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Excavating Archaeology’s Historical Legacies: the Emergence of Archaeology and the Colonial and Racial Foundations of Indigenous Representation

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Archaeology is a complex discipline that has contributed to the public understanding of the history of the United States and its lands in varied ways. Not the least of these aspects is the degree to which it has been culpable in encouraging outdated colonial trends in perceiving Native peoples. Archaeology has become part of how those in the U.S. and elsewhere conceive of and understand those peoples who occupied the continent long before the arrival of Europeans. Of course, past or present, most archaeologists were and are not primarily tasked with public engagement. Nevertheless, the discipline’s scholarship has engaged, and continues to, with the public in a top-down manner with theories and conclusions, filtered through various institutions, that public audiences ultimately consume. Until quite recently, the narratives archaeology has produced did not consider Native perspectives. Instead, the interpretation of the Native past has been largely conceived of by the descendants of Native peoples’ conquerors. This dissertation explores implications for this fact as well as the historical legacies that enabled this approach.

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This item is under embargo until June 10, 2026.