Fear, Contradiction, and Coloniality in Settler Archaeology

Valerie Bondura

To cite this article: Valerie Bondura (2020) Fear, Contradiction, and Coloniality in Settler Archaeology, Anthropology Now, 12:3, 146-155, DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2020.1884483
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/19428200.2020.1884483

Repatriation and Erasing the Past (University Press of Florida 2020), by Elizabeth Weiss and James W. Springer, is a polemic against the repatriation of Indigenous heritage, including the bodies of ancestors, to Indigenous Peoples in the United States under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The authors, with the approval of an academic publisher and peer reviewers, claim that the field of anthropology is in danger of collapse be- cause of a law that specifies that Native ancestors and their belongings have the same legal protections as other people’s, a  law  that was enacted more than 30 years ago.1 Their greatest source of alarm is the notion that Indigenous people could have bodily autonomy in life and death. With horror, they write that contemporary anthropologists believe that “American Indians [sic] own their own culture, including their own past, their own bodies, and their own artifacts”.2 (4), a statement so inoffensive to most people’s basic understandings of consent that the reader of this book immediately knows that they are in for something truly pugnacious.

The remaining 200-some pages exist to expound on Weiss and Springer’s fear of Indigenous sovereignty, recycling colonialist tropes of Indigenous primitivism, the superiority of science, and the primary importance of academic research. With little evidence, cherry-picked citations and a failure to engage with anthropological literature on subjects like race, religion, colonialism, politics or science and technology, Weiss and Springer unravel a screed against Indigenous people in the interest of protecting their access to other people’s bodies.3

“The past” of the book’s title is an un- marked naturalization that foreshadows the book’s assumptions about the singularity of experience based on the “objectivity” of certain (Euro-American) ways of knowing. For example, Weiss and Springer refer to millenia-old Indigenous remains as “our earliest Americans” (38), an offensive projection of settler identity onto people who could not conceivably be understood as citizens of the American colonial state. Indeed, implicating ancestors as “Americans” is not just Indigenous erasure and colonial anachronism but also emotion-laden settler nostalgia, the kind of affective display that the authors disdain when it emanates from others. This kind of contradiction and lackadaisical universalizing is exemplary of the settler ontology the authors inhabit throughout the text but are themselves unable to ever see.

In reading the book, it often occurred to me that the authors hope that anthropologists will use it for teaching, even if only as the counterpoint in a “both sides”–style debate about the treatment of human remains. But no one—impoverished students least of all—needs to spend $90 on a book that rehashes colonial arguments about the ultimate (white) supremacy of science. Instead of pursuing this avenue, instructors and students would be better served by analyzing the totality of laws and practices regarding the treatment of human remains in archaeology and reading Indigenous-authored and informed texts about how to relate to ancestors and their belongings.4

If anyone needs further reason for not teaching with this book, note that its rhetorical style would feel at home on contemporary right-wing websites, emphasizing the authors’ attempt to act as provocateurs. A subsection entitled “Science over Sensitivity” (217) might as well cite right-wing personality Ben Shapiro for how closely it mirrors his now-classic aphorism “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”5

Yet both “facts” and “science” are hard to come by in the text. At the most basic level, what bioarchaeologists actually do (and who cares about what they do) is somewhat obscured. This obfuscation works to remove humanity from this purportedly anthropological text. Indeed, the authors own positionality  is denied through an insistence on scientific objectivity as the moral and intellectual standard par excellence, and Indigenous people are reduced to caricatures of “religious enthusiasts” (201) with anti-science agendas. Indigenous people and those who acknowledge the legitimacy of Indigenous sovereignty are cast as clinging to “an ideology of vicitimization” (3–4), a framing so very much like white Americans complaining that Black Americans should “get over slavery” that the resonance cannot be ignored.

The book is divided into three parts. “Part I: The Science of Human Remains” covers “Paleoindians,” a generalized term for the people who lived on the North American continent millennia ago. Chapter 1 is a literature review of discoveries of Paleoindian bones bookended by laments over those that have been repatriated. Weiss has previously written about The Ancient One/Kennewick Man6 and is eager to rehash her old material here, focusing on a small sample of sensationalized conflicts between researchers and Indigenous communities. Chapter 2 follows a similar structure but focuses specifically on mummified ancestors. It notes that research on mummified bodies in North America is limited not “just” because of repatriation but because the excavation techniques used in obtaining the mummified bodies—the literal scientific method that the book exalts, carried out by the same early 19th- and early 20th-century anthropologists whose definition of anthropology is the one the authors themselves adhere to (1)—did not produce scientifically meaningful information (40).

Several moments in Part I are like this, where Weiss and Springer unironically contradict their arguments by providing descriptions of how scientific research  itself  is rife with ambiguity. For example, after critiquing Indigenous oral history as unreliable for affiliating ancestral remains with communities, they go on to note that scientific methods of affiliation are also ineffective. In covering issues of dating and affiliation, they write, “Not all researchers are in agreement that Paleoindians have such clear distinctions from more recent finds. For instance, the Spirit Cave mummy from Nevada has craniometrics closest to the Ainu and Norse, but forensic anthropologist George Gill states that he looks Amerindian (Barker et al. 2000)” (79). Such scientific failures to reconcile these various interpretations would seem to show that science is a form of belief rather than an objective truth, but Weiss and Springer claim that science’s indeterminacy is legitimate, whereas Indigenous certainty is not.

Chapters 3 and 4 attempt a more analytical mode, though they prove largely unreadable to any anthropologist with a basic understanding of kinship and sociality. They contain some of the most inflammatory statements about “repatriation ideology,” portrayed as a dogmatic belief with no legitimate foundation. Generalizations are made and uncited, such as claiming that most tribes use “quantum blood” to determine affiliation (72). It is unclear how the authors determined that “most” tribes use this method or if they have an understanding of its specific colonial history, or if they are aware of the diverse ways that humans assert community affiliation. These chapters also include apparently serious statements such as “Remarkably, there can be a situation in which a person is 100% Native American but from various tribes and thus not a member of any tribe. But someone whose family is 75% European and 25% Navajo can belong to the tribe” (72). The only remarkable thing is that any anthropologist could evidence such ignorance about the differences between “biological affiliation” and kinship.

Part II offers an overview of “American Indian law” before focusing on a facile analysis of the Havasupai’s lawsuits regarding undisclosed research on biological material taken from them under false pretenses. This part begins with the strange assertion that “throughout American history, Indians have been thought of as a distinct race or people, however defined” (130), a statement that chafes on several levels. First, it encapsulates how the authors understand Indigenous people only through the lens of American settler colonialism. There is no sense in the book of Indigenous peoplehood independent of the American settler history, and therefore no sense of Indigenous people as social actors that exist in ways that are not only about their relationship to colonialism. For Weiss and Springer, there is no Indigeneity on its own terms, only a bit role for Indigenous people to play in settler history.

Second, Weiss and Springer conflate “race” and “people” here and throughout the text. In a risible footnote from the Introduction, they define their use “race” in a way  that would not pass muster on an introductory-level social science test:

Throughout this work, we have used both the terms “race” and “ethnicity”. We recognize that the term “race” has become problematic for some, but we believe its use to refer to the biological relationships and continuities among the prehistoric and historic peoples of North America is appropriate. We also believe that the term is appropriate in the forensic context. (6)

What do Weiss and Springer believe race is? Are race and ethnicity interchangeable for them, and why? Why is race appropriate in their analysis? Unfortunately, the book’s editors and reviewers did not think that readers required answers to these questions in a book that makes “race” and “racial discrimination” key lines of argument.

The overall laziness of the book is captured at the end of Part II, which summarizes Victoria Warren-Mear’s guidelines for Indigenous data sharing accompanied by zero authorial commentary (160–61). Without any analysis, it seems the reader should simply extrapolate that Warren-Mear’s guidelines are objectionable, though it is hard to see how. One of the models summarized is the existence of tribal institutional review boards (IRBs), research entities that some Indigenous communities use to ensure the ethics of research rather than allow them to be adjudicated by outside IRBs. Weiss and Springer do not provide any evidence that these tribal IRBs have hindered research, nor do they provide any analysis of this or anything else they cite from Warren-Mear. The overall impression one is left with after this whimper of an ending to Part II is of an argument without steam, a microcosm of the experience of reading the book as a whole.

Part III,  “A Critique of the Repatriation Movement,” draws on Springer’s analysis  of constitutional law.7  Weiss and Springer rest the core of their legal argument against NAGPRA on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to the exclusion of al- most any other line of legal reasoning. Had they continued reading the Constitution, they would have soon encountered the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” This could as easily form the basis of a pro-NAGPRA argument at least as substantial as the First Amendment argument they put forth.8 They might also have examined jurisprudence regarding human remains more generally in the United States, placing NAGPRA in its relevant  context  and  describing how  archaeologists are not allowed to just go and dig up burials without strict permissions and protocols. But these analyses would negate their arguments, and so they are left unaddressed.

Chapter 7 follows a limited line of argument about religious freedom and racial dis- crimination that rests on an unnamed but all-powerful settler ontology. “Religion” is a boogeyman, an enemy of science and totally anathema to the American legal system.9 Weiss and Springer reduce the totality of Indigenous lifeways (ontologies, epistemologies, politics) to “religion” and Indigenous personhood to a “race” so that therefore any law that acknowledges the legitimacy of Indigenous lifeways (“religion,” “race”) must actually be illegal under American antidiscrimination laws.

Indigenous people have contested this definition of their lives10 for as long as settler interpellation of them has existed while being forced to assert their religiosity for political legibility in settler states.11 But this literature is not cited by Weiss and Springer, nor is their own definition of religion ever made clear. Instead, they rely wholly on their imagined white settler reader, educated and acculturated in Euro-American society, to fill in the blanks with their own normative under- standings. Springer does describe the “difficulties in definition ‘traditional’ Indian religion for legal purposes” (167) and notes that settler governance is not able to reconcile the fact that many Indigenous peoples are both Indigenous and Christian at the same time, but he believes that this is a evidence of Indigenous duplicity rather than the far more obvious explanation that it is a failure of settler epistemology.

The other aspect of the First Amendment that appeals to Weiss and Springer is its enshrinement of free speech, the main focus in Chapter 10. It is here that they bring the full force of their derision for working with Indigenous colleagues and consulting with Indigenous communities, demonstrating their ignorance of the robust literature on how Indigenous science and collabo- ration have significantly improved anthropological research. In horror, they write, “Some anthropologists, such as archaeologist Sonya Atalay, have suggested choosing [research] topics that are in harmony with Native American beliefs  which, frankly, is a form of self-censorship” (201). It is telling that Weiss and Springer can imagine no greater injury than censorship, demonstrating just how little they have ever had to worry (let alone actually experience) that someone might steal their land, their kin or their personhood.

An Interlude

 The first time that I, a settler anthropologist in what is currently the United States, encountered the bones of someone else’s deceased family member in a lab, I cried. I was especially struck by the force of the centuries of settler colonialism that had allowed someone else’s family member to end up in a lab, in my hands, so far from where they belonged.

On another occasion, I was in the field at- tending a large event at an Indigenous nation when two community members gestured at me and asked if I wanted to go look around older parts of the pueblo with them.

We carefully picked our way over mounds and earthen foundations, far away from the festival that had drawn community members and tourists just down the hill. My impromptu guides handed me bits of the pottery and stone that littered the ground, asking for my archaeological assessment of the age and use of various things.

Then one of them picked up and handed me a piece of bone. The weight of it and its particular shape under my tracing fingers told me immediately that it was human. My heart stopped. I tried to quickly hand it back, but my new acquaintance just shook his head and asked me to identify what it was. “A part of a human skull,” I replied, and held my breath.

I knew the history of settler archaeologists in this community who had come in, decades before I stood there with a cranial fragment in my hand, and excavated burials and removed bodies. I had read about those excavations from the archaeologists’ perspective: They recorded in their field notebooks that the Indigenous colleagues that they employed on the excavations would refuse to continue digging when they encountered burials. The settler archaeologists began to hide the burials from the Native excavators, collecting them as fast as possible to take back to their lab. In these moments, their field notes record things like the following:

. . . a child burial was found, there were no associated artifacts, as the burial was disturbed by the backhoe and [redacted] did not want to excite the Indians. We removed the bones without trying to determine any facts about the burial. (July 12th, 1962)

I prayed that my new acquaintances would not think that I had anything but scorn for the actions of my professional ancestors as I stood on their lands holding a cranial fragment.

Noticing my discomfort, my guides laughed. “It’s alright! I thought that was one of us,” said one with a smile. “We’re all over this place.” I cracked a tentative grin and acknowledged that, yes, it was one of them. “Just put that back down. It’s okay as long as you then put them right back here where they belong.” I nodded as I placed the fragment back on the ground.

Before I worked in North American contexts, I worked in Spain on the archaeology of the Spanish Civil War. There, as we uncovered landscapes of mass death, emotion was commonplace. We cried when we interviewed elderly people who recounted family members who had disappeared, whose bodies they longed to have returned to them. We cried when we found the bones of missing family members in the field. We cried at the end of the day, when data were analyzed and the scale of human loss would again come into sharp relief.

It never once occurred to me that those emotions could be misplaced. Indeed, I would have found it strange if others had not also been affected by the traces of death. Understanding dead human beings to be people did not prevent us from conducting research, including bioarchaeological analysis. It simply reminded us that the fact that these were people was the most important piece of “data” we could recover.

Bioarchaeologists study human remains from archaeological contexts, which is a science-y way of saying that bioarchaeologists study dead people. Dead people who were lovingly buried with beads and pots and flowers and kin, dead people with families and friends and loved ones, dead people who were part of some community bigger than themselves. People.

A Reaction

 Repatriation and Erasing the Past was written to provoke, and it succeeded. The British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology penned a response to the book that claims that it “represents a fringe perspective within our field of endeavor that the vast majority of our profession find abhorrent.”12 Similarly, the statement by the Society for American Arcaheology’s interest group in bioarchaeology asserts, “The interpretation and recommendations in this book [do not reflect] contemporary bioarchaeological practice.”13 And an open letter signed by almost 1,000 anthropologists—myself included—condemning the book begins by stating, “The ideas espoused by the authors are antithetical to the contemporary practice of anthropology.”14

How, then, did this book—so antithetical to anthropology, so abhorrent to archaeologists—get published? Where did Weiss and Springer’s ideas come from?

Weiss and Springer’s anti-Indigenous views did not develop and (given their publication with a prestigious academic press) thrive in a vacuum. As the book’s acknowledgments make clear, many in the Anthropology Department at San José State University, where Weiss works, are surely aware of her refusal to initiate consultations with local Indigenous nations whose ancestors are currently in the collections she studies.15 And it only takes a quick Google search to turn  up Weiss’ citation metrics, the master’s and doctoral committees she has sat on with colleagues and the professional spaces she frequents. The authors exist within and are supported by our disciplinary ecosystem.

Many of us have shared lab space or fieldwork with someone who has bemoaned a boundary placed on their work as a result of prevailing ethics. We are familiar with water cooler complaints about repatriation, have heard enough utterances of “do they really need that back?” to fill an annual newsletter of bad behavior in anthropology. A few months before Repatriation and Erasing the Past ignited a fervor, High Country News published a report on how a lack of individual and institutional will led to a failure to follow NAGPRA in a project at University of California, Davis, not far from Weiss’ workplace.16 In that case, coloniality manifested as a decision to continue excavating human remains at a site without Indigenous consultation and then, later, as a failure to prioritize consultation and repatriation of those remains. This subtle deprioritization of NAGPRA procedures in archaeological research is as damaging as—and perhaps more common than—overt refusals to repatriate.

The banality of settler anti-Indigeneity is encapsulated in a response to critiques of Repatriation and Erasing the Past on Twitter: “… this [ideology] is pretty mainstream. Many paragraphs [in the book] actually read like a white dude’s rant at a bar right after a generic archaeology conference.”17 We have known, either literally or figuratively, about Weiss and Springer’s ideology for a very long time. Contrary to the aforementioned public statements, colonial ideology continues to find a place in anthropology, indicating that it is very much a part of what anthropology is.

Settler anthropologists tend to respond (when we do) to the coloniality that is the pervasive structure of our field through familiar forms of critique—writing reviews like this one, signing open letters, attending workshops on decolonization. We fall back on practices that themselves reproduce anthropological coloniality. Our writing and statement-making allow us to project distance from the actions of our colleagues and experience a psychological sense of safety and righteousness—we declare that we do not do anthropology like those people do, and we make sure that every- one knows it—without doing much else.

Settler responses to Weiss and Springer’s book, my own included, bear the hallmarks of settler innocence, acts of distancing and rationalizing that allow settlers to disavow the violence that we ourselves perpetuate. Theories of settler innocence are key to un- locking how anthropology can simultaneously be both not and very much Weiss and Springer’s work. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang describe settler innocence in their canonical work on decolonization:

Settler moves to innocence are those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all. In fact, settler scholars may gain professional kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware. Yet settler moves to innocence are hollow, they only serve the settler.18

How do we divest from settler innocence and reckon with anthropology’s coloniality This reckoning must come about in structural ways, like pushing for institutional policies that promote the retention of Indigenous anthropologists in the field and supporting Indigenous-led review boards and data policies. But for settlers, we must also start with ourselves and our own workplaces.

Beyond writing reviews, anthropologists can accept this moment to reflect upon our complicity in the ongoing colonial practice of anthropology. The vision of anthropology laid out in Repatriation and Erasing the Past is one that does not include Indigenous people. This is not an accident but the product of a discipline that, by some estimates, “has had well under 100 enrolled tribal members in its entire history since 1902.”19 A field does not arrive at such abysmal numbers without systemic exclusion and discrimination, and these do not persist without anthropologists choosing to do nothing to dismantle them.

(Settler) anthropology has hardly begun an honest attempt to purge coloniality from its ranks. “Directly and indirectly benefiting from the erasure and assimilation of Indigenous peoples is a difficult reality for settlers to accept.”20 Fortunately, Indigenous people have provided numerous examples and suggestions for how to go about this, some of which are summarized next.

Coming into better relation with Indigenous people as a settler begins with material redress, especially the repatriation of land. For those of us who benefit from centuries-long attempts to remove, assimilate and kill Indigenous people, we cannot excuse ourselves from making difficult choices to address our complicity in ongoing anti-Indigenous violence simply because we are uncomfortable, because we cannot wholly divest ourselves from settler colonialism or because we believe problems are bigger than us (they are, but they also include us).

If you are a settler archaeologist in North America, you are able to do research because of settler colonialism. Your access to research, even if only insofar as you work on a college campus or in an office building, is predicated on the infringement of Indigenous sovereignty over their lands, bodies and relations. How else do you have access to people, places and things that are not yours? Take responsibility. Become an accomplice to Indigenous people in their struggles against the ongoing violence of settler colonialism.

Begin by donating directly to Indigenous communities or Indigenous-led efforts in the area of your research or residence. If your career has benefitted from the study of Indigenous ancestral remains, you might also focus giving to institutional repatriation efforts— NAGPRA reviews cost money. Transforming your own fieldwork and research practices offers another avenue for material redress, which includes budgeting repatriation  fees or donations into grants; collaborating with Indigenous PIs, including Indigenous com- munities in every phase of research; paying Indigenous consultants; and supporting Indigenous students with compensated archaeological training. You can donate money to tribal museums to support Indigenous efforts to collect, curate, display (or not) and provide research access (or not) to their heritage. Whatever you do, direct reparations to Indigenous people are key to beginning your personal process of repair.

As you consider what to do as a settler to repair harms, adopt the accomplice-not-ally framework:21 not “helping you” but “liberating us.” Allyship often reproduces the same colonial relations that it seeks to disavow through attempts to speak for or work on behalf of, and results in immediate benefit for the ally at minimal personal risk. Allies are more committed to learning than doing. Becoming an accomplice,  however, requires a willingness to act. Accompliceship looks like the actual ceding of material and professional capital to Indigenous people.

Repair starts at home, and our settler homes are on stolen land. Prepare to confront anti- Indigenous ideology in yourself, on your projects, in your professional organizations, in your classrooms and in your offices. If you are not yet ready, listen and learn, then practice. Find fellow settlers to practice with until you are sure that you can take actions that will not inadvertently cause harm. Return to those practice spaces often to continue learning and be accountable to your accompliceship.

Repatriation and Erasing the Past illustrates an erasure of the past, just not the one Weiss and Springer think. The past erased is the entire settler colonial history of theft, genocide and discrimination that enable the practice of North American anthropology in its current form. It is incumbent upon us to refuse that erasure not just through refusing this book but also through the entire comportment of our research and relations. Only then can we begin to fulfill the most basic purported tenants of our anthropological exercise: to learn from, about and with people in the fullness of their humanity.

Notes
  1.  Anthropology, including bioarchaeology, remains a vibrant field today, arguably harmed far more by the increased precarity of academic labor, the structural inequities that persist in the field and in society and a broader lack of political will to fund social science research than  it is by  the returning of the remains and belongings of deceased people back to communities who want to care for them.
  1. The term “American Indian”, which is variably used by Weiss & Springer throughout the book, persists in use in American legal scholarship but has largely fallen out of favor in There is a growing consensus across disciplines and professional fields that for non-Indigenous people writing about Indigenous issues, the term “Indigenous Peoples” or the name(s) of specific Indigenous nations and communities should be used. See Bird, Michael Yellow. 1999. “What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples’ Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels.” American Indian Quarterly 23 (2): 6.
  2. The authors, of course, would balk at the suggestion that the bones they want to keep in settler hands are “people’s bodies,” because much of their ideology depends on the abstraction of science to elide lived experience, choosing “data” over people at every turn and deriding anyone who finds ethical fault with that
  3. Chelsea Meloche, Laure Spake, and Katherine Nichols, eds. Working with and for Ancestors: Collaboration in the Care and Study of Ancestral Remains (New York: Routledge, 2021).
  4. The phrase, now repeated in endless memes across the internet, was popularized in a 2016 Ben Shapiro (@BenShapiro), “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” Twitter, February 5, 2016, 11:03 a.m., https://twitter.com/benshapiro/ status/695638866993115136.
  5. Elizabeth Weiss, “Kennewick Man’s Funeral: The Burying of Scientific Evidence,” Politics and the Life Sciences 20, 1 (2001): 13–18.
  6. Springer appears to be writing far outside of the area of his former legal practice, which is advertised as mostly being in the realm of employment law and worker’s “James Warren Springer,” Avvo, last modified December 6, 2020, https://www.avvo.com/attorneys/61602- il-james-springer-1120414.html
  7. I am grateful to my friend and colleague Annalisa Heppner for bringing my attention to this line of Constitutional argument in support of NAGPRA.
  8. Weiss and Springer are apparently ignorant of the Protestant ideology upon which the American legal system rests.
  9. Vine Deloria, , God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1973).
  10. Tisa Wenger, We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).
  11. BABAO (@BABAO_info), “An open letter to the University of Florida Press,” Twitter, December 22, 2020, 1:43 p.m., https://web.archive.org/ web/20201222224315/https://twitter.com/BA- BAOinfo/status/1341499575098613761.
  12. jordi a rivera prince (@jriveraprince), “Statement from the Chairs and Ethics Subcommittee of the Bioarchaeology Interest Group Society for American Archaeology  (SAA)  regarding the recent publication of Erasing the Past by Weiss and Springer (2020),” Twitter, December 21, 2020, 8:35 a.m., https://web.archive.org/ web/20201221163649/https:/twitter.com/jrivera- prince/status/1341059691846103040.
  13. Sian Halcrow et al. “Open Letter to University Press of Florida (UPF/UFP) and Authors,” December 19, 2020, https://docs.google.com/ forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScl44V3125po-vz9oX6w- p5I8evKk0ECxTAKhJ2kvSBUpOhn9A/viewform
  14. In her current book and in other publications, Weiss cites part of her reasoning for continuing to claim ownership over other people’s ancestors to be that “the most likely descendants of these early Californians are not federally recognized and, thus, they have no claim to the remains through NAGPRA”; Elizabeth Weiss, “Biological Distance at the Ryan Mound Site,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 165, 3 (2018): 554–64, esp. 554. See also Weiss and Springer, Repatriation, 67.
  15. Tay Wiles, “A Whistleblower Speaks out over Excavation of Native Sites,” High Country News, November 12, 2020, https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.12/ indigenous-affairs-archaeology-a-whistleblower- speaks-out-over-excavation-of-native-sites.
  16. Rui Gomes Coelho (@RuiGomesCoelho), “Like @ValerieBondura said, this is pretty main- stream,” Twitter, December 16, 2020, https:// archive. org/ web/ 20201216234044/ https://twitter.com/ruigomescoelho/sta- tus/1339354505448726531.
  17. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, 1 (2012): 10.
  18. Bioarchaeology Interest Group of the Society for American Archaeology Chairs and Members of Ethics Subcommittee. ‘Statement on Repatriation and Erasing the Past’. Email, Dec. 21, 2021. I am grateful to Jordi Rivera Prince for her work in making this email available to me for this publication and to the general public by sharing it on Twitter from her account, @jriveraprince: https://twitter. com/jriveraprince/status/1341059691846103040.
  19. Tuck and Yang, “Decolonization,”
  20. Indigenous Action, “Accomplices Not Al- lies: Abolishing the Ally  Industrial  Complex,”  May 4, 2014, https://www.indigenousaction.org/ accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-indus- trial-complex/.

 

Valerie Bondura is an anthropological archaeologist completing her Ph.D. at Columbia University. Her dissertation is an historical archaeological analysis of Chicanx and Pueblo communities in the  current state of New Mexico. It examines various axes of coloniality in identity formation, place-making, pottery production and the practice of archaeology itself. She also works as an educational developer researching and promoting restorative, inclusive education and feminist pedagogies. You can find her on Twitter @ValerieBondura or by email at valerie. bondura@columbia.edu.

 

Valerie Bondura

To cite this article: Valerie Bondura (2020) Fear, Contradiction, and Coloniality in Settler Archaeology, Anthropology Now, 12:3, 146-155, DOI: 10.1080/19428200.2020.1884483
To link to this article: https://doi.org/10.1080/19428200.2020.1884483

Repatriation and Erasing the Past (University Press of Florida 2020), by Elizabeth Weiss and James W. Springer, is a polemic against the repatriation of Indigenous heritage, including the bodies of ancestors, to Indigenous Peoples in the United States under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). The authors, with the approval of an academic publisher and peer reviewers, claim that the field of anthropology is in danger of collapse be- cause of a law that specifies that Native ancestors and their belongings have the same legal protections as other people’s, a  law  that was enacted more than 30 years ago.1 Their greatest source of alarm is the notion that Indigenous people could have bodily autonomy in life and death. With horror, they write that contemporary anthropologists believe that “American Indians [sic] own their own culture, including their own past, their own bodies, and their own artifacts”.2 (4), a statement so inoffensive to most people’s basic understandings of consent that the reader of this book immediately knows that they are in for something truly pugnacious.

The remaining 200-some pages exist to expound on Weiss and Springer’s fear of Indigenous sovereignty, recycling colonialist tropes of Indigenous primitivism, the superiority of science, and the primary importance of academic research. With little evidence, cherry-picked citations and a failure to engage with anthropological literature on subjects like race, religion, colonialism, politics or science and technology, Weiss and Springer unravel a screed against Indigenous people in the interest of protecting their access to other people’s bodies.3

“The past” of the book’s title is an un- marked naturalization that foreshadows the book’s assumptions about the singularity of experience based on the “objectivity” of certain (Euro-American) ways of knowing. For example, Weiss and Springer refer to millenia-old Indigenous remains as “our earliest Americans” (38), an offensive projection of settler identity onto people who could not conceivably be understood as citizens of the American colonial state. Indeed, implicating ancestors as “Americans” is not just Indigenous erasure and colonial anachronism but also emotion-laden settler nostalgia, the kind of affective display that the authors disdain when it emanates from others. This kind of contradiction and lackadaisical universalizing is exemplary of the settler ontology the authors inhabit throughout the text but are themselves unable to ever see.

In reading the book, it often occurred to me that the authors hope that anthropologists will use it for teaching, even if only as the counterpoint in a “both sides”–style debate about the treatment of human remains. But no one—impoverished students least of all—needs to spend $90 on a book that rehashes colonial arguments about the ultimate (white) supremacy of science. Instead of pursuing this avenue, instructors and students would be better served by analyzing the totality of laws and practices regarding the treatment of human remains in archaeology and reading Indigenous-authored and informed texts about how to relate to ancestors and their belongings.4

If anyone needs further reason for not teaching with this book, note that its rhetorical style would feel at home on contemporary right-wing websites, emphasizing the authors’ attempt to act as provocateurs. A subsection entitled “Science over Sensitivity” (217) might as well cite right-wing personality Ben Shapiro for how closely it mirrors his now-classic aphorism “Facts don’t care about your feelings.”5

Yet both “facts” and “science” are hard to come by in the text. At the most basic level, what bioarchaeologists actually do (and who cares about what they do) is somewhat obscured. This obfuscation works to remove humanity from this purportedly anthropological text. Indeed, the authors own positionality  is denied through an insistence on scientific objectivity as the moral and intellectual standard par excellence, and Indigenous people are reduced to caricatures of “religious enthusiasts” (201) with anti-science agendas. Indigenous people and those who acknowledge the legitimacy of Indigenous sovereignty are cast as clinging to “an ideology of vicitimization” (3–4), a framing so very much like white Americans complaining that Black Americans should “get over slavery” that the resonance cannot be ignored.

The book is divided into three parts. “Part I: The Science of Human Remains” covers “Paleoindians,” a generalized term for the people who lived on the North American continent millennia ago. Chapter 1 is a literature review of discoveries of Paleoindian bones bookended by laments over those that have been repatriated. Weiss has previously written about The Ancient One/Kennewick Man6 and is eager to rehash her old material here, focusing on a small sample of sensationalized conflicts between researchers and Indigenous communities. Chapter 2 follows a similar structure but focuses specifically on mummified ancestors. It notes that research on mummified bodies in North America is limited not “just” because of repatriation but because the excavation techniques used in obtaining the mummified bodies—the literal scientific method that the book exalts, carried out by the same early 19th- and early 20th-century anthropologists whose definition of anthropology is the one the authors themselves adhere to (1)—did not produce scientifically meaningful information (40).

Several moments in Part I are like this, where Weiss and Springer unironically contradict their arguments by providing descriptions of how scientific research  itself  is rife with ambiguity. For example, after critiquing Indigenous oral history as unreliable for affiliating ancestral remains with communities, they go on to note that scientific methods of affiliation are also ineffective. In covering issues of dating and affiliation, they write, “Not all researchers are in agreement that Paleoindians have such clear distinctions from more recent finds. For instance, the Spirit Cave mummy from Nevada has craniometrics closest to the Ainu and Norse, but forensic anthropologist George Gill states that he looks Amerindian (Barker et al. 2000)” (79). Such scientific failures to reconcile these various interpretations would seem to show that science is a form of belief rather than an objective truth, but Weiss and Springer claim that science’s indeterminacy is legitimate, whereas Indigenous certainty is not.

Chapters 3 and 4 attempt a more analytical mode, though they prove largely unreadable to any anthropologist with a basic understanding of kinship and sociality. They contain some of the most inflammatory statements about “repatriation ideology,” portrayed as a dogmatic belief with no legitimate foundation. Generalizations are made and uncited, such as claiming that most tribes use “quantum blood” to determine affiliation (72). It is unclear how the authors determined that “most” tribes use this method or if they have an understanding of its specific colonial history, or if they are aware of the diverse ways that humans assert community affiliation. These chapters also include apparently serious statements such as “Remarkably, there can be a situation in which a person is 100% Native American but from various tribes and thus not a member of any tribe. But someone whose family is 75% European and 25% Navajo can belong to the tribe” (72). The only remarkable thing is that any anthropologist could evidence such ignorance about the differences between “biological affiliation” and kinship.

Part II offers an overview of “American Indian law” before focusing on a facile analysis of the Havasupai’s lawsuits regarding undisclosed research on biological material taken from them under false pretenses. This part begins with the strange assertion that “throughout American history, Indians have been thought of as a distinct race or people, however defined” (130), a statement that chafes on several levels. First, it encapsulates how the authors understand Indigenous people only through the lens of American settler colonialism. There is no sense in the book of Indigenous peoplehood independent of the American settler history, and therefore no sense of Indigenous people as social actors that exist in ways that are not only about their relationship to colonialism. For Weiss and Springer, there is no Indigeneity on its own terms, only a bit role for Indigenous people to play in settler history.

Second, Weiss and Springer conflate “race” and “people” here and throughout the text. In a risible footnote from the Introduction, they define their use “race” in a way  that would not pass muster on an introductory-level social science test:

Throughout this work, we have used both the terms “race” and “ethnicity”. We recognize that the term “race” has become problematic for some, but we believe its use to refer to the biological relationships and continuities among the prehistoric and historic peoples of North America is appropriate. We also believe that the term is appropriate in the forensic context. (6)

What do Weiss and Springer believe race is? Are race and ethnicity interchangeable for them, and why? Why is race appropriate in their analysis? Unfortunately, the book’s editors and reviewers did not think that readers required answers to these questions in a book that makes “race” and “racial discrimination” key lines of argument.

The overall laziness of the book is captured at the end of Part II, which summarizes Victoria Warren-Mear’s guidelines for Indigenous data sharing accompanied by zero authorial commentary (160–61). Without any analysis, it seems the reader should simply extrapolate that Warren-Mear’s guidelines are objectionable, though it is hard to see how. One of the models summarized is the existence of tribal institutional review boards (IRBs), research entities that some Indigenous communities use to ensure the ethics of research rather than allow them to be adjudicated by outside IRBs. Weiss and Springer do not provide any evidence that these tribal IRBs have hindered research, nor do they provide any analysis of this or anything else they cite from Warren-Mear. The overall impression one is left with after this whimper of an ending to Part II is of an argument without steam, a microcosm of the experience of reading the book as a whole.

Part III,  “A Critique of the Repatriation Movement,” draws on Springer’s analysis  of constitutional law.7  Weiss and Springer rest the core of their legal argument against NAGPRA on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, to the exclusion of al- most any other line of legal reasoning. Had they continued reading the Constitution, they would have soon encountered the Fourth Amendment: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects.” This could as easily form the basis of a pro-NAGPRA argument at least as substantial as the First Amendment argument they put forth.8 They might also have examined jurisprudence regarding human remains more generally in the United States, placing NAGPRA in its relevant  context  and  describing how  archaeologists are not allowed to just go and dig up burials without strict permissions and protocols. But these analyses would negate their arguments, and so they are left unaddressed.

Chapter 7 follows a limited line of argument about religious freedom and racial dis- crimination that rests on an unnamed but all-powerful settler ontology. “Religion” is a boogeyman, an enemy of science and totally anathema to the American legal system.9 Weiss and Springer reduce the totality of Indigenous lifeways (ontologies, epistemologies, politics) to “religion” and Indigenous personhood to a “race” so that therefore any law that acknowledges the legitimacy of Indigenous lifeways (“religion,” “race”) must actually be illegal under American antidiscrimination laws.

Indigenous people have contested this definition of their lives10 for as long as settler interpellation of them has existed while being forced to assert their religiosity for political legibility in settler states.11 But this literature is not cited by Weiss and Springer, nor is their own definition of religion ever made clear. Instead, they rely wholly on their imagined white settler reader, educated and acculturated in Euro-American society, to fill in the blanks with their own normative under- standings. Springer does describe the “difficulties in definition ‘traditional’ Indian religion for legal purposes” (167) and notes that settler governance is not able to reconcile the fact that many Indigenous peoples are both Indigenous and Christian at the same time, but he believes that this is a evidence of Indigenous duplicity rather than the far more obvious explanation that it is a failure of settler epistemology.

The other aspect of the First Amendment that appeals to Weiss and Springer is its enshrinement of free speech, the main focus in Chapter 10. It is here that they bring the full force of their derision for working with Indigenous colleagues and consulting with Indigenous communities, demonstrating their ignorance of the robust literature on how Indigenous science and collabo- ration have significantly improved anthropological research. In horror, they write, “Some anthropologists, such as archaeologist Sonya Atalay, have suggested choosing [research] topics that are in harmony with Native American beliefs  which, frankly, is a form of self-censorship” (201). It is telling that Weiss and Springer can imagine no greater injury than censorship, demonstrating just how little they have ever had to worry (let alone actually experience) that someone might steal their land, their kin or their personhood.

An Interlude

 The first time that I, a settler anthropologist in what is currently the United States, encountered the bones of someone else’s deceased family member in a lab, I cried. I was especially struck by the force of the centuries of settler colonialism that had allowed someone else’s family member to end up in a lab, in my hands, so far from where they belonged.

On another occasion, I was in the field at- tending a large event at an Indigenous nation when two community members gestured at me and asked if I wanted to go look around older parts of the pueblo with them.

We carefully picked our way over mounds and earthen foundations, far away from the festival that had drawn community members and tourists just down the hill. My impromptu guides handed me bits of the pottery and stone that littered the ground, asking for my archaeological assessment of the age and use of various things.

Then one of them picked up and handed me a piece of bone. The weight of it and its particular shape under my tracing fingers told me immediately that it was human. My heart stopped. I tried to quickly hand it back, but my new acquaintance just shook his head and asked me to identify what it was. “A part of a human skull,” I replied, and held my breath.

I knew the history of settler archaeologists in this community who had come in, decades before I stood there with a cranial fragment in my hand, and excavated burials and removed bodies. I had read about those excavations from the archaeologists’ perspective: They recorded in their field notebooks that the Indigenous colleagues that they employed on the excavations would refuse to continue digging when they encountered burials. The settler archaeologists began to hide the burials from the Native excavators, collecting them as fast as possible to take back to their lab. In these moments, their field notes record things like the following:

. . . a child burial was found, there were no associated artifacts, as the burial was disturbed by the backhoe and [redacted] did not want to excite the Indians. We removed the bones without trying to determine any facts about the burial. (July 12th, 1962)

I prayed that my new acquaintances would not think that I had anything but scorn for the actions of my professional ancestors as I stood on their lands holding a cranial fragment.

Noticing my discomfort, my guides laughed. “It’s alright! I thought that was one of us,” said one with a smile. “We’re all over this place.” I cracked a tentative grin and acknowledged that, yes, it was one of them. “Just put that back down. It’s okay as long as you then put them right back here where they belong.” I nodded as I placed the fragment back on the ground.

Before I worked in North American contexts, I worked in Spain on the archaeology of the Spanish Civil War. There, as we uncovered landscapes of mass death, emotion was commonplace. We cried when we interviewed elderly people who recounted family members who had disappeared, whose bodies they longed to have returned to them. We cried when we found the bones of missing family members in the field. We cried at the end of the day, when data were analyzed and the scale of human loss would again come into sharp relief.

It never once occurred to me that those emotions could be misplaced. Indeed, I would have found it strange if others had not also been affected by the traces of death. Understanding dead human beings to be people did not prevent us from conducting research, including bioarchaeological analysis. It simply reminded us that the fact that these were people was the most important piece of “data” we could recover.

Bioarchaeologists study human remains from archaeological contexts, which is a science-y way of saying that bioarchaeologists study dead people. Dead people who were lovingly buried with beads and pots and flowers and kin, dead people with families and friends and loved ones, dead people who were part of some community bigger than themselves. People.

A Reaction

 Repatriation and Erasing the Past was written to provoke, and it succeeded. The British Association of Biological Anthropology and Osteoarchaeology penned a response to the book that claims that it “represents a fringe perspective within our field of endeavor that the vast majority of our profession find abhorrent.”12 Similarly, the statement by the Society for American Arcaheology’s interest group in bioarchaeology asserts, “The interpretation and recommendations in this book [do not reflect] contemporary bioarchaeological practice.”13 And an open letter signed by almost 1,000 anthropologists—myself included—condemning the book begins by stating, “The ideas espoused by the authors are antithetical to the contemporary practice of anthropology.”14

How, then, did this book—so antithetical to anthropology, so abhorrent to archaeologists—get published? Where did Weiss and Springer’s ideas come from?

Weiss and Springer’s anti-Indigenous views did not develop and (given their publication with a prestigious academic press) thrive in a vacuum. As the book’s acknowledgments make clear, many in the Anthropology Department at San José State University, where Weiss works, are surely aware of her refusal to initiate consultations with local Indigenous nations whose ancestors are currently in the collections she studies.15 And it only takes a quick Google search to turn  up Weiss’ citation metrics, the master’s and doctoral committees she has sat on with colleagues and the professional spaces she frequents. The authors exist within and are supported by our disciplinary ecosystem.

Many of us have shared lab space or fieldwork with someone who has bemoaned a boundary placed on their work as a result of prevailing ethics. We are familiar with water cooler complaints about repatriation, have heard enough utterances of “do they really need that back?” to fill an annual newsletter of bad behavior in anthropology. A few months before Repatriation and Erasing the Past ignited a fervor, High Country News published a report on how a lack of individual and institutional will led to a failure to follow NAGPRA in a project at University of California, Davis, not far from Weiss’ workplace.16 In that case, coloniality manifested as a decision to continue excavating human remains at a site without Indigenous consultation and then, later, as a failure to prioritize consultation and repatriation of those remains. This subtle deprioritization of NAGPRA procedures in archaeological research is as damaging as—and perhaps more common than—overt refusals to repatriate.

The banality of settler anti-Indigeneity is encapsulated in a response to critiques of Repatriation and Erasing the Past on Twitter: “… this [ideology] is pretty mainstream. Many paragraphs [in the book] actually read like a white dude’s rant at a bar right after a generic archaeology conference.”17 We have known, either literally or figuratively, about Weiss and Springer’s ideology for a very long time. Contrary to the aforementioned public statements, colonial ideology continues to find a place in anthropology, indicating that it is very much a part of what anthropology is.

Settler anthropologists tend to respond (when we do) to the coloniality that is the pervasive structure of our field through familiar forms of critique—writing reviews like this one, signing open letters, attending workshops on decolonization. We fall back on practices that themselves reproduce anthropological coloniality. Our writing and statement-making allow us to project distance from the actions of our colleagues and experience a psychological sense of safety and righteousness—we declare that we do not do anthropology like those people do, and we make sure that every- one knows it—without doing much else.

Settler responses to Weiss and Springer’s book, my own included, bear the hallmarks of settler innocence, acts of distancing and rationalizing that allow settlers to disavow the violence that we ourselves perpetuate. Theories of settler innocence are key to un- locking how anthropology can simultaneously be both not and very much Weiss and Springer’s work. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang describe settler innocence in their canonical work on decolonization:

Settler moves to innocence are those strategies or positionings that attempt to relieve the settler of feelings of guilt or responsibility without giving up land or power or privilege, without having to change much at all. In fact, settler scholars may gain professional kudos or a boost in their reputations for being so sensitive or self-aware. Yet settler moves to innocence are hollow, they only serve the settler.18

How do we divest from settler innocence and reckon with anthropology’s coloniality This reckoning must come about in structural ways, like pushing for institutional policies that promote the retention of Indigenous anthropologists in the field and supporting Indigenous-led review boards and data policies. But for settlers, we must also start with ourselves and our own workplaces.

Beyond writing reviews, anthropologists can accept this moment to reflect upon our complicity in the ongoing colonial practice of anthropology. The vision of anthropology laid out in Repatriation and Erasing the Past is one that does not include Indigenous people. This is not an accident but the product of a discipline that, by some estimates, “has had well under 100 enrolled tribal members in its entire history since 1902.”19 A field does not arrive at such abysmal numbers without systemic exclusion and discrimination, and these do not persist without anthropologists choosing to do nothing to dismantle them.

(Settler) anthropology has hardly begun an honest attempt to purge coloniality from its ranks. “Directly and indirectly benefiting from the erasure and assimilation of Indigenous peoples is a difficult reality for settlers to accept.”20 Fortunately, Indigenous people have provided numerous examples and suggestions for how to go about this, some of which are summarized next.

Coming into better relation with Indigenous people as a settler begins with material redress, especially the repatriation of land. For those of us who benefit from centuries-long attempts to remove, assimilate and kill Indigenous people, we cannot excuse ourselves from making difficult choices to address our complicity in ongoing anti-Indigenous violence simply because we are uncomfortable, because we cannot wholly divest ourselves from settler colonialism or because we believe problems are bigger than us (they are, but they also include us).

If you are a settler archaeologist in North America, you are able to do research because of settler colonialism. Your access to research, even if only insofar as you work on a college campus or in an office building, is predicated on the infringement of Indigenous sovereignty over their lands, bodies and relations. How else do you have access to people, places and things that are not yours? Take responsibility. Become an accomplice to Indigenous people in their struggles against the ongoing violence of settler colonialism.

Begin by donating directly to Indigenous communities or Indigenous-led efforts in the area of your research or residence. If your career has benefitted from the study of Indigenous ancestral remains, you might also focus giving to institutional repatriation efforts— NAGPRA reviews cost money. Transforming your own fieldwork and research practices offers another avenue for material redress, which includes budgeting repatriation  fees or donations into grants; collaborating with Indigenous PIs, including Indigenous com- munities in every phase of research; paying Indigenous consultants; and supporting Indigenous students with compensated archaeological training. You can donate money to tribal museums to support Indigenous efforts to collect, curate, display (or not) and provide research access (or not) to their heritage. Whatever you do, direct reparations to Indigenous people are key to beginning your personal process of repair.

As you consider what to do as a settler to repair harms, adopt the accomplice-not-ally framework:21 not “helping you” but “liberating us.” Allyship often reproduces the same colonial relations that it seeks to disavow through attempts to speak for or work on behalf of, and results in immediate benefit for the ally at minimal personal risk. Allies are more committed to learning than doing. Becoming an accomplice,  however, requires a willingness to act. Accompliceship looks like the actual ceding of material and professional capital to Indigenous people.

Repair starts at home, and our settler homes are on stolen land. Prepare to confront anti- Indigenous ideology in yourself, on your projects, in your professional organizations, in your classrooms and in your offices. If you are not yet ready, listen and learn, then practice. Find fellow settlers to practice with until you are sure that you can take actions that will not inadvertently cause harm. Return to those practice spaces often to continue learning and be accountable to your accompliceship.

Repatriation and Erasing the Past illustrates an erasure of the past, just not the one Weiss and Springer think. The past erased is the entire settler colonial history of theft, genocide and discrimination that enable the practice of North American anthropology in its current form. It is incumbent upon us to refuse that erasure not just through refusing this book but also through the entire comportment of our research and relations. Only then can we begin to fulfill the most basic purported tenants of our anthropological exercise: to learn from, about and with people in the fullness of their humanity.

Notes
  1.  Anthropology, including bioarchaeology, remains a vibrant field today, arguably harmed far more by the increased precarity of academic labor, the structural inequities that persist in the field and in society and a broader lack of political will to fund social science research than  it is by  the returning of the remains and belongings of deceased people back to communities who want to care for them.
  1. The term “American Indian”, which is variably used by Weiss & Springer throughout the book, persists in use in American legal scholarship but has largely fallen out of favor in There is a growing consensus across disciplines and professional fields that for non-Indigenous people writing about Indigenous issues, the term “Indigenous Peoples” or the name(s) of specific Indigenous nations and communities should be used. See Bird, Michael Yellow. 1999. “What We Want to Be Called: Indigenous Peoples’ Perspectives on Racial and Ethnic Identity Labels.” American Indian Quarterly 23 (2): 6.
  2. The authors, of course, would balk at the suggestion that the bones they want to keep in settler hands are “people’s bodies,” because much of their ideology depends on the abstraction of science to elide lived experience, choosing “data” over people at every turn and deriding anyone who finds ethical fault with that
  3. Chelsea Meloche, Laure Spake, and Katherine Nichols, eds. Working with and for Ancestors: Collaboration in the Care and Study of Ancestral Remains (New York: Routledge, 2021).
  4. The phrase, now repeated in endless memes across the internet, was popularized in a 2016 Ben Shapiro (@BenShapiro), “Facts don’t care about your feelings,” Twitter, February 5, 2016, 11:03 a.m., https://twitter.com/benshapiro/ status/695638866993115136.
  5. Elizabeth Weiss, “Kennewick Man’s Funeral: The Burying of Scientific Evidence,” Politics and the Life Sciences 20, 1 (2001): 13–18.
  6. Springer appears to be writing far outside of the area of his former legal practice, which is advertised as mostly being in the realm of employment law and worker’s “James Warren Springer,” Avvo, last modified December 6, 2020, https://www.avvo.com/attorneys/61602- il-james-springer-1120414.html
  7. I am grateful to my friend and colleague Annalisa Heppner for bringing my attention to this line of Constitutional argument in support of NAGPRA.
  8. Weiss and Springer are apparently ignorant of the Protestant ideology upon which the American legal system rests.
  9. Vine Deloria, , God Is Red: A Native View of Religion (Golden, CO: Fulcrum Publishing, 1973).
  10. Tisa Wenger, We Have a Religion: The 1920s Pueblo Indian Dance Controversy and American Religious Freedom (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).
  11. BABAO (@BABAO_info), “An open letter to the University of Florida Press,” Twitter, December 22, 2020, 1:43 p.m., https://web.archive.org/ web/20201222224315/https://twitter.com/BA- BAOinfo/status/1341499575098613761.
  12. jordi a rivera prince (@jriveraprince), “Statement from the Chairs and Ethics Subcommittee of the Bioarchaeology Interest Group Society for American Archaeology  (SAA)  regarding the recent publication of Erasing the Past by Weiss and Springer (2020),” Twitter, December 21, 2020, 8:35 a.m., https://web.archive.org/ web/20201221163649/https:/twitter.com/jrivera- prince/status/1341059691846103040.
  13. Sian Halcrow et al. “Open Letter to University Press of Florida (UPF/UFP) and Authors,” December 19, 2020, https://docs.google.com/ forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScl44V3125po-vz9oX6w- p5I8evKk0ECxTAKhJ2kvSBUpOhn9A/viewform
  14. In her current book and in other publications, Weiss cites part of her reasoning for continuing to claim ownership over other people’s ancestors to be that “the most likely descendants of these early Californians are not federally recognized and, thus, they have no claim to the remains through NAGPRA”; Elizabeth Weiss, “Biological Distance at the Ryan Mound Site,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology 165, 3 (2018): 554–64, esp. 554. See also Weiss and Springer, Repatriation, 67.
  15. Tay Wiles, “A Whistleblower Speaks out over Excavation of Native Sites,” High Country News, November 12, 2020, https://www.hcn.org/issues/52.12/ indigenous-affairs-archaeology-a-whistleblower- speaks-out-over-excavation-of-native-sites.
  16. Rui Gomes Coelho (@RuiGomesCoelho), “Like @ValerieBondura said, this is pretty main- stream,” Twitter, December 16, 2020, https:// archive. org/ web/ 20201216234044/ https://twitter.com/ruigomescoelho/sta- tus/1339354505448726531.
  17. Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, “Decolonization Is Not a Metaphor,” Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society 1, 1 (2012): 10.
  18. Bioarchaeology Interest Group of the Society for American Archaeology Chairs and Members of Ethics Subcommittee. ‘Statement on Repatriation and Erasing the Past’. Email, Dec. 21, 2021. I am grateful to Jordi Rivera Prince for her work in making this email available to me for this publication and to the general public by sharing it on Twitter from her account, @jriveraprince: https://twitter. com/jriveraprince/status/1341059691846103040.
  19. Tuck and Yang, “Decolonization,”
  20. Indigenous Action, “Accomplices Not Al- lies: Abolishing the Ally  Industrial  Complex,”  May 4, 2014, https://www.indigenousaction.org/ accomplices-not-allies-abolishing-the-ally-indus- trial-complex/.

 

Valerie Bondura is an anthropological archaeologist completing her Ph.D. at Columbia University. Her dissertation is an historical archaeological analysis of Chicanx and Pueblo communities in the  current state of New Mexico. It examines various axes of coloniality in identity formation, place-making, pottery production and the practice of archaeology itself. She also works as an educational developer researching and promoting restorative, inclusive education and feminist pedagogies. You can find her on Twitter @ValerieBondura or by email at valerie. bondura@columbia.edu.

 

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