The Unthinkable and the Unseen: Community Archaeology and Decolonizing Social Imagination at Okeeheepkee, or the Lake Jackson Site

Abstract

Recent decolonizing scholarship examines how Indigenous ways of knowing can transform archaeology. This article discusses community-based research undertaken with a Muskogee tribal town in North Florida, focusing on the archaeology of the Lake Jackson site (1100–1500 A.D.). Centering on the historical narratives circulated in this community illuminates gaps in the dominant archaeological discourse, or what Trouillot (Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History, 1995) calls the silences of history. Examples such as iconographic representations of “genderless” moths and possibilities of “invisible” mound structures render the limits of colonial imagination visible. Archaeology can move beyond these constraints by bridging the center and margins of archaeological production.

Résumé

La recherche récente en matière de décolonisation examine comment les modes de savoir indigènes peuvent transformer l’archéologie. Cet article traite de la recherche basée sur une communauté dans une ville tribale Muskogee située au nord de la Floride, et portant sur l’archéologie du site du lac Jackson (1100–1500 E.C.). Le fait de se concentrer sur les récits historiques qui circulent dans cette communauté permet de mettre en évidence les vides qui existent dans le discours archéologique dominant, que Trouillot (1995) nomme les « silences de l’histoire ». Des exemples comme les représentations iconographiques de papillons de nuit « non genrés » et les possibilités de structures de buttes « invisibles » mettent en évidence les limites de l’imagination coloniale. L’archéologie peut dépasser ces contraintes en établissant un pont entre le centre et les marges de la production archéologique.

Resumen

Los eruditos actuales de la descolonización examinan cómo las formas indígenas de conocer pueden transformar la arqueología. El presente artículo trata de la investigación basada en la comunidad llevada a cabo en una ciudad tribal Muskogee en el Norte de Florida, centrándose en la arqueología del emplazamiento de Jackson Lake (1100–1500 E.C.). Al centrarnos en las narrativas históricas que circulaban en esta comunidad se iluminan las brechas en el discurso de la arqueología dominante, o lo que Trouillot (1995) llama los silencios de la historia. Ejemplos tales como las representaciones iconográficas de las polillas “sin sexo” y las posibilidades de estructuras de montículos “invisibles” hacen visibles los límites de la imaginación colonial. La arqueología puede ir más allá de estas restricciones creando puentes entre el centro y los márgenes de la producción arqueológica.

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Acknowledgments

I would like to first thank Hakope and all the members of his tribal town. Thank you for allowing me into your community, for your patience with me, for forgiving my mistakes and helping me work through them. In constantly asking me to rethink my perspectives and assumptions—and in pushing me to consider, justify, and critique my privileged academic frames—the community has been absolutely essential to this work as well as shifts in my own worldview. The significance of Hakope’s contribution should be obvious. Significant support from the Matriarch in particular has also helped me through my own intellectual and personal growth. Research in 2010 and 2011 was supported by the New College of Florida Department of Anthropology, Council of Academic Affairs, and Student Research and Travel Grant. The University of Virginia Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and Department of Anthropology funded additional research in 2012 and 2013. I would like to thank my mother, Martha Caldwell: her help and support in regards to this paper is only the tip of the iceberg. My undergraduate advisor, Dr. Uzi Baram, deserves many thanks for his knack for reframing questions, his insights, and his constant push to understand not just anthropology not just as an intellectual pursuit, but as an orientation toward all of social life. My graduate advisor, Dr. Jeffrey Hantman, helped me build a stronger foundation in Indigenous and collaborative methodologies and often eloquently pulled out arguments and assumptions that I did not realize I was making. Chris Kimball bore my presence on the long drives to North Florida and introduced me to countless archaeological and historical sites and archives along the way. Dr. Alice Kehoe provided important discussions and perspectives on the condition of archaeology and possibilities for its future. Dr. Nancy White and Dr. Keith Ashley provided critical commentary and directed me to key sources. Ryan Koons provided keen editorial insights. And finally, I would like to thank my mother, Hakope, Dr. Uzi Baram, Dr. Jeffrey Hantman, Sarah Thompson, Mary Pancoast, Dr. McCaffrey, Dr. Pullen, other, anonymous members of Hakope’s community, and the many peer-reviewers who read and commented upon drafts of this paper.

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Bloch, L.J. The Unthinkable and the Unseen: Community Archaeology and Decolonizing Social Imagination at Okeeheepkee, or the Lake Jackson Site. Arch 10, 70–106 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11759-014-9251-x

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Key words

  • Community archaeology
  • Indigenous archaeology
  • North America
  • Southeastern United States
  • Native American art
  • Lake Jackson site