This morning, two examples of appropriation and misrepresentation of Native American cultures entered on my radar. The first is this t-shirt being sold at Forever-21: http://www.polyvore.com/headdress_graphic_high-low_top/thing?id=59911964. I don’t know what’s worse: the fact that it’s being sold or the fact that it is sold out.
The second is from Jimmy Kimmel live. It is on of his Liewitness News segments about Coachella, which incidentally takes place fairly close to the Cahuilla Nation. Most of the video is just making fun of hipsters, but pay attention at 2:23 into the video. I’m glad they chose to single that guy out. He deserves it.
Last Thursday we discussed Diné culture and read an article by Lloyd Lee about Navajo identity formation. We focused much of our discussion on the perception of the Diné as only a post-contact culture, their adaptability to new environmental and sociopolitical situations, and their religion. Lee’s article proposes a new method for determining Navajo tribal membership based more on emic, cultural criteria than on the existing etic, biological criteria. We ran out of time last week, so we will discuss Lee’s proposed method tomorrow.
On April 11th and 16th we had guest speakers in ANT 358. On the 11th, Dr. Lea McChesney talked to us about her work that is adding Hopi conceptions about pottery and pottery-making into the Native American art market. For over 150 years the market has been driven by etic evaluations of what is valuable and not valuable. This has changed the focus of Hopi pottery-making from the clay and the active role of the pot in the culture toward “dead” pots, in which the focus is on the painted decoration. This project gives Hopi potters a say in the market and is working to revitalize emic pottery-making.
On April 16th, Luis Garcia talked to us about the history of Pueblo weaving and the state of the art today. We discussed the major events in weaving history and how they have impacted historic and modern Pueblo weavers. It is traditionally a men’s role, and he is one of the few men still performing the art from growing the cotton to the finished product. He discussed with us revitalization efforts as well as the significance of weaving in Pueblo culture.
Today in class, we will be discussing Hopi and Pueblo societies, cultures, and histories. We will focus on Hopi cultural characteristics and discuss their religion, sociopolitical organization, and settlement among other topics. We are also going to discuss an article by Carol Chiago Lujan about tourism at Taos Pueblo. The central questions are: 1) whether or not tourism is a form of assimilation; 2) how much impact tourism has had on the residents of Taos and their culture; and 3) the relationship between the pueblo and the town.
Last week I attended the Society for American Archaeology 78th Annual Meeting in Honolulu, HI. Over the last five years there has been a concerted effort to include the voices of Native Americans through collaboration and scholarships for native students interested in archaeology. This has been very apparent at the meetings. The opening session on Wednesday night began with an welcome by native Hawaiians. Requests to have representatives from local native cultures has been a part of the meetings for the last 5 years or so. While it should have been a part from the beginning, this is a thoughtful gesture that is respecting the views of many native groups to ask permission to enter their lands.
After the welcome, a panel of six speakers from indigenous societies from North America, South America, Australia, and Hawaii talked about their experience in archaeology, their research, and their views on the relationship between indigenous peoples and archaeology. The stories and research ranged from continued resistance and ignorance from archaeologists to productive and helpful collaborations. Perhaps the most interesting was by Peter Nelson, a Miwok archaeologist, who discussed his relationship with elders in his community upon proposing his project. There were differences in public vs. private support for his research, and it required building trust over a long period of time to create a useful and productive research plan. It is a good lesson for everyone interested in collaborative research.
Although several of the panel members described failures in the relationship, I have seen significant changes in the meetings and participation by Native Americans in archaeology even in my short career. Clearly, more needs to happen, but I believe we are headed in the right direction. The Native American Scholarship fund and invitations for participation by Native peoples are a good start.
There isn’t anything formal next week because we are off next week while I am at the Society for American Archaeology Meetings in Honolulu. The opening session of the meetings and several symposia and poster sessions cover the relationship between archaeologists and Native Americans. I’m sure there will be interesting conversations around these presentations and posters, so I will post details and my thoughts throughout the week.
I use modern in the artistic sense here to describe the early 1900s to just after WWII. Today we discussed Society for American Indians and “Indian Elite” of the early 1900s. We discussed the larger results of boarding schools creating individuals who did not assimilate but learned the American system and how to work within it to promote Native American rights and expose injustices and atrocities. We also discussed John Collier and the Indian New Deal and the fact that while progressive for the time, it still failed because it was a policy that treated all Native Americans societies as one. The pushing of American-style democracy on Native American societies did not help either. We ended with a discussion of the post-WWII era and the Termination policy. Throughout these different movements and policies, we continue to see mistreatment and injustices. However, compared to the nineteenth century, there are stronger and more successful reactions to this structural violence.