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Some Concerns about Studying Indian People Indians of North America Anthropology E-320 Larry J. Zimmerman, PhD, RPA Indiana University-Purdue University.

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Presentation on theme: "Some Concerns about Studying Indian People Indians of North America Anthropology E-320 Larry J. Zimmerman, PhD, RPA Indiana University-Purdue University."— Presentation transcript:

1 Some Concerns about Studying Indian People Indians of North America Anthropology E-320 Larry J. Zimmerman, PhD, RPA Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Ruth Benedict and Two Blackfeet Men, 1939 Alan Burns working with Crow people, 2000

2 ‘Okay, Indian expert, tell me what I had for breakfast? Sherman Alexie, Spokane/Coeur d'Alene poet & novelist With academic study, one can know many things about Indians, even things many Indian people don't know. But, without being Indian, one cannot know what it means to be Indian.

3 Just why are non-Indians even interested in Indians? Why they should be studied by anyone? Issues of privacy are of great concern. Of great concern are issues of sacredness. Studying Indians does not honor them any more than having Indian sports mascots!

4 New Age practitioners are a special concern. ‘They are messing with things they don’t understand and that can be very dangerous!’ Maria Pearson, Inhanktonwan

5 People deserve your respect when it comes to your study of them and their culture. Figure out where the boundaries of your study should be. If people don't wish your intrusion, then don't intrude. Respect their wishes. Donald J. Lehmer: “This is the way we wash our clothes, wash our clothes…”

6 Most Indian people don’t mind if you learn some things about their culture if you do it respectfully and recognize the limits of your knowledge. Know the limits of your knowledge. This even applies to knowing about your own culture. Just because you are a member of a culture, you shouldn't assume you can know all there is to know about that culture. Just because you are Indian, don't assume that you can know what it means to be a member of another nation. Some advice

7 Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto Vine Deloria, Jr. Now Playing: Floyd Westerman, ‘Custer Died for your Sins, 4: 04

8 ‘Anthropologists and Other Friends’ INTO EACH LIFE, it is said, some rain must fall. Some people have bad horoscopes, others take tips on the stock market. McNamara created the TFX and the Edsel. Churches possess the real world. But Indians have been cursed above all other people in history. Indians have anthropologists. Every summer when school is out a veritable stream of immigrants heads into Indian country. Indeed the Oregon Trail was never so heavily populated as are Route 66 and Highway 18 in the summer time. From every rock and cranny in the East they emerge, as if responding to some primeval fertility rite, and flock to the reservations. "They" are the anthropologists. Social anthropologists historical anthropologists, political anthropologists, economic anthropologists, all brands of the species, embark on the great summer adventure. For purposes of this discussion we shall refer only to the generic name, anthropologists. They are the most prominent members of the scholarly community that infests the land of the free, and in the summer time, the homes of the braves.

9 The origin of the anthropologist is a mystery hidden in the historical mists. Indians are certain that all societies of Near East had anthropologists at one time because all these societies are now defunct. Indians are equally certain that Columbus brought anthropologists on his ships when he came to the New World. How else could he have made so many wrong deductions about where he was? While their historical precedent is uncertain, anthropologists can readily be identified on the reservations. Go into any crowd of people. Pick out a tall gaunt white man wearing Bermuda shorts, a World War II Army Air Force flying jacket, an Australian bush hat, tennis shoes, and packing a large knapsack incorrectly strapped on his back. He will invariably have a thin sexy wife with stringy hair, an IQ of 191, and a vocabulary in which even the prepositions have eleven syllables. He usually has a camera, tape recorder, telescope, hoola hoop, and life jacket all hanging from his elongated frame. He rarely has a pen, pencil, chisel, stylus, stick, paint brush, or instrument to record his observations. This creature is an anthropologist.

10 Floyd Westerman: ‘Here come the Anthros’ Here Come the Anthros… Floyd Westerman “Here comes the anthros, better hide the past away…Then back they go to write their book and tell the world that there’s more…And not a cent of funded money that the anthros get to spend is ever given to their disappearing feathered-friends. And the Anthros keep diggin’ in our sacred ceremonial sites. As if there’s nothing wrong or education gives them the right. Here come the anthros, on another holiday”

11 Millgram experiment in psychology Project Camelot Landes incident Deloria’s attack Ethical problems in anthropology, 1960s-1970s The Result? Ethical reflection and changes

12 Before real scholarship, questions and armchair speculation about the origins of American Indians abounded Three trends 1.Latin American emphasis based on chronicles of the conquistadors, priests 2.Explorer and traveler accounts of the interior of NA and Latin America with a natural history focus 3. An almost ephemeral trend that began the next period: efforts to undertake excavation and survey of archaeological sites as well as the first ethnography Lewis & Clark

13 Dominance of speculation as a mode of thought was due to a number of factors: 1. Most important was the lack of reliable data 2. Acceptance of theological modes of explanation limited other possibilities 3. Non-existence of a tradition of scientific thought 4. A continuing sense of wonder at the exotic nature of the New World. El Castillo, Chichen Itza, Catherwood, 1840s Non-scientific conjecture

14 1. Who are the Indians? 2. Where did they come from? Were they children of God? The big questions of the day: Answers: 1. Favorite was the Lost Tribes of Israel 2. Survivors of Atlantis; Mu 3. the Viking origins 4. Asian 5. In 1637, a Bering Strait migration was being seriously considered, especially after Cook mapped the strait (José de Acosta, 1590)

15 Fray Bartolemé de las Casas worked in Chiapas, but was a champion of Indians, trying to seek fair treatment for them. He did solid ethnography for the times. Bishop Diego de Landa worked closely with the Maya, gave excellent descriptions Chichen Itza, hieroglyphs and calendrical system at the same time that he burned their codexes and other documents Some good, some bad in early dealings with the study of Indians

16 Trends appeared that resulted in the so-called Moundbuilder Myth. 1.Explorers used a natural scientific approach which is still reflected in the fact that Indians and archaeology tend to be in natural history museums instead of history museums 2. Most were not directly on the scene or as involved. Armchair explorers used a literary approach

17 1. The need for an heroic past that would resemble that of Europe―reasons are complex The colonists were in one sense a "people without a history" Those living in Europe thought that something must be wrong with the environment here to cause such revolutions Needed a "white" history to claim the land ― a precursor to Manifest Destiny 2. Second reason is the relative comparison of the mounds and earthworks to the pyramids of Mexico. How could the Indian people they saw have built such thing? 3. Little attention paid to the traditions of the people themselves ― that would come later ― that showed a long tradition of moundbuilding Why did Euroamericans need a Moundbuilder Myth? Manifest Destiny

18 The Moundbuilder Myth Destroyed, 1890 Cyrus Thomas, the first scientific archaeology, and use of Indian oral traditions proved beyond reasonable doubt that the ancestors of the Indians built the mounds.

19 Actually the moundbuilder myth hangs on… Many Euroamericans still want a “white” presence in the Americas before the Indians.

20 1. Throughout the period there would be a steady increase in the discovery and description of antiquities as the US pushed westward 2. Work began to be sponsored by the government, universities, museums, scientific societies 3. Archaeology became both a recognized avocation and a vocation which toward the end of the period would be taught in universities 4. Alliance between archaeology and anthropology began as a long-lasting conceptual union. Thomas Jefferson The influences of a European scientific tradition


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