Indigenous Archaeology

George P. Nicholas

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online July 2014 | | DOI:
Indigenous Archaeology

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What has become known as “indigenous archaeology” took form in the 1990s through efforts to ensure a place for descendent communities in the discovery, interpretation of, and benefits from their heritage. This followed growing public awareness of the plight of indigenous peoples worldwide, the passage of federal legislation to protect tribal interests, and a commitment by anthropologists and archaeologists to counter the colonial legacy of their disciplines. Since its inception, indigenous archaeology has grown considerably in scope and become more nuanced in its practice; today it garners much attention in discussions of heritage management, stewardship, collaborative research practices, indigeneity, postcolonialism, and the sociopolitics of archaeology, among other topics. Indigenous archaeology now comprises a broad set of ideas, methods, and strategies applied to the discovery and interpretation of the human past that are informed by the values, concerns, and goals of Indigenous peoples. It has been defined, in part, as: “ … an expression of archaeological theory and practice in which the discipline intersects with indigenous values, knowledge, practices, ethics, and sensibilities, and through collaborative and community-originated or -directed projects, and related critical perspectives” (Nicholas, Native peoples and archaeology. In Encyclopedia of Archaeology, Vol. 3, edited by D. Pearsall. Academic Press, New York, 2008: p. 1660). Major issues addressed range from differences between indigenous and Western epistemologies, to inequalities in representation and decision making, to challenges relating to indigeneity and racialism. Usually placed in the context of postprocessual archaeology, indigenous archaeology has both influenced and been influenced by Marxist, critical, feminist, and interpretive approaches in archaeological theory and practice, but ideally it is expected to be grounded in local indigenous values, worldviews, and epistemology. Its nature, goals, and benefits contribute to debates regarding who controls, has access to, or benefits from archaeological endeavors, who is “indigenous,” whether indigenous archaeology should be separate from the mainstream, and the tension that exists between positivist and relativist modes of knowledge about “the past.” While indigenous archaeology is much involved in examining the material aspects of past human endeavors (i.e., the archaeological record), it is a more complicated affair that may involve ethnography, traditional knowledge, and religious practices and worldview. Some argue that pursuing indigenous interests depart from archaeology as we know it. In addition, indigenous archaeology is as much a method or process as a political agenda to change and improve the nature the discipline, much like feminist archaeology. Indigenous archaeology is part of a suite of approaches (e.g., public, collaborative, community-based) in contemporary archaeology that seek to connect contemporary groups to their heritage.

Article.  13661 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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