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Archaeologies

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 42–69 | Cite as

Decolonizing the Past and Present of the Western Hemisphere (The Americas)

  • Paulette F. SteevesEmail author
Research

Abstract

Until very recently, archaeologists argued that the first people to enter the Western Hemisphere walked across the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia after 13,200 calBP, bringing with them fluted Clovis tools. However, there are many problematic areas of this archaeological story: one being that fluted Clovis tools have never been found outside of the Western Hemisphere, another being that in North and South America there are published reports of hundreds of pre-13,200 calBP sites which meet or exceed archaeological standards for dating, stratigraphy, and cultural artifacts. The field of Pleistocene archaeological studies in the Americas has historically been described as a battleground littered with academic causalities. Archaeologists have only recently conceded that Indigenous people were present in the Western Hemisphere a few 1000 years prior to Clovis. This is, however, the same scenario as the Clovis First hypothesis regarding diminishing the time frames of initial migrations; it is just a few 1000 years earlier than Clovis. This scenario reproduces and maintains archaeological power and control over the Indigenous past. Contrary to the traditional discussions of First People in the Western Hemisphere, my research questions are not about where the first people came from and when. I argue that the first people and their descendants are indigenous to the continents of the Western Hemisphere and have been so for thousands of years, this is where they are from. I argue that there is a vast body of evidence for much earlier migrations which is ignored a priori mainly due to embedded “nonfactual” colonially constructed histories which erased an ancient Indigenous presence. I further argue that archaeological discussions which diminish an ancient Indigenous presence in the Western Hemisphere rupture contemporary people’s connections to their ancestral past. I discuss the history of American Anthropology to support my argument that this academic battle is not just about archaeological sites or material remains. The argument reflects an ongoing colonial practice of erasure and denies Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere a place in ancient world history.

Key Words

America Pleistocene Pre-Clovis Indigenous 

Résumé

Jusqu’à tout récemment, les archéologues ont affirmé que les premiers peuples à avoir pénétré sur l’hémisphère occidental avaient traversé le pont terrestre de la Béringie depuis la Sibérie après 13,200 cal. BP, apportant avec eux les outils cannelés de type Clovis. Il existe cependant de nombreux points problématiques liés à cette histoire archéologique. L’un d’entre eux est que les outils cannelés de type Clovis n’ont jamais été trouvés en dehors de l’hémisphère occidental, l’autre est que plusieurs rapports, en Amérique du Nord et en Amérique du Sud, font état de centaines de sites datant d’avant 13,200 cal. BP, qui répondent ou dépassent les normes archéologiques pour ce qui concerne la datation, la stratigraphie et les artefacts culturels. Le domaine des études archéologiques du pléistocène aux Amériques a toujours été décrit comme un champ de bataille, ponctué de pertes académiques. Les archéologues n’ont que récemment reconnu que les peuples autochtones étaient présents aux Amériques plusieurs milliers d’années avant Clovis. Ceci est cependant le même scénario que la première hypothèse de Clovis à propos de la réduction des durées des migrations initiales, daté simplement quelques milliers d’années plus tôt que Clovis. Ce scénario reproduit et maintient la puissance et le contrôle archéologiques sur le passé indigène. Contrairement aux discussions traditionnelles sur les premiers peuples de l’hémisphère occidental, mes questions de recherche ne portent pas sur d’où ni quand sont arrivés les premiers peuples. Je fais valoir que les premiers peuples et leurs descendants sont des indigènes des continents de l’hémisphère occidental, qu’ils l’ont été pendant des milliers d’années, et que telle est leur origine. Je soutiens qu’il existe une vaste quantité de preuves concernant des migrations beaucoup plus précoces qui est ignorée, a priori, principalement en raison d’histoires ancrées et « non factuelles » construites par les colonies, qui ont effacé une présence autochtone ancienne. De plus, j’affirme que les discussions archéologiques diminuant une présence indigène ancienne sur l’hémisphère occidental, rompent les liens des peuples contemporains avec leur passé ancestral. J’examine l’histoire de l’anthropologie américaine pour étayer mon argument selon lequel cette bataille académique ne concerne pas uniquement des sites archéologiques ou des vestiges matériels, mais qu’elle reflète une pratique néocoloniale pour maintenir l’effacement d’une présence indigène ancienne qui nie la place des peuples autochtones de l’hémisphère occidental dans l’histoire du monde.

Resumen

Hasta hace muy poco, los arqueólogos argumentaban que los primeros pueblos que llegaron al hemisferio occidental atravesaron andando el Puente Terrestre de Bering desde Siberia después de 13.200 años calibrados antes del presente, trayendo consigo herramientas estriadas Clovis. Sin embargo, existen muchas zonas problemáticas en esta historia arqueológica. Una es que las herramientas estriadas clovis nunca han sido encontradas fuera del hemisferio occidental, otra es que en Norteamérica y en Sudamérica hay informes publicados de cientos de emplazamientos anteriores a 13.200 años calibrados antes del presente que satisfacen o superan los estándares arqueológicos de datación, estratigrafia y artefactos culturales. El campo de los estudios arqueológicos del Pleistoceno en ambas Américas ha sido descrito históricamente como un campo de batalla, contaminado con bajas académicas. Sólo recientemente, los arqueólogos han admitido que los pueblos indígenas estaban presentes en las Américas algunos miles de años antes de Clovis. Sin embargo, éste es el mismo escenario ya que la hipótesis del Primer Clovis relativa a la disminución de los marcos de tiempo de las migraciones iniciales, es sólo algunos miles de años anterior a Clovis. Este escenario reproduce y mantiene un poder y control arqueológico sobre el pasado indígena. Al contrario que los debates tradicionales de los Primeros Pueblos en el hemisferio occidental, las preguntas de mi investigación no son sobre cuándo y de dónde vienen los primeros pueblos. Argumento que los primeros pueblos y sus descendientes son indígenas de los continentes del hemisferio occidental y lo han sido así durante miles de años, y es allí de donde proceden. Argumento que existe un vasto corpus de evidencia de migraciones mucho más tempranas que se ignora a priori debido principalmente a historias “irreales”arraigadas construidas colonialmente que borraron una presencia indígena antigua. Asimismo argumento que los debates arqueológicos que disminuyen una presencia indígena antigua en el hemisferio occidental, quiebran las conexiones de los pueblos contemporáneos con su pasado ancestral. Hablo de la historia de la Antropología americana para apoyar mi argumentación de que esta batalla académica no es sólo sobre emplazamientos arqueológicos o restos materiales, sino que refleja una práctica neocolonial de mantener la supresión de una presencia indígena antigua que niega a los pueblos indígenas del hemisferio occidental un lugar en la historia mundial.

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Copyright information

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fort Peck Community CollegePoplarUSA

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