CASCA/IUAES2017 Conference in Ottawa
- Joshua Smith (University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill) email
- Maureen Matthews (The Manitoba Museum) email
This panel speaks to the movement of Indigenous artefacts whether they are forms of material culture or archival materials with an added emphasis on decolonization, repatriation and/or cultural revitalization.
This panel speaks, in particular, to the movement of Indigenous artefacts. Archives and museums collect, store and display all varieties of such entities. Each one whether a letter, a map, a drum, a pot, or perhaps entire Regalia, moves in a myriad of ways. They are animate even in containment, if not in spite of it, and their agency relentlessly demands constant movement between persons, peoples and ways of knowing. Each kind of artefact moves through storied practice, often connecting teachings or laws while illuminating layers of relations. Artefacts, it could be said, careen into the colonial encounter by their very existence, placing and public service. Yet, through their same performance each holds the immense power of decolonization and resistance. The seemingly stillness of artefacts is an illusion masking their constant state of flux. That is they fundamentally move in five distinct, but overlapping ways. They quite literally change physical locations. They simultaneously act as mechanisms of cultural persistence and revitalization. They profoundly change our understanding of relations. They bring groups of people together, working to advance their shared political, social, or artistic ideas. Presentations in this panel speak to these forms of movement vis-à-vis Indigenous artefacts whether they are forms of material culture or archival materials with an added emphasis on decolonization, repatriation and/or cultural revitalization.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Negotiating authenticity: a case examining the 3D modeling and 3D printing of archaeological collections from Banks Island, NWT
As part of our work with the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project on Banks Island, we explore the potential of artifact "copies" such as 3D models and 3D prints to link Inuvialuit community members in Sachs Harbour to ancestral archaeological material now curated in distant repositories.
Institutions that manage objects of archaeological and cultural heritage are increasingly using representations, replicas, and other "copies" to document and preserve information and facilitate its sharing. As mediums of communication, both within and outside the archaeological realm, these "copies" form a locus for engagement and experience. Here, as part of our work with the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project on Banks Island, we explore the potential of artifact "copies" to link Inuvialuit community members in Sachs Harbour to ancestral archaeological material now curated in distant repositories while also looking at "digital repatriation" or "digital return" through a critical lens. Over the summer of 2015, Compton conducted interviews and focus groups in Sachs Harbour, Inuvik and Yellowknife with a diverse array of archaeological constituents including local Inuvialuit community members (elders, adults, and youth), museologists, curators, and archaeologists in order to explore how their experiences, perceptions, and values differ when comparing archaeological copies to original archaeological material. A collection of artifacts, digital photographs, 3D models, 3D prints, and handmade replicas provided hands-on inspiration for this dialogue. While the majority of participants demonstrated a strong interest in emerging 3D technologies, there was a high diversity of opinion, both between and within communities, about the specific roles archaeological replicas should play. We conclude that while archaeological representations and replicas are insufficient "substitutes" for originals, they do have enormous potential as unique cultural objects in themselves to aid in areas of accessibility, education, and cultural revitalization.
Diasporas of and by design: exploring the unholy alliance between museums and the diffusion of Navajo textile designs
My paper exposes the challenges wrought by federal regulations incorporated in NAGPRA, and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board legislation which thwart the potential for repatriation of historic textiles and their designs respectively.
Ho-chunk scholar Amy Lonetree (2012) reminds us that:
Objects in museums are living entities. They embody layers of meaning, and they are deeply connected to the past, present, and future of Indigenous communities…. In the presence of objects from the past, we are privileged to stand as witnesses to living entities that remain intimately and inextricably tied to their descendant communities.
Although the religious aspects of Diné culture have undergone extensive examination, the context and importance of weaving remain detached from Navajo spirituality in most publications. This is due to fragmentation of Navajo lifeways into binary categories. Generations of scholars juxtaposed the ceremonialism of Medicine Men with women's ostensibly "secular" textile production for external markets. The highly formalized aesthetics embraced by modernist painters now provide the dominant framework for interpreting pre-1890 Navajo textile collections housed in museums. This object-based aesthetics is entirely out of key with the spiritual and cosmological understandings that continue to motivate many weavers.
The growing demand for historic textiles greatly undermines the market for weavings created by an estimated 20,000 Diné. Utilizing information gleaned from archives, publications, and interviews, I map how the sustained "culture of connoisseurship" inadvertently contributes to artisans' impoverishment, undermining the potential for weavers to provide for their families in this culturally meaningful way. My paper exposes the challenges wrought by NAGPRA and the Indian Arts and Crafts Board which thwart the potential for repatriation of historic textiles and their designs respectively. However, three articles enumerated in UNDRIP provide a ray of hope.
The sovereign document
This paper discusses the relational obligations that arise in considering the agency or sovereignty of documents relvetnt to or from Indigenous Nations.
Responding to challenges, pitfalls, and opportunities experienced working on the Franz Boas Papers: Documentary Edition, this paper will discuss collaborative approaches among Indigenous communities, mainstream institutions/researchers, and Indigenous scholars working with historical and anthropological archival documents. This is a response to critical issues that inform and impact the work of archivists, anthropologists, curators, public historians, and digital humanities scholars engaged in documentary editing projects involving multinational institutions and diverse stakeholders. In doing so, this paper focuses on the obligations that arise altogether from several key issues: (1) Cultural sensitivities and cross cultural respect concerning archival resources. (2) The ongoing challenge of accessibility, including ways in which archival documents, images and ephemera can be made more accessible to and useful for Indigenous communities and organizations at each stage of project development. (3) Implications for cataloguing, categorizing and metatagging digitized and born-digital archival resources when using anthropological and Indigenous frameworks. (4) Collaborative research models of other archival projects that work with First Nations communities to draw out relevant narratives found in archival documents. (5) Archival afterlife - questions for documentary editors concerning longevity, digital preservation and re-purposing resources. (6) Positionality and the relational politics of documentary editing. In addressing the obligations to Indigenous documents vis a vis their 'home' communities or Nations, I envisage the possibilities for shifts, innovations and adaptations in response to the mutual challenges of documentary editing and Indigenous research that stem from the documents themselves as agents of sovereignty.
"Are all stones alive?" Anthropological and Anishinaabe approaches to personhood
This paper presents a theoretically informed case study of a mistaken repatriation of Anishinaabe ceremonial objects using recent theoretical work on the nature of personhood and the social agency of objects to develop a combined Anishinaabe and anthropological perspective on repatriation.
This paper explores recent theoretical work which treats museum objects as having a degree of personhood and social agency and may contribute to a theoretically informed analysis of the restitution/repatriation of Native American artefacts. Based on a detailed analysis of a mistaken repatriation of Ojibwe ceremonial materials, this paper interrogates a repatriation event in which, despite excellent provenance and considerable source community involvement, artefacts from a small Canadian museum collection were secretly given to an entirely unrelated Ojibwe cultural revitalization group. The unconventional trajectory of this repatriation event reveals the weaknesses of existing anthropological literature on repatriation but also provides the detailed evidence for a nuanced theoretical analysis which acknowledges and explains harshly conflicting perspectives. Throughout this paper, a dual Ojibwe and anthropological perspective is sustained, interrogating and comparing Ojibwe and anthropological conceptions of animacy (the attribution of life), personhood (the attribution of social relationships), and agency (the claim that objects make things happen), as they relate to this repatriation case study. Working directly with the work of A Irving Hallowell, this paper examines the possibility of treating apparent agency as an emergent and provisional explanation of social events and concludes that the social agency of artefacts is unstable and varies with relative personhood and the strength of social relationships. I suggest that in politically charged repatriation claims, a focus on attributions of agency and personhood helps to anthropologize and depoliticise analysis and enables researchers in these charged situations to keep key multiple and conflicting social relationships in analytic view.
When we visit collections from our fieldsites
This paper explores an ethnographer’s encounter with two collections from her Sierra Tarahumara fieldsite: a contemporary collection in Ottawa’s Canadian Museum of History and a historical one in New York’s American Museum of Natural History that had been acquired a century earlier.
After having lived with a Tarahumara (Rarámuri) community in the Sierra Tarahumara Mountains of northwestern Mexico, I was astonished to discover how moving it felt to be surrounded by a roomful of Tarahumara "artifacts" at the former Canadian Museum of Civilization. And a few years later when I did some archival research at the American Museum of Natural History into an earlier fieldworker who had visited the Sierra 100 years before me, things he had collected from "my" sierra community turned out to be holding in store another valuable lesson. This paper will describe and discuss these two scenes in which supposedly dusty and inert indigenous museum collections impressed upon me their enduring strengths.
Bear witness: the Reconciliation Pole, 2017
This paper discusses the making and raising of the Reconciliation Pole (2017) by Haida chief 7idansuu (James Hart). Through its materiality, figurative forms and narrative, this unique pole invites us to bear witness to the traumatic history of colonialism in a move toward reconciliation.
Totem poles are an archetypal symbol of Indigenous Northwest Coast culture. They are bearers of oral histories and genealogies as well as commemorative markers of past events and deceased individuals. Despite their rootedness, these red cedar giants have been collected by museums, from the nineteenth century to the present. Initially they were perceived through the lens of salvage ethnography, which predicted that culture contact and colonialism, with its assimilationist drive, would eradicate Indigenous culture. But First Nations refused to allow their heritage to 'disappear'. From the second half of the twentieth century, totem poles and other cultural forms have been at the centre of an Indigenous resurgence, which includes assertion of rights to land and self-determination; cultural revitalization and repatriation; decolonizing histories and reconciliation. The 64-foot high Reconciliation Pole (2015--17) by Haida chief and master carver 7idansuu (James Hart) exemplifies these currents. In material form, iconography and performativity, the Reconciliation Pole invites visitors to witness the history of the Indian Residential School system, devised to 'kill the Indian in the child'. For example, 6000 copper nails hammered into the Pole's residential school represent the number of Indigenous children who died in these institutions---a nail for each child. To bear witness is an important aspect of First Nations' ceremonial life. Witnessing is grounded in an ethics of responsibility, to observe, reflect and actively remember. 7idansuu's invitation for us to witness the Reconciliation Pole encourages us to adopt an ethical stance as engaged citizens to acknowledge past injustices and move toward respectful futures.
Enhancing ethnic identity through the revitalization of ethnographic collections: the indigenous status recognition movement of Pingpu People in Taiwan
This study examines the ethnic identity formation of Siraya people in the context of Pingpu aboriginal recertification movement in Taiwan. As a result, it indicates that the revitalization of the ethnological collections plays an important role in building up ethnic identity of Siraya people.
The purpose of this study is to examine the construction of Siraya peoples' ethnic identity by exploring the process of how ethnological collections has been revitalized in the context of Pingpu aboriginal recertification movement in Taiwan.
As a multicultural society, there is still a group of people―called Siraya which has been marginalized and excluded from statutory indigenous people in Taiwan. From 2013 Council of Indigenous People has started to subsidize the development plans for Pingpu people.
By using the subvention from government, Siraya people revitalized their traditional embroidery by referencing to Siraya clothing collections in the museums. They also used embroidery patterns when building cultural monuments. By doing so, they could reunite collective consciousness.
This study indicates that developing interaction with exterior institutions such as Council of Indigenous People or museums cultivates the ethnic identity of Siraya people. However, although the government have included Pingpu People into the category of Taiwan Indigenous People, it only changed the title but not the position in constitution. Due to this situation, Siraya people still have to strive for the reasonable position in Constitution by revitalizing their own culture continually.
The temporal movement of the industrial materiality of an indigenous community in northern Chile
This communication presents preliminary results of an interdisciplinary project that is carried out in the indigenous community of Ollagüe, Chile. We discuss the temporal movement of the industrial materiality associated with the mining history of the village during the 20th century.
In Chile, the process of modernization, expressed by the expansion of capitalism and industrialization in the 20th century, had many economic and social impacts. However, the material culture associated with modern mining industries and its influence on indigenous societies suffers from a lack of studies from an archaeological perspective. Based on sulphur mining camps located in Ollagüe, a commune of the Antofagasta region in northern Chile, this communication shows the importance of modern materiality associated with the presence of mining industries. Could industrial ruins and the materiality of the recent past engender memory spaces intertwined with the local indigenous communities' contemporary preoccupations? By considering different forms of time representation, we seek to discuss the role of industrial materiality and the processes through which memory structures are formed. Drawing attention to the peculiarities of Chile's modernization and capitalist expansion, the temporal movement allow us to approach industrial materiality in terms of continuity, fragmentation, and ruptures. We seek to examine the significance of real and imaginary objects, of physical remains and representations, and to evaluate the outcomes that materiality generates on the society that describes, transforms, exhibits, and preserves it. Patrimonial policies have been used as active elements in the reconstruction of memories, of local identities, and in ethnic vindication discourses. Through archaeology, issues such as identity, heritage, and memory assume a physical presence. Thus, an archaeological approach brings to light this temporal fragmentation, generating local and global political commitments towards the recent past, its material culture and its spaces.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.