In the fourteen years since the publication of Sonya Atalay's groundbreaking special issue of American Indian Quarterly, "Decolonizing Archaeology" (2006)—and the call for a more equitable and ethical, or decolonized, archaeology—we raise the question: Is it possible to decolonize archaeology? Of late, archaeologies of colonialism seek to counteract Western views of the plight of Indigenous populations and the systematic erasure of peoples, sites, and cultures from the land, from public memory, and the conventional writing of history. For archaeologists, countering narratives of Indigenous loss or absence requires gathering evidence—excavation in the soil and archives—to demonstrate resiliency, even as many present-day Indigenous communities doubt the very premise of that loss and the idea that their histories and cultures are missing or obscured. In this article, we acknowledge the colonial nature of evidence (epistemology) in archaeology. Introducing this special issue, we consider how archaeology has performed as a structure of settler colonialism, and how a close engagement with critical Indigenous theory can reorient us. We argue that a more equitable form of practice is evolving, but that decolonizing archaeology will require a kind of "undisciplining," changing larger institutional structures in universities and heritage protection law. We thus consider the potentials or impossibilities for decolonizing archaeology by centering our questions in the scholarship on settler colonial studies and critical Indigenous theory.


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pp. 127-148
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