Back in May, I was approached by Peabody education volunteer and Triton Regional High School History teacher Lisa Herzl about a student of hers who was interested in going to college for archaeology. She asked if there were any opportunities this summer for the student to learn more about what exactly archaeology is before committing her life (and $$$$) to studying it.
I reached out to my network of archaeologists to see what might be available. And, the outpouring of support of the student’s interest was amazing. My former thesis committee member Dr. Christa Beranek wrote to me that she would be happy to give the student a tour of the site she was working on at the end of June.
The Fiske Center UMass Boston was hired to investigate the property that the Marblehead Museum recently acquired. The property sits adjacent to the Jeremiah Lee Mansion, owned and operated by the Marblehead Museum, and was the former brick kitchen and possible slave quarters owned by the Lee family. This would make the site the SECOND known, still standing, extant slave quarters in New England.
The house and brick kitchen/possible slave quarters were built in 1766 for the Lee family. When Jeremiah Lee built his property, he made extensive changes to the land, including tearing down the Bartholomew Jackson house and leveling the land. This work essentially “capped” the previous archaeological deposits – a gold mine for the team.
Once word got to Dr. Bethany Jay (long-time Peabody collaborator) that I was going to be touring the site, she jumped at the opportunity to tag along.
Dr. Beranek was kind enough to spend over an hour with our group, not only giving us a tour of the different test pits and the artifacts being found, BUT also letting us get our hands – literally – dirty!
I have been following the investigation via the social media pages of both the Fiske Center and the Marblehead Museum and you should too! And in typical archaeology fashion, they found an amazing deposit on the second to last day. Can’t wait to see where the next stages bring them!
Ms. Herzl’s student had the time of her life and is now even more set on archaeology as a career path. Here’s to the next generation of archaeologists!
A few months back I wrote about archaeogaming and my friend Bill’s foray into this unique branch of archaeology. Little did I know that I would be immersing myself into it even more. I have even learned to play a videogame during this new endeavor!
Tom Anderson, faculty in Computer Science at PA contacted me after reading my last blog post as he was interested in collaborating with the Peabody to do something related to videogames.
Okay then………. game on (literally!)
While learning more about archaeogaming – defined as the archaeology in and of videogames – I learned about the ATARI video game burial and excavation, countless examples of the past being incorporated into the landscapes of games such as Zelda, and explored real pieces of material culture that could be found in games such as Minecraft.
As I was researching different avenues that the class could focus on, I stumbled upon the most amazing game: Never Alone or Kisima Ingitchuna.
The game is centered on a traditional story of the Iñupiat people, and also a collaboration between the tribe and game developers.
The game structure of Never Alone is a puzzle platformer where in order to win you must play as both Nuna, a young girl, and her fox companion, highlighting the Iñupiat ideal of cooperation and community.
Adding depth is the inclusion of Cultural Insights throughout the game for the player to access and learn more.
For the Computer Science class, I pulled artifacts from our Arctic collections for the students to explore. The students were asked to not only work together to figure out what the artifacts are and how they were used, but to also identify which artifacts were depicted within the game.
An example of an artifact from the Peabody collections found in the game are labrets – facial jewelry traditionally worn by men on either side of their mouth – as seen on the character Manslayer.
This was an exciting collaboration to work on and allowed me the opportunity to explore an aspect of archaeology that I only recently began thinking about.
And recently there was an exciting announcement of a sequel to Never Alone!
Yup. My friend Bill is the ultimate geek. Dork? Nerd? Well, whatever the terminology, he is letting his “flag fly” for all on the internet to see.
At first, I was a little dismissive of his work since I am not a video game person. My exposure to video games of any type was in the 90s when my older brother and his friends would play in our living room – on the one TV in the house – and I would lay on the couch mindlessly watching simply because I was too bored to do anything else. Besides, how on earth do video games have anything to do with archaeology?!?!
But, I was slightly intrigued and figured “why not” and sat down to watch one of the episodes to kill some time. Faced with a jumble of names that I had never heard before, I clicked on the one name with which I was slightly familiar: Zelda.
I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly was not to be hit with a wave of nostalgia watching Bill’s breakdown of Zelda: Breath of the Wild when his commentary referenced the Zelda games that I watched my brother play while I passively hung out with him. Nor was I expecting the archaeologist in me to be sucked into his breakdown of the sense of place and world building of the game using archaeological concepts and theory. And I certainly was not expecting NAGPRA or the story of the famous Kennewick Man to pop up.
And, to all the Star Wars fans out there – you should tune into his exploration of The Book of Boba Fett and its use of colonialist themes and tropes. My mind began thinking of all the ways that I might use Bill’s work on this as a lesson for my students as I watched the 15-minute video. I highly recommend it.
For my own personal enjoyment, I’m hoping that a future video will explore the domestication of chocobos from Final Fantasy. No idea what a chocobo is or does, besides maybe letting a character ride it, but I always did think they were cute.
If you are interested in learning more, please join the Gene Winter Chapter of the Massachusetts Archaeological Society on Tuesday March 15 at 7 p.m. when Dr. Bill Farley will discuss video game archaeology. To register for the zoom link email email@example.com.
During an incredibly cold weekend in January, I was bundled up on my couch and looking for a movie to stream. I finally settled one that Disney+ had just recently released, Encanto. I had no idea what the movie was about, past the short blurb that was provided on the info page before the movie started:
After finishing the movie, I will only admit to really enjoying it and any rumors you may have heard from my cats about me being a blubbering, crying mess throughout it, are lies. All lies!
Disney’s Encanto is a movie different from most. Despite what some viewers have said about Abuela being the villain of the story, there is no “villain” personified that the characters must defeat, as is typical in such movies. Instead all the characters must overcome something more overwhelming and real, which is threatening their home: intergenerational trauma.
At the beginning of the movie, the matriarch of the Madrigal family, Abuela Alma faces armed violence and suffers incredible loss, while fleeing with her husband and three babies. After a harrowing night, in which her husband dies, she receives a miracle of a magic candle that helps to create a magical casita (house) inside a magically hidden town.
The candle grants all members of the Madrigal family unique gifts….. all except young Mirabel. This lack of a gift causes some underlying tensions between Mirabel and her family and serves as the main vehicle for the story. Then there is a missing uncle, cracks in the casita, diminishing powers, some adorable rats, and an ear-worm of a song (we don’t talk about Bruno!) to round out the story.
The experience that Abuela has in the first few minutes of the movie has a continued impact on her relationship with her children and grandchildren, as well as on their own development.
After many fraught interactions (and songs!) Abuela tells her granddaughter Mirabel “I was given a miracle, a second chance, but I was so afraid to lose it that I lost sight of who our miracle was for….. I am so sorry… We are broken because of me.” Showing that you can break the cycle of trauma.
It was incredibly interesting to see a children’s movie deal with such a weighty topic in such a sensitive a way that does not diminish the damaging influence it has, but also shows that there is a possibility to begin to heal from this particular type of trauma.
Many of our classes at the Peabody touch upon some aspect of historical trauma in indigenous communities, with the boarding school experience being one of the main ones that we explore. Given the prevalence that it has in our teaching, I look forward to making connections to a movie many of our students will know as a means to enhance their understanding of such a profound topic.
An important part of the Peabody’s educational mission is to support the expansion of archaeology-centered teaching into new areas. While we have primarily focused on how to integrate archaeology into high school and college level education, we have not engaged in sustained efforts for lower grades. We recently had an opportunity to change that.
This month I helped Dr. Bethany Jay of Salem State University to outline a new education course that she will be teaching focused on subject matter knowledge listed in the MA frameworks for History and social sciences from prek-8th grade.
The course will help future teachers explore the political, economic, and cultural development of the United States with an eye towards social justice. As such, Indigenous people Africans/African Americans, and women will figure prominently in the course discussions of those who impacted American history. Students in the class will see how these groups influenced and were affected by the changing political, cultural, and economic landscape..
We decided to have the class begin with a project focused on rethinking how the First Thanksgiving is taught in elementary classrooms, with a particular focus on centering Native voices. Using resources from the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, exploring Indignous place names in Massachussetts, and finding age appropriate and accurate literature, such as Chris Newell’s book If You Lived During the Plimoth Thaksgiving, students will create multiple lesson plans reflecting the standards of the grades they intend to teach.
There was a lot of material for us to work with when we got to the section on ancient cilviliations and how archaeologists develop theories regarding past cultures – a particular focus of 4th grade. To ensure local connections, we decided to incorporate the paleo-indian Bull Brook site located in Ipswich MA in the discussions.
We also outlined part of the course that would discuss both slavery and contributions of women, using material culture, but that section still needs more work. However, I’m thinking many of the lessons that the Peabody uses could be scaled down to be age appropriate for the elementary level.
It was a lot of fun to work with Dr. Jay on the creation of this class and I cannot wait to collaborate on the second half and to hear how it goes!
The Pueblo Revolt was a pivotal moment in the history of the Southwest region of what is now the United States.
In 1680 the numerous Pueblos unified under the leadership of Po’pay and fought back against the military, religious, and political incursion of the Spanish. This event is the only successful large scale Indigenous revolt against Europeans in North America, and as such is covered in History 201 at Phillips Academy.
While there are numerous accounts of the Revolt from a Spanish perspective, many academics agree that there are no known comparable accounts of the event from the perspective of the Pueblos.
But what are “comparable” sources anyway? Because there are Indigenous accounts from that time period and contemporaneous to the known Spanish accounts – They are just in the form of oral traditions. Unfortunately, oral traditions have historically not been treated as the same as written or archaeological evidence.
I wanted to change how our students interacted with material about the Pueblo Revolt and so I created a new lesson that gave more weight to the Pueblo experience, in their own words. And thankfully, Dr. Marisela Ramos, History Department Head was more than happy to let me use her classes to experiment and refine my lesson.
Artist Jason Garcia (Tewa name: Okuu Pin) has created numerous and stunning pieces related to the Pueblo Revolt using traditional comic book imagery, including a ceramic pot that is in the Peabody’s collection. He has also crafted a multi piece series of art titled Tewa Tales of Suspense!which continues his efforts to provide a counterpoint to the common Spanish-dominant narrative of the Pueblo Revolt.
Using a set of pictures from the expansive series, I crafted a lesson which engages students in close reading of the visual images to understanding this particular event in history.
After working in groups and spending time exploring the details of a single picture, students report back to the whole class about what information their picture is conveying, before working collaboratively to place all the images in chronological order. As the class orders the images, we discuss how the narrative of each single picture contributes to our understanding of the larger story of the Pueblo Revolt.
We end the class with a discussion regarding the differences in how a single event is portrayed depending on the viewpoint and medium (visual narrative vs. written account) as well as why it is important that oral traditions be given the same authority as written documents.
This lesson has been an exciting way to engage students with the history of the Pueblo Revolt through comic book style art and I look forward to finding ways to refine and expand the activity.
Given the huge success of the initial seasons of Diggin’ In: Conversations with Archaeologists we are pleased to continue the digital offering through 2021! We launched the third season on Wednesday August 11th and it will run through the middle of December.
This season features ten speakers who will explore exciting topics such as maritime history, the archaeology of American protests, queer archaeology, and ableism in archaeology. The full list of speakers and topics is:
Episode 1: Reanalyzing a Mayflower Family Home Caroline Gardiner WEDNESDAY AUGUST 11, 2021
Episode 2: The Howard Street Cemetery Project and the Desegregation of American History in Salem, MA Rachel Meyer WEDNESDAY AUGUST 25, 2021
Episode 3: Oregon Chinese Diaspora Archaeology Jocelyn Lee WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 8, 2021
Episode 4: The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere Dr. Paulette Steeves WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 22, 2021
Episode 5: First Baptist Church, Colonial Williamsburg Jack Gary WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 6, 2021
Episode 6: Ableism in Archaeology Dr. Laura Heath-Stout WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 20, 2021
Episode 7: Creole Maritime Archaeology Dr. Lynn Harris WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 3, 2021
Episode 8: Using Queer Theory in Archaeology Gabriela Oré Menéndez WEDNESDAY NOVEMBER 17, 2021
Episode 9: Origins of Food Inequality and Equity Dr. Kimberly Kasper WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 1, 2021
Episode 10: Archaeology of American Protests Dr. April Beisaw WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 15, 2021
And, hot off the press is an article that I wrote with Massachusetts Archaeological Society Trustee Suanna Crowley for the New England Museum Association’s digital publication about the impact of Diggin’ In. You can read the article HERE.
The last lesson that I taught for the 2020-2021 academic year was unbelievably interesting and completely unlike anything I have ever taught about.
So. Much. BLOOD Fun.
Dr. Miriam Villanueva, faculty in the History department, taught a course during Spring term on understanding history through zombie films. She used films such as Ojuju and Zombi Child to explore various cultural, social, and economic issues impacting the cultures that the films center on.
The film that I got to collaborate with Dr. V on was Blood Quantum by director Jeff Barnaby.
The indigenous people in the isolated reserve of Red Crow are immune to the zombie plague that has taken over the nation, but that doesn’t mean their lives aren’t at risk. It’s up to Traylor (Michael Greyeyes, “Fear the Walking Dead”), the tribal sheriff, to protect the families residing on the reserve and a flood of desperate refugees from the hordes of bloodthirsty, walking white corpses that are closing in.
The term “blood quantum” refers the racist concept that one’s “Indianness” can be quantified by the amount of “Indian blood” that one possesses. Historically, the idea of blood quantum emerged as a way to construct racial identity to benefit the dominant white society. The idea was as the blood of indigenous people became “diluted” that they would disappear – and with them any legal obligations the government had or any obstacle that they represented for the growth of white society.
The premise of Blood Quantum –that the Indigenous people of Red Crow are immune to becoming zombies–seems to be incredibly positive (as much as anything can be in a zombie film), students in Dr. V’s class were quick to pick up on the quote from the movie that being “immune to the plague doesn’t mean immune to being eaten alive.” They saw how the immunity actually served as another method to ensure the destruction of Native people – there would be no Indigenous people left while hordes of white zombies still roamed everywhere. However, their immunity did give members of the Red Crow reservation a power that was denied to all others in the movie.
As you can see, there was a lot for the students to unpack while watching the film. Below are just a few of the issues/metaphors that students investigated.
By no means are these all the ways that the movie serves as commentary regarding historical and contemporary issues in Indian Country nor are the examples given below the only ones that can be found in the movie.
Current conditions of Native reservations
Early on in the movie, there is a discussion about how all the tetanus shots in the clinic have been taken by the emergency department. Students saw this scene as connected to reservations given the historical and contemporary actions of resources being taken by the government and other for profit industries.
Students also discussed that how the compound was set up to protect against zombies was similar to modern reservations given its lack of electricity, heat, sanitation, and other vital supplies.
Dishonesty towards Native people(s) and communities
There is a scene where a father is trying to bring his clearly sick/injured daughter into the compound. When asked if she had been bitten the father denied it, however the bite mark was easily found on her neck.
There was also a character named Lilith who showed up with the father and daughter who also had a bite wound on her stomach, which she never disclosed while accepting the help and security being offered.
The dishonesty by the father and Lilith in their attempt to get what they wanted – no matter the cost to those who were trying to help them – reminded the students of both the historical and contemporary treatments of Indigenous people where information was intentionally kept from them and did not allow them to make informed decisions (such as the abhorrent lying that took place when Indian Health Services forcibly sterilized young women in the 1970s)
Destruction of Native families
The deaths of numerous characters throughout the movie is not the only way that the destruction of Indigenous families is portrayed within the film. One of the aspects of the movie that students noticed in connection to this was the fact that the character of Lysol had been placed within the foster care system. The statement in the movie that “he left an Alan and came back a Lysol” also demonstrates the trauma that is prevalent within the system and how it can change the entire personality of a child.
Placing Native children into the foster care system is a direct result of the same federal policies which lead to the creation of native boarding schools. The foster care system has played such a destructive role in the harming of Native families and communities that the state of Maine convened the Wabanaki-State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the trauma that resulted from decades long policies related to Native children in the state of Maine. (Dawnlandis an award winning documentary about the Commissions work)
Missing and murdered indigenous women
The absence of a person makes it easy for them to be overlooked, however students in the class were very aware that the mother of the character Lysol was mentioned a few times but never seen. One part of dialogue that the students brought up was when Joseph says, “The whole reservation knows what happened to his mom” but then nothing more about what happened is said.
The fact that the audience never learns the name of Lysol’s mother is another connection to missing and murdered Indigenous women. While the shooting of unarmed Black men is a crisis within society, at least we know the names of George Floyd, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and countless others. It is a sad commentary on our society that the average person cannot name even one Indigenous woman who has been murdered or who is currently missing.
There is a scene where the father of the daughter who died outside of the camp due to a zombie bite brings in the blanket that she had been wrapped up in. When Kawennáhere Devery Jacobs’ character Charlie notices the blanket she grabs it from the man and throws it into a fire while yelling at him that he cannot bring that into the reservation.
One of the topics with which students were already familiar was protests against the destruction of the environment and areas of cultural significance by the construction of gas and oil pipelines. Many Indigenous communities have set up blockades, particularly on bridges, to stop the movement of workers and machines.
The imagery created by the barricade on the bridge to stop zombies from crossing into the reservation is incredibly similar to the pictures from protest sites such as DAPL/Standing Rock.
Christian God used to defend the treatment of Native people(s) and communities
The use of biblical words and the concept of God has been used for centuries to rationalize the inhumane treatment of native people.
“For it pleased God to visit these Indians with a great sickness, and such a mortality that of a thousand above nine hundred and a half of them died, and many of them did rot above ground for want of burial” – Gov. William Bradford
“For the natives, they are near all dead of the smallpox, so the Lord hath cleared our title to what we possess.” – Gov. John Winthrop
In the first moments of the movie an “Ancient Settler Proverb” appears:
“Take heed thyself that thou make no treaty with the inhabitants of the land for when they whore themselves to their demons and sacrifice to them, you will eat their sacrifices. And when you chose some of their daughters for your sons they will lead your sons to do the same.”
Some of the students were aware that the “Ancient Settler Proverb” was in fact Exodus 34:12.
Another interesting connection the movie made was to something that director Jeff Barnaby experienced as a child.
In June of 1981, Lucien Lessard, Quebec Minister of Recreation, Hunting, and Fishing instigated conflict with Mi’kmaq living on Restigouche (now Listugui) by demanding that they remove all nets from their traditional fishing waters. Salmon fishing was vital to the survival of those on the reservation there were, unsurprisingly there was intense pushback from community members. Instead of dealing with the issue peaceably, Lessard sent about 400 Quebec Provincial Police to engage in a brutal raid on the reservation.
These events were captured in the documentary “Incident at Restigouche” and Barnaby has commented numerous times on how this film influenced his career. One of the scenes is that of an elder talking about how he took an ax and drew “a line for them not to come any further.”
A hyper-specific homage to the violent events of 1981 at Restigouche and this elder in particular is found in the animated scene were Gisigu takes a sword to defend against zombies.
So, if zombie movies are your thing, you might consider watching this particular movie and I hope that this blog post will make your viewing richer in your understanding of how it serves as a commentary on issues within Indian Country.
Recently I collaborated with Dr. Miriam Villanueva of the Department of History and Social Science at Phillips Academy to create a new lesson that focused on both the American Indian Movement and the takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969 by Native activists.
Our focus was to have students understand how Native protests are centered around issues regarding tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, and meaningful intergovernmental consultation. We also sought to highlight how the ignorance of the American public regarding these issues perpetuates misconceptions about these protests while also connecting them to modern issues.
To do this we examined two protest signs; one from the 1969 Alcatraz Occupation and one from the recent Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL)/Standing Rock protests.
We asked the students to investigate the two types of meaning perceived in each of the signs:
1.) the general public’s understanding of the sign.
2.) the message the originator of the sign intended to convey.
During the activity the students worked together to create the following interpretations of each of the protest signs we examined, based on other contextual information that we used.
Incorrect Response: Native Americans are welcomed at the Island because it has always been Indian Land.
Correct Response: It is a commentary on how white people have simply taken what they wanted and Native people are now just simply playing by the same rules.
The students came to the conclusion that this particular sign is meant more as a commentary on the method used to claim Native land in the past – and less about saying all land was once Native land – when they read the following passage from the Proclamation written by Richard Oaks and other protesters at Alcatraz.
Proclamation to the Great White Father and All His People
We, the native Americans, re-claim the land known as Alcatraz Island in the name of all American Indians by right of discovery.
We wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with the Caucasian inhabitants of this land, and hereby offer the following treaty:
We will purchase said Alcatraz Island for twenty-four dollars ($24) in glass beads and red cloth, a precedent set by the white man's purchase of a similar island about 300 years ago. We know that $24 in trade goods for these 16 acres is more than was paid when Manhattan Island was sold, but we know that land values have risen over the years. Our offer of $1.24 per acre is greater than the 47¢ per acre that the white men are now paying the California Indians for their land. We will give to the inhabitants of this island a portion of that land for their own, to be held in trust by the American Indian Affairs [sic] and by the bureau of Caucasian Affairs to hold in perpetuity—for as long as the sun shall rise and the rivers go down to the sea. We will further guide the inhabitants in the proper way of living. We will offer them our religion, our education, our life-ways, in order to help them achieve our level of civilization and thus raise them and all their white brothers up from their savage and unhappy state. We offer this treaty in good faith and wish to be fair and honorable in our dealings with all white men.
Next we turned our attention to the recent protests around the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Standing Rock Sioux community. For background information on the DAPL/Standing Rock protests.
Incorrect Response: The protesters are violent!
Correct Response: The sign is satire and a play on “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” policy.
To interpret this particular sign the students drew upon their knowledge of Indian Boarding Schools that we covered in Fall Term. They remembered the program of “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” that lead to the creation of the Indian boarding schools.
The students thoughtfully came to the conclusion that the protester was mimicking the phrase “Kill the Indian, Save the Man” to imply that if one removes the capitalist nature of the “Pilgrim” (or white man) that the water and environment will be saved.
We then ended the lesson with a group discussion about how these protests are all connected to each other while at the same time connected to sites and ancestors that are thousands of years old. The students also came up with possible solutions to ensure that the public has a better understanding of the reasons behind the protests so that their ultimate goals are not misinterpreted, thus undermining the power of the protest.
The conversations and points that the students in each of Dr. V’s three classes were incredibly thoughtful and perceptive. Both Dr. V and I thought that this was one of our best lessons that we have created because it seamlessly brought together modern and historical issues while engaging students in close reading of primary sources, mirroring the exact process that students are currently working through for their History 300 research papers.