The Times, They are A-Changin':
Ten years ago, we both quit SAA because we felt the Society did not represent the kind of archaeology that we believe in. We saw SAA as exclusive: It had prioritized a "purely scientific" research prerogative over the interests of other groups with stakes in archaeological sites, presenting a general posture devoid of respect for the feelings and opinions of those not in "the club." Nowhere was this more evident than in Indian country, where we lived and worked.
Five years ago, we began to see a glimmer of hope that SAA was changing its relationship to American Indian people. The Native American Committee was formed, a Native American scholarship fund was started, and the SAA supported the publication of Native Americans and Archaeologists: Stepping Stones to Common Ground (1997, N. Swidler, AltaMira Press, Walnut Creek). Encouraged, we rejoined, glad to see SAA beginning to change with the times. However, we can't help wondering if we were too optimistic about the trajectory undertaken by SAA.
Why do anthropologists and archaeologists continue to act as if Native Americans are new to the tasks of protecting, managing, and interpreting their cultural and historical sites? Native Americans managed their important places, their cemeteries, and their spiritual sites long before Europeans arrived on the scene and displaced them as "cultural resource managers." Native people must, once again, play a leading role in deciding how the remains of their ancestors are to be treated and how places important to their cultural survival are to be protected.
If archaeologists feel that we have competing uses for materials deriving from Indian heritage, we must enter into dialogue with the natural custodians of that heritage. If ever we are to persuade Native Americans that archaeological investigations can be useful to them, we must first establish relationships built on trust and respect. Responding to conflict by banding with an elite group of scientific colleagues in order to sue the government and unilaterally change laws is not a step in this direction.
Our purpose here is not to criticize our discipline's past, or even those who cling to that past. Our purpose is to explore the benefits that are emerging from the many cooperative relationships that exist today among Native Americans and archaeologists throughout North America. These collaborative endeavors, rather than the confrontational tactics pursued by some archaeologists, should be the models for archaeology and its engagement with Indian heritage and contemporary Indian people. Our own experience is drawn from the Pacific Northwest, where we have been fortunate to work closely with various Native American groups in the mid-Columbia River region since the late 1980s. We believe our experience applies to other regions as well, including other parts of the world where Native peoples are fighting for a say in managing resources important to them.
The primary lesson we have learned is that, far from diminishing the scholarly or scientific endeavor, cooperation with Native people has thoroughly enhanced our work. We have gained understandings about the nature of archaeological sites relative to the landscape, the meanings of archaeological manifestations, and appropriate interpretive and stewardship techniques that would be far less sophisticated without the teachings we have received from the Indian people of the region. Through our countless discussions with tribal colleagues, we have come to better understand why these places are important, and why they are critical to the survival of modern Native cultures. What information could be more important to us as anthropologists? It is information that would be totally inaccessible if, without the cooperation of Native Americans, we had to rely solely on detached, scientific techniques.
We also have learned from firsthand experiences of the harm caused by archaeology. Recent examples have been particularly glaring in the mishandling of human remains when archaeologists fail to follow the procedures with which our profession has agreed to comply (i.e., NAGPRA). We've seen the outrage of Native Americans witnessing archaeologists show off "their" skulls to the public and boasting their cleverness in discerning that the "specimen" suffered from arthritis, had a broken bone, or had a long head. It is striking that archaeologists expect the Indian people to endure treatment of their ancestors that non-Indians would seldom accept for our own.
Our experiences, bad and good, have taught us that archaeological research should not be regarded as an end in itself, but as part of an overall stewardship program to protect important artifacts and sites for future generations of Indians, non-Indians, and, yes, archaeologists. Archaeologists can do so much more working with Native Americans than in isolation or opposition to them. We shake our heads in wonderment when we see our colleagues resist a cooperative relationship. We ask, "How can members of SAA passively watch while the blunders of colleagues create grief for the whole profession and for Indian people, and do nothing? Is everyone too busy? Are they afraid they will lose their jobs if they voice disapproval?"
Even more confusing is why anthropological associations with written codes of ethics do not sanction members who violate these codes. Why do we let a few individuals destroy the years of work it takes to build relationships of trust among Native Americans and archaeologists? It may be true that the most damaging and publicized violations are few, and that they do not reflect the behavior of the majority. Clearly, the pistol whipping of a gay man in Wyoming or the grotesque murder of a black man in Texas do not characterize the overall standard of human decency in this country; neither do cases such as the Kennewick Man fiasco or the shocking Blaine burial removal reflect the general professional standards of American archaeologists. But where is the outrage when such cases occur? Where were our archaeological leaders? In a defensive posture, the discipline redraws a line in the sand between archaeologists and Indian people. Why does it seem that only Native Americans and their friends speak out against these cases? Is our profession not strong enough for substantive intellectual and ethical self-reflection?
Our Indian colleagues and friends ask us, "How can you support an organization that supports the suing of scientists in the Kennewick Man case? How can you support an organization that worked with Rep. Doc Hastings to rewrite the NAGPRA bill so that Native Americans would virtually never have any say in the disposition of their ancestors? How can you support an organization that talks about cooperation, and then does these things behind closed doors?"
Sometimes we do wonder whether our membership in and continued efforts on behalf of SAA are misplaced. But the times they are a-changing. The old guard is on the way out. A recent book on Kennewick Man (2000, R. Downey, Riddle of the Bones: Politics, Science, and Race and the Story of Kennewick Man, Springer Verlag) shows that this radical segment of the profession is out of touch and behind the times. David Hurst Thomas's new book, Skull Wars: Kennewick Man, Archaeology, and the Search for Native American Identity (2000, Basic Books) traces the whole sorry history of scientific mismanagement of Native American resources and how Native Americans are slowly regaining due control over them, albeit in the teeth of professional resistance. The Hastings Bill to eviscerate NAGPRA will prove to be an embarrassing legacy for those who are trying associate it with SAA. So too could be the Blaine burial case, where dozens of burials were allegedly removed from a construction site in western Washington and transported to Denver, Colorado, without notification to local tribes (www.seattleweekly.com/features/9934/features-downey.shtml ). If the allegations are true, organizations such as ROPA and the SAA Committee on Ethics will need to decide once and for all whether they are functioning bodies or mere window dressing.
It is true that the last decade has seen an unprecedented increase in the number of archaeologists working with Native Americans to protect important places. It also is true that these experiences did not always work out as the archaeologists (or Native Americans) had hoped they would. Working with Native Americans is difficult, just as any intercultural situation is, especially when one has not been trained for such work. It takes monumental patience and a tolerance for ambiguity, as Nancy Lurie, former president of the American Anthropological Association said (N. O. Lurie, 1973, Action, Anthropology, and the American Indian, in Anthropology and the American Indian. Edited by J. Officer, Indian Historian Press, San Francisco).
For us, the past decade of our professional lives also has been full of highs and lows. There have been many sleepless nights, and nary a night goes by without us questioning one thing or another. But the last decade also has been the most rewarding one of our careers. Through trial and error, by listening, by using some common sense, and most of all, by being truthful and respectful, we have come a long way in learning how to formulate appropriate scientific goals and co-management programs without violating the values of others.
Archaeologists and Native Americans can either spend their time getting to know each other and figuring out how to work together, or they can face a future that involves lawyers, courts, and bad feelings. The answer is obvious, at least to us. Native Americans are part of the future for American archaeology. Let's figure out how to make it work.
For non-Indian archaeologists, working with Native Americans
to protect places of great importance to them is not easy. It takes patience
and a tolerance for ambiguity that we generally are not trained to perform.
Further, the highs are high and the lows are low. It is difficult, and not a
night goes by without questioning one thing or another. But the last decade
of our professional lives also has been the most rewarding. Native Americans
are part of the future for American archaeology. Through trial and error, by
listening, by using some common sense, and most of all, by being truthful and
respectful, we have come a long way in learning how to formulate appropriate
scientific goals and co-management pro-grams without violating the values of
others. We can either spend our time getting to know each other and figuring
out how we are going to work together, or we can face a future that involves
lawyers, courts, and bad feelings. The answer is obvious, at least to us.
"If as anthropologists we truly believe that there is value in the diversity of culture and human experience, we must also accept that we do not alone have the practical, theoretical, or spiritual tools to access it, or any exclusive right to possess or control it. If there is information to be had from human remains that society cannot live without, if there is wisdom in the archaeological record that can benefit humanity, surely Native Americans and archaeologists will come to agree that we need to work through the complicated issues dividing us."
Like many of our colleagues, we were trained in traditional, scientific archaeology. But like some of our colleagues, one day we found ourselves working with and for Native Americans. We quickly discovered that our training had not adequately prepared us to work with living people or their long traditions and relationships to their ancestors. We were not prepared emotionally or technically for the experiences we faced. Over the years we went through a series of transformations that can be accurately expressed by a model (Figure 1) that was developed by John Foley to explain the attitudes of white male managers when faced with diversity in the workplace ("Beyond Bashing: A White Male Manager's Inquiry into Diversity and Justice" 1996; for a copy contact Foley at JefEthics@aol.com). It describes the stages experienced by an individual or an institutional culture. Understanding these stages can be helpful in developing more effective relationships between archaeologists and Native Americans. While every archaeologist working today falls somewhere on this chart, it does not imply that everyone will start at the bottom or pass through all stages.
Most people begin somewhere in the dominance stages, with an outlook based upon power and control. "It is OK for Native Americans to be involved in archaeology, as long as they don't think they are the ones making the decisions." Archaeologists are used to managing their sites, overseeing their field staff, and rationalizing their procedures, all within the common language, technique, and perspective shared by the profession. At this stage, we may acknowledge the presence of Native voices, but we allow them only superficial recognition and no substantive opportunity to influence our practice. Little professional or personal growth is likely to occur during these stages.
When we can transcend the power/control threshold and reach the non-dominance stages, however, all things are possible. Until archaeologists recognize that archaeology does not own archaeological sites, it will be impossible to move out of Stage 3 or 3R. Once an archaeologist recognizes that archaeology has no inherent right to impact a site, stage 4 is within reach.
To transcend the dominance threshold, we must recognize and honestly believe that Native Americans have a fundamental right to make decisions about ancestral resources important to them. They have historical ties to these resources, feel a responsibility to protect them, and know that their cultural survival depends upon them. These serious concerns carry more weight than an archaeologist's "right" to make a living [as Robson Bonnichsen has so passionately argued, "Law gives Indian creationists the upper hand over science" (G. Johnson, New York Times, October 20, 1996)], or the need to exploit the great store-house of knowledge contained in ancient human remains [as Douglas Owsley is wont to say, "Smithsonian scientist knows the truth in his bones" (A. Manning, USA Today, June 24, 1997)], or the contributions to human wisdom found in the archaeological record (as we are all taught in graduate school). If as anthropologists we truly believe that there is value in the diversity of culture and human experience, we also must accept that we do not alone have the practical, theoretical, or spiritual tools to access it, or any exclusive right to possess or control it. If there is information to be had from human remains that society cannot live without, if there is wisdom in the archaeological record that can benefit humanity, surely Native Americans and archaeologists will come to agree that we need to work through the complicated issues dividing us. But that will only happen in an atmosphere of honesty and mutual respect.
Stage 5 is difficult because there is often pressure from those in Stages 1, 2, 3, 3R to return to the fold (i.e., return to 3R). Initially, life is very difficult and lonely. One must continually resist these pressures by remembering that in the long run, the dismantling of the oppressive system will be in everyone's best interests. The most important thing one can do is to establish deep human connections and relationships with allies.
Archaeologists should not fear the suggestion that our discipline faces issues similar to professionals in other fields. Indeed, when we read Steven Covey's discussion of the "Pie Mentality" (1990, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Simon and Schuster), we were once again impressed by the pervasive currents in the dominant culture that also shape anthropological mentalities. As long as you think of the world as a pie, Covey says, you become secretive, conniving, and possessiveafter all, there are only so many pieces of pie; you want yours; you want as big a piece as possible. But when you realize the world is not like a pie, that the opportunities for success, progress, and growth are endless, and you transcend the pie mentality and accept the abundance mentality. Those afraid of working with Native Americans tend to have the pie mentality"they are taking our work," "they won't let us study the bones," "they won't let us dig." Those who work with Native Americans know that, quite to the contrary, Native Americans are actually expanding opportunities for archaeologists. Our profession will not lose anything by abandoning its claim to power over Native American resources: It can only gain.
We would like to suggest a concrete, professional step that SAA can take to support the individual and disciplinary growth outlined above. SAA must help repair some of the damage done to Native American/archaeologist relations by high-profile cases such as Kennewick Man. We call on the leadership of SAA to appoint either a person with impeccable credentials or a balanced blue-ribbon panel to explore issues such as:
The purpose of this evaluation is not to identify mistakes so that people can be criticized, but to ensure that the mistakes will not be repeated. If we do not confront and address these issues ourselves, now, how do we convince the Native Americans that the same mistakes will not be made again? We can no longer afford to look the other way: The tribes, the press, and the public won't let us. The times they are a-changin' and American archaeology and the Native American community needs to change with them. We believe the new leadership in SAA can rise to the challenge. ·
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