Friday May 19th,  2017 Morning Sessions - 9am-12pm


Session:  "Archaeology and Settler Colonialism"


Session Organizer:


Kristen Bos,  University of Toronto, Department of Anthropology



ABSTRACT: On the blog for their journal, Settler Colonial Studies, editors Edward Cavanagh and Lorenzo Veracini define settler colonialism as “a global and transnational phenomenon, and as much a thing of the past as a thing of a present” (2010). It is important to note here that settler colonialism is not colonialism. As Kēhaulani Kauanui (2016) reminds us, settler colonialism is “a structure, not an event” but settler colonial forms can operate within colonial forms as well as subvert and replace them. In archaeological thought, settler colonialism takes form in uncontested practices and categories, a lack of self-reflexivity, and the privileging of scientific thought over Indigenous Thought etc. What does settler colonialism mean to/for archaeologists? How does settler colonialism operate within archaeological practice and thought? How do we recognize the phenomenon of settler colonialism in the field and across sites (i.e., Canada, Peru, Israel, Aotearoa etc.)? How does the language we use as archaeologists (i.e., categorizations, analogies, narratives etc.) implicate us in the ongoing settler colonial project? Other questions might address: capitalism, gender, Indigenous Thought, decolonization, political temporalities, power and ritual, spatial constructs, White Supremacism, knowledge production. Since there is no blueprint for unsettling settler colonialism or decolonization, this session requires diverse voices but has no preference for medium: papers/stories, poems, performance pieces etc. are all welcome and encouraged.


  Inidividual papers:




 Materiality in Theory: Place-Based Reductions and the Indian in the Academy


Vanessa Watts, McMaster University


 Indigenous ways of knowing are dependent on an inheriting process both amongst humans and between human and non-human beings.  These multi-relationships cross material and immaterial borders as sites of knowledge production.  As such, the material aspects of place act as anchor to knowledge; Indigenous knowledges are not intended to be abstracted from their material beginnings.  As Indigenous peoples and communities increasingly become the subject of theory and praxis in the academy, the re-meaning of sacredly-held Indigenous relationships is both accelerated by, and contributes to, a practice of reducing upon Indigenous and non-human societies both within academia and without. This paper builds upon Smith’s (1999) claims that academic scholarship has largely developed theories about Indigenous peoples in the absence of Indigenous-based theories.  It further lays the groundwork for Indigenous understandings of social beingness that is reflexive of land-based pedagogies rather than colonial prescripts




The Unintended Continuation of Settler Colonialism in Ontario


Matthew Beaudoin, PhD, Western University


The archaeological practice in Canada is regulated and structured by the Federal and various Provincial governments. There are various structural mechanisms and interpretive conventions that serve to unconsciously guide archaeological practice in unconsciously replicating the dominant master narrative. These structures and conventions were developed within general archaeological practice, but in government codification they have become more rigid. This paper examines the current site registration and site update information required by the Provincial Government of Ontario to show demonstrate how these structure unconsciously guide archaeological interpretation to conform to the existing provincial master narrative, and some of the consequences of these invisible guiding hands that create an imaginary past that may not reflect the complexity of a lived reality. Furthermore, I will be exploring some options that can be used to subvert these existing structures to privilege alternative narratives and work towards unsettling how archaeological knowledge is recorded and perpetuated within the government systems.





Burdens and Boundaries : Exchanging Information within Settler Colonial Knowledge Systems


Emily Hayflick, The Field Museum of Natural History


This paper will focus on specific patterns within knowledge sharing practices between native and non-native individuals and communities. These exchanges, which take place both in academia/museums and popular forums, work both within and to continue to reify settler colonial power relationships. The structure, contextualization, and forms of knowledge exchange, specifically focused on how information is requested, absorbed, and reinterpreted need to be examined and critiqued as part of the larger decolonizing process of the many forms of knowledge. The ways in which non-native populations often request and synthesize knowledge from native people can be seen as a form of “settler moves to innocence,” (Tuck and Yang, 2012) and shifting responsibility from where it belongs, with settler communities, to native communities. I will specifically be focusing on facilitated forms of knowledge exchange, e.g. within social media discussions of protest movements and indigenous rights, and within museum research processes. This paper will build on discussions of privileging scientific and Euro-American knowledge over ‘traditional knowledge,’ as well as on decolonial and anticolonial theory in settler colonial environments.  This paper will discuss examples from both academic/museum and non-institutional settings, as knowledge practices within academia are not isolated from popular discourse and vice versa.



Archaeologies of Contemporary Native American/First Nation Protests (1969-Today)


April M. Beisaw, PhD, Vassar College


Since the occupation of Alcatraz by the Indians of All Tribes (1969-1971), Native American and First Nation protests have been well-documented through a variety of media. Unfortunately, many non-Natives lack the background necessary to understand and evaluate the messages being conveyed. For example, after the National Park Service began including the Alcatraz occupation in their site interpretation, I witnessed visitors discussing how inappropriate it was that a Native prison riot was being celebrated. More recently, the Standing Rock #NoDAPL protests have been a swirl of media messages and misunderstandings. Could archaeologies of contemporary Native protests help to (re)educate those who misunderstand or ignore these media? Archaeology can be used to either contextualize or to document the protests themselves; we can map the creation, expansion, and movement of protest sites, use time/date stamps and geotagged images to delineate sites and define their stratigraphic layers, we can use the contemporary juxtapositioning of people, places, and objects to re-evaluate cultural boundaries through space and time. If archaeology has no place in contemporary Native and First Nation struggles, then we must be critical of our continued role in the myth of the vanishing Indian.



Unsettling Settler Colonial Archaeologies in Canada: An Indigenous Feminist Perspective


Kisha Supernant, PhD, University of Alberta


         In Canada, archaeologists are often centered as experts on indigenous pasts and rightful stewards of the archaeological record. However, most archaeological practitioners are settlers, primarily the descendants of immigrants from white, western European nations. Theories of archaeology are largely drawn from settler colonial contexts; for example, the recent ontological turn and rise of posthumanism in the social sciences are deeply indebted to Indigenous thought, but only when that thought was colonized by white scholars (typically without giving due credit to Indigenous thinkers) did it begin to inform the discipline. The methods of archaeology are based on analysis of material evidence using the scientific method, an approach based on the subject/object divide. In addition, archaeologists typically work either in an academic or a development context, both of which reinforce settler colonial and capitalist knowledge systems. In this paper, I explore how structures of settler colonialism inform archaeological practice in Canada and present a critique from an Indigenous feminist perspective. I use my research with Métis communities as a lens to focus on how my own exploration of identity is discursively informed by my research into my community, heritage, and history. I conclude by presenting a case for the future of archaeology where settler colonial discourses and knowledge systems are only one of many archaeologies practiced in Canada.



On Stories


Kristen Bos, University of Toronto


Despite considerable political efforts, the Métis remain on the peripheries of dominant discourse. While previous research has demonstrated the archaeological visibility of Métis populations, confined to architecture and the odd ceramic- or lithic-based approach, research has remained limited in material, method, and scope. The researchers cannot be blamed here: the material culture of the Métis is limiting. Although Métis culture developed in the more recent past (c. the mid-18th century onwards as beaver hides dwindled and the Métis turned towards the emerging buffalo and pemmican trade) and although Métis artefacts like jaw harps, embroidered sashes, and beaded leggings were “traded, sold, given, worn, acquired with force or as souvenirs, presented as diplomatic gifts [and] exchanged in marriage ceremonies” (Peers 1999, 55) for centuries, few survive with certain context and/or provenance. And without either? A good archaeologist will tell you that understanding is impossible. But is it? This paper uses stories to remember, envision, and create new paradigms for understanding Métis artefacts while also using stories to address the ongoing phenomenon of settler colonialism that permeates even the best intentioned decolonizing efforts.