How Do We Preserve the Past?

During the Preserving the Past Together seminar last week, representatives from cultural resource management firms, government agencies, and tribal historic preservation offices gathered to discuss challenges, benefits, and ways to improve collaboration in the future. While listening to the poignant remarks on something as sensitive and important as handling and preserving indigenous culture, I, like most 19-year-old girls, found myself thinking about myself; how I could learn more, and how I could get my foot in the door.

Eventually, the conversation shifted to university interest, especially how the University of Washington could help. One way universities help is by creating interest in students as well as the general public. For instance, the Burke Museum (associated with UW) has an annual “Archaeology Day” where families and community members come to play games and learn about artifacts. Another point about universities was more curriculum based. According to some of the workshop speakers, UW should offer more classes and research opportunities based around local archaeology, instead of grooming students to specialize in other places of the world. This particularly spoke to me, as I have studied abroad in Spain, and strongly consider focusing in the archaeology of that region.

After this seminar, and some of the discussions we’ve had in class, I’m starting to wonder where I have the right to practice archaeology. Although I identify as an American, I wouldn’t necessarily feel comfortable digging and interpreting Native American artifacts, as it’s not my history to tell. Hopefully, with seminars like these, collaboration between archaeologists, universities and tribes will improve, giving a place for non-Native Americans to support tribes in their attempt to preserve the past.

“Preserving the Past Together”. Seminar, from College of Arts & Sciences, Office of Research, Anthropology Dept., Quaternary Research Center, wǝɫǝbʔaltxʷ – Intellectual House Academic Planning Committee, Burke Museum, and Simpson Center for Humanities, Seattle, January 12, 2017.

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