Archeology and Intercultural Dialogue

Archeology and Intercultural Dialogue

In recent blogs, library tools related to archeology and sustainability have been explored, in support of a documentary film and a presentation by assistant professor of anthropology Dr. Aaron Comstock, given on November 10.  The video, Common Ground: The Story of Bears Ears documents the many competing concerns over the Bears Ears monument in Utah, including the preservation of  art and historical artifacts (materials of outsized importance in understanding pre-literate native cultures), conservation, the development of energy and rare resources, and providing space to live.  The need for input from all shareholders, particularly from Native Americans, is a primary and ongoing concern.

In his work, Aaron Comstock has sought to foster dialogue with and inclusion of Native American stakeholders in his research at the Guard archaeological site in Lawrenceburg, Indiana and the Turpin archaeological site in Anderson Township, Ohio.  In his presentation, he noted that “what is needed are local movements and interpersonal dialogues that take into account the needs, desires, and customs of varied and complex groups of Native peoples.”

Comstock working with a student to identify features at the Turpin site.

We see examples constantly in the culture.  For example, the importance of working with First Nations groups was illustrated earlier this month on the History Channel’s program The Curse of Oak Island – the treasure hunters discovered pieces of pottery that their resident archeologist identified as being from the Mi’kmaq people.  They immediately contacted Nova Scotia’s Communities, Culture, and Heritage Department (roughly analogous to Indiana’s Division of Historic Preservation & Archaeology) and informed both that organization and the Acadia First Nation Council of the find – the CCH and the AFNC will now have their perspectives and concerns showcased on a popular television show, able to protect and give richer context to any Mi’kmaq artifacts.

A piece of Mi’kmaq First Nation pottery found on Oak Island. Photo from History Channel

Research into sustainability and the protection of historic resources, particularly those related to Native American culture, is a growing issue, reflected in oil pipeline disputes and arguments over tribal input before environmental restrictions are imposed on ancestral lands.  The IU East Campus Library offers many tools to study sustainability issues, including an extensive libguide.  Databases like Agricultural & Environmental Science Collection, Environmental Studies, and GreenFILE include material which address Native issues, and books like The Life and Writings of Julio C. Tello: America’s First Indigenous Archaeologist by Richard L. Burger, Community-Based Archaeology: Research with, by, and for Indigenous and Local Communities by Sonya Atalay, Critical Theory and the Anthropology of Heritage Landscapes by Melissa F. Baird, Before Yellowstone: Native American Archaeology in the National Park by Douglas H. MacDonald, Repatriation Reader: Who Owns American Indian Remains by Devon A. Mihesuah, and Accomplishing NAGPRA: Perspectives on the Intent, Impact, and Future of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act by Sangita Chari illuminate the unique concerns of Native Americans in pursuing a responsible sustainability policy.

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