- Cross-Cultural Collaboration: Native Peoples and Archaeology in the Northeastern United States
The call for greater collaboration between archaeologists and Native American communities was first meaningfully sounded by Native American activists concerned about the mistreatment of ancestral remains by archaeologists and the lack of recognition of the sovereign right of tribes to control their own histories. Following this initial round of tribal activism, "collaborative" efforts were driven primarily by the necessity of compliance with cultural resource legislation that mandated consultation with descendant communities. In recent years, collaborative projects between archaeologists and Native Americans that are voluntary rather than compliance driven have appeared with increasing regularity. All three of these drivers of collaboration—Native American activism and sovereignty concerns, cultural resource compliance, and voluntary partnerships—are apparent in Cross-Cultural Collaboration, a publication that provides a very useful and engaging discussion of Native American involvement in the practice of archaeology in the northeastern United States.
Cross-Cultural Collaboration is a compilation of twenty case studies that highlight the nature and details of collaborative projects in eleven northeastern states as well as parts of southeastern Canada. The contributing authors represent a diverse set of professional backgrounds; they are academics, state and federal archaeologists, contract archaeologists, tribal repatriation coordinators, and tribal historic preservation officers. Of the thirty-three authors whose writings appear in the [End Page 183] volume, nine are Native American. The book is divided into three main parts: collaboration and regulatory compliance within the context of burials and repatriation, collaboration and regulatory compliance within the context of sites and places, and voluntary collaborations in research and educational outreach.
The first section of Cross-Cultural Collaboration focuses on repatriation and human burials in both NAGPRA (Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act) and non-NAGPRA contexts. Richard W. Hill Sr.'s excellent opening chapter addresses the difficulties that the Haudenosaunee Nation has faced in their efforts to repatriate ancestral remains and describes the stonewalling tactics that some museums, archaeologists, and state organizations have used to prevent the repatriation of human remains and cultural items to Native American populations. Hill's chapter helps to set the tone of the book, demonstrating that the goal is not to present a simple celebratory image of the collaborative process, but rather to look realistically and critically at collaboration as a process that remains troubled, especially within the context of the repatriation of human remains.
Other chapters in the first section continue this cautious tone, noting the challenges of attempting to make the supposedly uniform bureaucratic process of repatriation compatible with the specifics of tribal sovereignty and politics (Nina M. Versaggi), wrestling with repatriation to tribes that are not federally recognized (Ramona Peters, Brona G. Simon), and the reluctance of some archaeologists to relinquish control over the disposition of human remains (John B. Brown III and Paul A. Robinson). While all of the chapters in this section are interesting and useful, the most helpful discussions focus on NAGPRA repatriations to nonrecognized tribal nations (which is important, given how often it is incorrectly stated that NAGPRA precludes repatriation to nonrecognized groups) as well as the use of state unmarked burial laws to repatriate human remains outside of NAGPRA contexts. The choice to put this section first is important, as it emphasizes the idea that repatriation—especially the repatriation of human remains—is the most fundamental and central form of collaboration. If we as archaeologists cannot collaborate with tribes by standing up for tribal primacy in determining what happens to human remains, then our other forms of collaboration become much less relevant.
The second section focuses on collaboration and regulatory compliance [End Page 184] in the context of sites and places. Chapters in this section discuss the challenges and rewards of collaborations on large-scale highway survey projects (Robert L. Dean and Douglas J. Perrelli, Ira Beckerman), dialogue between tribal and archaeological voices over differing values and interpretations (David M. Lacy and Donna Roberts Moody), contract archaeology on Martha's Vineyard (Holly Herbster and Suzanne Cherau), the...