s a just thing on fight for, to constantly be in that position of antagonism or fighting, it can take a toll on folks. So yeah, when we call for people to stay in anthropology and challenge from the inside you have to be fully aware of what you’re asking people to do and in many cases it can change you personally and psychologically to constantly be in that kind of position.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes. LGBTQI plus people have been brought up a few times in the talk. What is the relation and what do you see as the similarities and differences between the inclusion of Black and Indigenous people and perspectives and the inclusion of LGBTQI plus people and perspectives? Okay, sorry, it was just about how many letters they used. Okay, sorry. Any takers for that question?
>> I think there’s a common struggle here in that if we’re taking ‑‑ I’ll bring it back a little bit to the field training program that I do with the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, called field methods in Indigenous archaeology and one of the big lessons for us in indigenizing our archeological practice, it changes everything that we do within like from how we work with Grand Ronde heritage on the ground to how we train students to like what the relationships look like between community member, between the research team, between tribal employees and then also our students, like in refashioning relationship with the tribal nation and with the historic preservation office we’ve been really consciously aware of how far creating more equitable relations in that facet benefits and changes all of our other relationships.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: You know, it ‑‑
>> SARA GONZALEZ: The fact that we have so many students from so many different backgrounds, ethnic backgrounds, gender, sexual orientation, all of those things are possible because of how we’ve created equity within just that baseline relationship between us appears the archaeology team and the Historic Preservation Office and our and our research team and the community. Like that for me I think there’s a common shared struggle here that if we address one of those things, we have the potential to address all of these other things or at least it makes us open to considering the needs of everyone as well as our accountability and responsibility to everyone. So I really think that when you’re talking about one of these, it brings in all of this.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: And just, you know, to bring awareness to the fact that especially in the field of archaeology, there are all kind of contingencies that if you’re not a White male in the field, you might have to deal with, and I think about folks in the LGBTQIA plus communities, I think that in the same ways in which women in general were in the field and the kinds of, you know, I’m talking about physical issues that happened on a long field, field area, or if you are, you know, working on a site that is somehow treated your ancestry, there are levels in which, you know, like kind of traditional old school archaeologists would have never thought about or been a part of it, and to have those voices is not actually just to write about the possibility of being gay or lesbian in the past, but it is actually how through your lens, how you interpret the past is just as valuable, and some of us, you know, might talk seriously about queering the discipline and how do we take it and make it so that it’s not that static and/or, you know, cisgenderred vanilla kind of ways of approaching things.
So I think that it’s also the voice and an opening up those spaces in order for folks to be themselves and do archaeology. So I think that that is also a part of it. I’m going to have one question that I was asked to share, this is from Robert O’Malley, what kinds of funding support exists or would panelists like to see to specifically support community focused or decolonize archeological practice? Are there existing government, nonprofit or institutional models that the field can learn from?
>> There are quite a few cultural programs locally that I think we can learn from in term of how do engage with and ‑‑ how to engage with and share the knowledge that we are not evenly excavating but the knowledge awe have in our collections and in anthropological books, I think there’s a lot of ways we can go about doing that in terms of how do we not necessarily find the funding but how do we engage with those communities, and then collaborating with them to share that knowledge, not hoard it, and so you guys were asking about how do you change the Anthropology Department? Well, I look at how do we get into these departments to take the knowledge back? And how do we engage with the anthropology departments so that the knowledge at that they do have in their journal, we can take back and put back into a living context so that it’s not their knowledge, it’s our knowledge.
And for me, I look at all of these questions you guys have been answering is how do we empower the next generation to be able to not only act but take that knowledge and put it into a living context within their communities so that it’s theirs? And we are an extractive academic system. How do we change that? And I think by all of us actively acknowledging, hey, we have all this knowledge, how do we give it back? We’ve taken and taken and taken. We’ve erased it systematically without realizing that that’s what we were doing, but how do we take this knowledge and put it back into a living context? How do we engage with communities so that they’re empowered with this knowledge so that they know who they not only are but they can share that history themselves. And for me that is, and working with the anthropology departments and flipping it, because they have a lot of power, but the power is knowledge, and taking that knowledge and giving it back to the communities so that they own it, not us or the institutions or the museums.
So actively engaging at those levels is really important.
>> To go back to the funding question, Danilyn Rutherford from we know had posted in there about a new collaborative engagement granting stream they’ve set up so that’s a really important one and one of the things we’ve been working on, and by we here I mean the Indigenous Archaeology Collective, Society of Black Archaeologists, Wenner‑Gren and SAPIENS and Cornell’s working with all the archaeology societies in the U.S. and partnering with the funding organizations in North America to think exactly about this question of who is getting funded for what kinds of projects, and that’s a central kind of, that’s a central question that people have and the purpose of asking those two questions, those related questions are trying to understand how we can continue to move the needle to support this collaborative research because it’s one thing for, you know, a funding agency organization to come out and say oh, yeah, you know, we support collaborative research, but yet all of the experiences on the ground from archaeologists to apply and community members and other kinds of partnerships who apply for these things indicate that they have a really difficult time getting funding. So I think that’s a problem that we’ve been trying to work on and address, and address both through conversation as well as leading some of these, you know, encouraging people to start developing these new funding streams to support research that they say that they’re supporting.
>> I would just like to add, you know, here northern Amazonia, much of our collaborations have been with these large international NGO’s, conservation international, world wildlife fund, Amazon conservation team, they’re based in DC but they have a very heavy presence here in Suriname, Columbia, Brazil, a Dutch NGO, the Thropinoz we’ve really had to marry agenda and their objectives with theirs and they’re really situated in environmental sciences, many of the people they hire are biologists, geologists and so forth, GIS specialists, and it’s been great for us because they are a fantastic engine for getting into the interior, they’ve got all these great skill‑based people in their organizations that we can sort of borrow from, but we’ve had to learn how to sort of match our language to theirs, you know.
Their idea of heritage is not what as archaeologists or anthropologists we call heritage. Their idea of heritage is how many individuals, you know, what’s the population density of X group in this particular ecosystem and how are they using their ecosystem, that’s their idea of heritage. They all have a heritage mandate within their scope of work, they just don’t really know how to do it.
So, you know, a lot of these kinds of organizations have been great in this context at least here in South America for us to work with. They’ve got tons of money it get into the interior and they also utilize a lot of other apparatuses. Amazon Conservation Team works with this Terra‑stories, I don’t know if anyone is familiar with it, which is basically an app you can download, an offline app and it’s specifically for Indigenous tribal community people to be able to do some mapping of their ancestral traditional territory on their iPhone. You can go check out or website.
But Amazon Conservation Team is a facilitator of Terra stories here in this country so I think it’s looking a lot for us, we’ve had to lock a lot into the environmental sciences and really sort of learn their language and match ours with theirs to work with them. We work primarily with them to be honest but it’s been a great marriage here in this context.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: We are running really short on time, but I did want to, actually it was pointed out that I asked more questions from men. I didn’t realize I had done that, and I acknowledged that. Marilyn Guida, whose question I just lost, okay, for anyone, this is the last question because we’re running out of time, for anyone, would ‑‑ she wants to know about a perspective on rock art as a term and what and how archaeologists study it. There tends to be a focus on the image itself and not its place in the landscape, both the place where the quote, unquote, art was placed and what can be seen when one turns around and looks at the surrounding landscape, and thank you for your interesting perspectives.
>> I’ve had the privilege to document petroglyphs, images packed into stone in our community, we started off thinking there was only 300, we’re past 1300 now and over the past 20 years have come to not look at the individuals but start to think about them holistically, and that’s something that’s really important to take into consideration, and as an archaeologist, it’s important to go out there at all seasons, to see when these cultural heritages were being created and trying to understand the story, but also bringing community members in to see if there are other stories that may have been passed down. And it’s a really complex puzzle. I mean, this is something that I wish we hadn’t lost so many of our people because we’ve lost most of those stories.
But in excavating near this site, in going out there in the wintertime, in springtime, in summertime, I’ve gotten to see some of the stories come out of what my ancestors were making. So taking in all those perspectives is really important.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you. I appreciate that idea of looking at ‑‑ I mean, we’re all about context, right? So we should be looking at a piece of art and everything around it. I don’t know, it just seems like that should be not revolutionary.
>> There’s a spot, I want to jump for a second, there’s a spot out in Galisteo which is remarkable for just this type of thing, it’s out by the town of Galisteo, but it’s Galisteo Basin, I think it’s referred to as Comanchi Gap, it’s a site of major they call it Anasazi, that’s not current, but when I was studying, they call it Anasazi ruin, and when I was studying, connection with the land and people and land, you’re out at Comanchi Gap, you take the road out to Galisteo gap in New Mexico and cross over into this private land and it’s kind of trespassing, but we do it anyway and you see these amazing petroglyphs that occur and it’s the most amazing space I’ve ever been in my personal experience with this connection between the stone, salt ridges that ride up maybe 250 feet off the floor of the Galisteo Basin and there’s tens of thousands of petroglyphs out there, some of the most interesting images of Pueblo war shield shrines and interpretations and amazing hyper‑religious imagery from this period of occupation.
And when you’re in that space on the ridge and everything is moving around you and there’s rain and there’s clouds and animals, there’s like gazelles and things around, it’s actually pretty remarkable because it’s the idea I touched on earlier about this connection with the space where human experience is sort of sublimated into this larger landscape, and it’s very existential, it’s kind of like a humbling experience. But I just wanted to toss this out there. If anyone gets a chance, go out to Comanchi Gap and hike it or if you’re in the Santa Fe area, contact me, and I’ll take you out there. You’ll get this almost a preverbal experience about the connection between this ancient art form and the landscape. It’s pretty remarkable stuff.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Thank you. I just turned off my camera by accident. So I wanted to thank each and every one of you for being in this conversation with me. I know there were a lot of questions that I did not get to, and it was great to see the exchange in the Q & A because a lot of people were answering or liking, et cetera. I just wanted to say that, you know, this kind of panel and the series that has been going on reflects the desire for us to create a field that is rooted in not only decolonial but liberatory practices which is kind of a part of our introductory statements, and the fact is that it’s time to unsettle the past, especially when for many of us the past is something that is not in the past. It has affected the ways in which we live today.
Archaeology is about the past but there are lived ways in which the past and that material has affected our lives today, and that is a part of how we kind of unsettle it, unsettle the past is gone way ‑‑ going away and the unique histories of Black and Indigenous people especially on this land, right, on this continent, I have no word for other than two words, a lot, because it has been something that is so ‑‑ it has shaped so many of us, and I hope that, you know, at some point we realize that we are no longer the object, right, we are human and we need to turn the lens and allow us to tell the stories of that material and the landscape and the people and all of the ways in which all of these pieces interact to create, that have created who we have become, as hopefully archaeologists that are not going to be at the margins but at the center.
I want to pass the virtual Zoom mic over to Andrew Bauer, who is going to close it up for us, and help us with a little bit of summary, and I really want to thank you all for being here and hanging with us and enjoying and being a part of our conversation.
>> Thanks for having us.
>> Thank you, Whitney for facilitating this conversation. It’s been wonderful to chat with you all.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes, it has been great. I wish it was longer, but, you know, we all need to get off Zoom sometime.
>> CHERYL WHITE: Yeah, thanks a lot. I really appreciate the collegiality. It’s nice to kind of ‑‑ this is my version of getting out and about.
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes.
>> Thank you. Thank you, Whitney, and thanks to all the panel Is. Can you see my screen and hear me?
>> WHITNEY BATTLE-BAPTISTE: Yes, we can.
>> So I just want to offer a closing, thanks to Whitney for moderating this productive and much needed conversation on unsettling archaeology and Stanford archaeology center is grateful for the opportunity to sponsor this webinar and thank you to our panelists for their excellent discussion which covered not just different imaginations and voices and knowledge of the past but also really different kinds of stakes, methods and collaborative practices that I think we can all take as inspiration here in producing lasting change, right? A real model for how we actually generate lasting change within the field.
So to that point, I would also like to thank and extend gratitude to all of the viewers and especially those who provided stimulating questions to our panelists. As a reminder, today’s discussion is of course just one in a series of an ongoing series of a ongoing webinar From the Margins to the Mainstream Black and Indigenous Futures in Archaeology and call your attention to the fact that the next event in the series will address questions of climate change and landscapes and is scheduled for March 3, 2021, so this coming March.
Please keep an eye out for additional details that you’ll receive through similar channels through which you received this information for this one, and I would also like to take this opportunity to advertise this year’s coming North American theoretical archaeology group conference or TAG for short, which will be virtually hosted by the Stanford Archaeology Center from April 30 to May 2. The conference theme will focus on issues of social and racial justice and theory method and practice and very much converges I think with the themes of this ongoing webinar and it’s a three‑day event that will be open and online and we hope that many of you here today will be able to join those conversations through TAG as well.
And in closing, then, and in reference to Stanford, I would like to just acknowledge that Stanford University does occupy the ancestral land of the Muwekma Ohlone tribe, great importance to people, we have a responsibility to acknowledge, honor and make visible the University’s relationship to Native peoples and we encourage you to learn more about the Alonay and learn more about the Indigenous histories and communities in the places that you occupy and with that I want to say thanks again to our panelists for sharing their views, their research and their art, all in collaboration with all of us here and to everyone who attended and participated in the conversation through questions. So thank you all. Thank you so much.
(The webinar has concluded at 5:58 p.m. EST)
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