Archaeology and Native Americans

Bibliographic Information

Course Title

Archaeology and Native Americans


Katherine Hayes

Institution Where Taught

University of Minnesota

Web Address (URL)

Additional Information

Course Number

ANTH 3601

Course Level

Course Description

American archaeologists and Native Americans have long had a difficult and conflicted relationship. Archaeology and anthropology, as disciplines, have their roots in colonial practices: establishing control through naming, defining, and categorizing Native cultures, framing them within the epistemology of Western scientific practice. To do so, however, archaeologists have, from a Native perspective, desecrated sacred grounds and robbed Native communities of their past. A Western scientific framework has often presumed objectivity and value-free construction of knowledge; but today we acknowledge that scientific practice is always undertaken within a social and political environment, that impacts the interpretations scientists make. Indigenous archaeology is an approach with increasing acceptance, which recognizes multiple historical epistemologies, and places the archaeologist's voice as one among many in producing historical knowledge. How is history constructed differently through these frameworks? What is the impact for contemporary Native communities? And what is at stake if we reshape archaeological practice in this way? In this course we will consider examples of archaeological investigations which take Native American cultures as their objective focus; the foundations of a scientific epistemology and philosophy which underwrite that focus; the reaction and resistance of Native communities to this kind of archaeology, and the epistemological differences informing their positions; and examples of how archaeology might integrate both Native and scientific epistemological stances, for a more ethically equitable approach to the past. The course will consist of both lecture and open discussion of the cases. These are politically contentious issues, and the goal of this course is to (a) foster an open dialogue, and (b) introduce students to scholarly and literary resources which bring opposing viewpoints into conversation with one another.

Syllabus Available



Class description available on the University of Minnesota ClassInfo database. This course description relates to the version of the class taught by Katherine Hayes in Fall 2013 and 2017. Please contact the department or instructor for more information.

Additional tags: colonialism; epistemology; Native communities; case studies


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