The Great Pyramids of Egypt as well as the marble columns of Rome and Greece have never been questioned to be anything other than immaculate structures created by the people of that time period. The same credit however was not originally transferred to the works of Natives around the globe. Prior to the evolvement of archaeology and the use of scientific calculations such as carrying capacity, the assumptions made during the speculative phase were the be-all end-all. People were only categorized as savages, barbarians or civilized, whereas savages and barbarians were deemed “incapable” of any mode of civilized behavior. It was originally thought that when sophisticated features and artifacts where discovered, Europeans or other “civilized” groups already inhabited the area and left. In reality, the Native Americans were responsible for the evidence of civilization and most likely deserted the area to avoid being enslaved.
Even long after the impractical assumptions of the speculative phase, everyday people as well as some archaeologists are still neglecting evidence of civilized behavior demonstrated by Native Americans. In an article discussing the rapid rise and fall of a French Fort, Native Americans were wrongly accused for the slaughter of the French inhabitants due to the ignorant assumption that Native Americans were not educated and/or sophisticated enough to have a civil and peaceful interaction. It was not until recently, after thorough analysis of artifacts and ecofacts at the site, that the relationship between the Native Americans and French was determined as a melding of civilized cultures rather than a collision. Examples of civilized melding include that the French had been hunting with Native weapons and that the two groups were married with bi-culturally raised children. As anthropologist T.R. Kidder correctly put it, “Our findings go against what has been considered the consensus on hunter-gatherer societies — that they lack the political organization necessary to complete a labor-intensive project in such a short period.”
Museums worldwide, such as the Museum of Natural History, wrongly place Native American art and sculptures in similar categories with dinosaur remains and tribal arts. In my opinion, this lends to the idea that Native American art is considered uncivilized and simplistic. Fortunately, other archaeologists who are still working vigorously to solve the problem, have supported my own opinion. A new exhibit called “Stereotyping Native America” features turn of the 20th Century stereotypes of Native Americans such as the mainstream American typologies that they lived in teepees, and wore feathers and animal skins. The need for these kinds of museums and exhibits indicate what little progress mainstream America has made in understanding the multifaceted history of Native Americans.
Am. Archaeology. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://daphne.palomar.edu/ais130/Lectures/AmArchaeo.htm
Fort St. Joseph Archaeological Project. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://fortstjosepharchaeology.blogspot.com
Stereotyping Native America. (n.d.). Retrieved September 13, 2014, from http://220.127.116.11/exhibitions/stereotyping/default.lasso