Anthropology, and biological anthropology in particular, have created a representation of itself as working on the behalf of all of humanity, as tackling and solving world issues through its "exceptional research". Yet when American Indians ask how such sparkling scholarship has benefited them, the response is always silence or evasion. Simply saying you do wonderful things does not make you wonderful, especially when your collections of Indian bodies still number close to 150 thousand, stored in boxes, wrapped in plastic, and hidden in museums and universities. These bodies are defined by anthropologists as culturally unaffiliated, as if they are not Indians at all. Is this simply a misrepresentation? Is this a misguided construct? The late and respected Mohawk scholar Salli Benedict said that archaeology "must be counted among the list of oppressive acts that have been inflicted on Aboriginal cultures by western civilization". Is this just hype as bandy says above? Was Vine DeLoria Jr. just furthering his own personal agenda in his seminal dissection of the anthropologists character? Or might there be some validity to the consistent, insistent, often suppressed voice of American Indians who objected, and continue to object, to having their deceased ancestors and cultural materials treated as war booty? Simply stated, you attack the messenger while continuing to insist you cast no shadow over those you study. Really when you insist on "creative and useful dialogue" you are seeking discourse that doesn't draw attention to your disciplines legacy. A legacy which, despite claims to the contrary, continues to manifest itself today.
Sunday, March 4, 2012 - 14:13