Paulette Steeves: History of Native people told from colonial eyes

Paulette Steeves. Photo from Binghamton University

Paulette Steeves discusses how a colonial mindset has affected archaeology:
Recently in social media circles and general literature writers have discussed the unsupported claims of the Clovis First hypothesis of initial human migrations to the Western Hemisphere. This is an important discussion on the ancient history of First Peoples, for what remains undiscussed remains unchallenged and hidden.

It is also important to press for rewriting Indigenous histories within educational material and the general media which continue to teach and apply identifiers such as the Clovis People. Archaeologists discuss sites in the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) where Clovis fluted tools and associated artifacts have been discovered as sites which were inhabited or used by the Clovis people. However the only place Clovis people existed was in the colonial conjecture of American archaeology. All anthropologists and archaeologists are aware of the fact that one tool type such as the Clovis fluted tool, does not define a culture, specifically not a pan hemispheric culture. The material record of many Clovis sites contained numerous tool types that suggest a diversity of cultures and technologies. Contemporary archaeologists continue to discuss the “Clovis People”, yet no such cultural group ever existed beyond the wildest imagination of the archaeological mind. Nowhere in history or the archaeological record is there a precedence for a pan hemispheric single cultural group. If one predominant tool type across time and space is a legitimate archaeological model for a uniform pan hemispheric cultural group, then I must insist that European archaeologists begin to properly identify ancient Eastern Hemisphere groups as the Acheulian and Oldowan People. Such claims as ‘the Clovis People” made in the name of Western Science and often accepted as fact by the general population, and are not exposed for what Vine Deloria, Jr. called, the absurdity of their claims.

The social and political impacts of constructed Indigenous identities and histories invented from a Western Eurocentric gaze work to disempower contemporary Indigenous people and fuel discrimination while creating histories and social memories to serve a dominant master narrative. In discursive and legal work to rid the landscape of Indigenous people’s colonial Empires and institutions invented historical scenarios such as the Clovis People and the American Terra Nullius, a term which refers to a newly discovered land devoid of civilized populations, and used to forward claims for control of land and resources.

Get the Story:
Paulette Steeves: Clovis Is Bogus: Archeologists Blocked Truth About Native Settlement (Indian Country Today 9/3)

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