Bringing the Past to the Present for the Future



Sunday, April 29, 2007

Articles on Public Archaeology, Cultural Heritage Concerns, and Indigenous Rights

Here are some abstracts for articles on public archaeology, cultural heritage concerns, and indigenous rights that you might be interested in

Who's indigenous? Whose archaeology?
Bill Sillar

The International Labour Organisation, the United Nations and various indigenous Organisations have raised and/or objected to diverse criteria through which indigenous groups have been defined and the rights that should be accorded to them. This paper discusses the implications of these issues in relation to archaeological research and heritage management and uses this to position the other papers in this volume. Specific themes that are addressed include: the impact of colonialism and nationforming on indigenous groups; the continuing influence of 19th and early 20th century social evolutionary concepts on the representation of indigenous groups and the role of archival material from this period today; the contrasting processes of cultural continuity and assimilation within 'dominant' societies in which indigenous communities have participated, and the effects that this has had on more recent claims over land rights; the cultural differences that surround the concepts of individual and community ownership, particularly in relation to copyright; the role of academia, museums and the media in the representation of indigenous people in the past and the present.

Of grizzlies and landslides: the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in Canadian aboriginal rights cases
Jean Leclair

This paper discusses some of the most contentious problems raised by the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in aboriginal rights litigation in Canada. The first part of the paper deals with the general impact of archaeological and anthropological theories on law. The more specific problems related to the use of archaeological and anthropological evidence in aboriginal rights litigation are the subject of the second part. The final section deals with the reverse problem, that is, the question of the law's impact on the disciplines of archaeology and anthropology

Indigenous peoples' rights to their cultural Heritage
Lyndon Ormond Parker

This paper discusses indigenous peoples' rights to their cultural heritage, using the example of rights to indigenous human remains, held by institutions, universities, scientific centres and museums. It addresses international developments in indigenous cultural policy at the United Nations and the European Union, with specific reference to Australia and the United Kingdom. It also outlines issues relating to indigenous peoples' collective rights, free, prior and informed consent, ownership of indigenous human remains and the issue of benefit sharing and sustainable justice. There are now several international declarations, conventions and policies in place to assist indigenous people in gaining some form of control and protection over their heritage, however, these international instruments are often unco-ordinated and lacking in any enforcement mechanisms and they hold little sway with those who retain indigenous human remains against the wishes of descendant communities.

Artefacts, archaeologists, and American Indians
Joe Watkins

Archaeologists traditionally have observed the style and technology of artefacts and used this to classify archaeological assemblages, describing the repeated association of artefact groups as a 'Culture'. We continue to place overwhelming reliance on our ability to derive meaningful information about past culture from artefacts, yet the importance these objects had for the members of the cultural group (past and present) is not adequately considered. The typological approach sidelines the creative role of the artisans, we find out a little about their economy, gain momentary glimpses of their religion, but learn almost nothing about their humanity. Archaeologists tend to focus on the physical, technological or esoteric attributes of an artefact, while indigenous populations tend to focus on the object's ritual or social importance. This is most apparent in the treatment of funerary artefacts. Until recently, many American Indian tribal groups have seen no distinction between 'grave robbing' and 'archaeological excavation'; it made no difference to them whether the dead were disturbed by looters or by qualified archaeologists. By involving indigenous populations in the design, practice and dissemination of archaeological research, we can add humanity to our study of the human past, and take a step toward a truly worldwide archaeology.

Indigenous claims and heritage conservation: an opportunity for critical dialogue
Glenn Wharton

Indigenous claims of ownership and access to material culture challenge the field of heritage conservation. This article illustrates how indigenous concerns conflict with basic constructs of Western conservation, and how conservators respond to these claims. Despite efforts of inclusion, relatively few conservation projects integrate indigenous knowledge with scientific research. Redistribution of conservation authority is rarely put into practice. The article concludes by pointing to conservation as a meeting ground where collaborative decisions can be made about material culture on display. Conflict negotiation in conservation presents a potential forum for cultural representation and contested meaning of objects on display.

The above articles can be located in the journal PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY Volume 4 Issues 2 and 3 (SPECIAL ISSUE)

PUBLIC ARCHAEOLOGY is an international, peer-reviewed journal, setting archaeology in a global context