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Defensive Archaeology and the Politics of Wabanaki Prehistory

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09/21/2004

Archaeological data are intrinsically political in that they deal with cultural continuity, identity, and territoriality-the bases of indigenous peoples' rights. Models, theories, and interpretations, long considered "academic discourse" must now be developed and discussed with the utmost care, for they can affect the hopes and aspirations of the descendants of the people archaeologists study. For several years, state and provincial governments hostile to the human rights of Wabanaki communities in New England and Eastern Canada have collected archaeological information that they think will belittle quests for recognition, repatriation of sacred lands and materials, economic development rights, and land claims. Two interrelated archaeological constructs-"Wabanaki marginality" and the "St. Lawrence Iroquoians"-will be used as explicit examples of such politically dangerous models. Following will be a discussion of how they can be effectively countered in federal and provincial bureaucratic and court proceedings. Fred Wiseman of Johnson State presents.

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