Preserving the Past Together Workshop: Owning One’s History

Often archaeology is taught and viewed from the side of a university, indigenous people and groups are often viewed as passive agents and are sources of information. That information is extracted and used for the benefit of the universities rather than the tribe. The direct descendants or cultural descendants of a community are often not the ones uncovering and publicizing information and discoveries about archaeological sites. This separates indigenous groups not only from their history but from modern society, when someone else is writing their history it’s easy for others to forget their existence and remember them as something belonging to the past. The Meaningful Collaboration workshop was a brilliant educational reminder of these facts.

As a student of archaeology I believe these workshops explore important aspects to the discipline which have either been ignored or unidentified as sources of conflict between indigenous groups and archaeologist. Instead of extracting information archaeologist should work alongside, or even for, indigenous groups to build relevant knowledge for these groups. As scientific the discipline wants to appear, when working with descendant populations the information uncovered does not belong to the archaeologist, it belongs to tribe. When gathering information it is important to consider how one is interacting with indigenous groups, the Modes of Interaction chart shown during the workshop, highlights what these different modes look like, from one of colonial control to one of indigenous control. Personally I believe that either a mode of indigenous control or one of collaboration should be used depending on the situation. Although overall an archaeologist should strive to work for an indigenous group, rather than working for their own benefit. One of the most important questions that this workshop raised for me was how archaeology should be conducted to be beneficial to those it effects the most.

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