Unsettling Columbus Day

Though the movie that was showed for the Unsettling Columbus Day event never directly mentioned archaeology in any capacity, its message no doubt remains in tune with that of indigenous archaeology.  The film was a half-hour documentary of sorts.  If followed a Native American group in Denver, Colorado as they tried to raise awareness and hopefully put a stop to the Columbus Day parade that was scheduled to happen.  While to most white (or at least non-Native American) people featured in the video regarded the holiday as a sort of origin story for their country, the initial event that would in time precipitate both America and their personal families’ history in it, the Native Americans, understandably did not.  Rather, they saw it as the event that would eventually result in the subjugation of their people, the displacement from their lands and, most horribly, mass genocide.  It’s striking to think of the stark contrast between the two views of this day that come so naturally to these two groups of people.

It is no mystery then, how indigenous archaeology relates to these themes being discussed.  The central goal of indigenous archaeology is to prevent the such one-sided views from occurring in study of past cultures.  Given that fact the Native American population is so small in America compared to other demographics, it is no surprise that they are underrepresented in the field, even when it is their own culture that is being studied.  Indigenous archaeology, then, seeks to include members of a culture being studied in the research process so as to prevent the misinterpretations and insensitive practices that can go on without them.

This deference to indigenous perspectives shows an attitude of acknowledgement and respect that is sadly denied to the protesters in the film.  Though their demonstrations got a bit extreme (at one point, a protester poured a bucket containing fake blood and a baby doll in front of the parade’s path), their being upset is very understandable.  As was mentioned in the post-film discussion, Native Americans are often forgotten in the public consciousness as a still existing people, in large part due to the atrocities committed against them that greatly reduced their numbers, paired with the desire of white Americans to forget their immoral, bloody past.  Thus, practices like indigenous archaeology bridges the gap between the Native American and European American communities that is built by such attitudes.

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