Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 5, Issue 3, pp 355–366

Native American religion versus archaeological science: A pernicious dichotomy revisited

  • K. Anne Pyburn

DOI: 10.1007/s11948-999-0026-5

Cite this article as:
Pyburn, K.A. SCI ENG ETHICS (1999) 5: 355. doi:10.1007/s11948-999-0026-5


Adversarial relations between science and religion have recurred throughout Western History. Archaeologists figure prominently in a recent incarnation of this debate as members of a hegemonic scientific elite. Postmodern debates situate disagreements in cosmological differences between innocent, traditional, native peoples and insensitive, career-mad, colonialist scientists. This simplistic dichotomy patronizes both First Peoples and archaeologists, pitting two economically marginal groups in a political struggle that neither can win. Although a few scholars have discussed the tyrannical nature of anthropological models of tradition and culture, little consideration has been given to the fact that archaeology as a scientific discipline is drastically under-funded, with little research support and few jobs. Reconsideration of which political and economic groups actually benefit from the dramatization of a dichotomy between traditional and academic perspectives indicates some interesting patterns. The search for common ground is shown to have ethical implications for both the futures of First Peoples and the future of archaeology.

Copyright information

© Opragen Publications 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • K. Anne Pyburn
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology, Center for Archaeology in the Public InterestIndiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA