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.
This winter I have been exploring and learning a new online platform – PowToon.
PowToon is a digital platform that is used to create fully customized videos for a variety of audiences. The videos can be short or long (max 20 min) and can include cartoon elements or real images and video.
My first video is targeted toward new faculty at the school who may not know how they can work with the Peabody. An engaging, fun video – in addition to our course catalogue – will hopefully bring new collaborations and faculty to the Peabody.
I am excited to continue learning this program and producing videos to highlight and augment our educational initiatives and digital programs such as Diggin’ In.
We are tremendously excited to announce the continuation of Diggin’ In: Digital Conversations with Archaeologist. Co-hosted by the Peabody Institute and the Massachusetts Archaeological Society the lecture series brings leading experts and their work directly to our viewers. All lectures are free and open to the public.
Building on the success of the inaugural season of Diggin’ In, which reached over 1000 individuals, Season 2 promises to continue to be especially robust. Outstanding scholars such as Dr. Whitney Battle-Baptist, Dr. Lindsay Montgomery, and Kimberly Smith will cover fascinating topics ranging from Black feminist archaeology, to Comanche rock art, to the artifact patterning of the Victorian practice of picnicking in cemeteries.
Join us on Wednesday January 27, 2021 for the launch of the new season with Joe Bagley, Boston City Archaeologist for his talk Privy to the Past: The History of (and in) Privies. All lectures begin at 1:30 pm.
If you want to attend one or all of these lectures, please sign up at email@example.com to get on the ZOOM invitation list.
Each episode will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube afterwards.
Last fall I had the opportunity to work with students and faculty in Outdoor Pursuits in a unique way. Ranbel Sun, Stephanie Cormier, and Miriam Villanueva learned that I knew about a terrestrial ship wreck that the students could visit and asked me to join them on their planned outing to Crane Beach, where the wreck has rested for over 100 years.
The shipwreck that we visited was of the Ada K. Damon in Ipswich, MA. It is a great place to bring students to learn more about maritime archaeology since it is accessible at low tide. Salem State University and partner SEAMAHP have also done field schools at the site.
The Ada K. Damon was a schooner built in 1875 by H.A. Burnham Boat Building (still in operation today!). By 1909, the owner was Captain A.K. Brewster who had sold his property and used the proceeds, along with all his savings, to invest in the ship.
It a bout of terrible luck, it was during her first voyage for Brewster that the Ada K. Damon was wrecked. She was caught in what locals called the “Great Christmas Snowstorm.” That storm was also responsible for destroying many other ships on Cape Ann.
Since 1909, she has sat on the sands of Crane Beach at the base of Steep Hill and become quite a tourist attraction for visitors.
Sadly, due to the strong surf that resulted from Hurricane Teddy, the Ada K. Damon has been broken up and strewed across the beach.
Both Dave Robinson, the current state underwater archaeologist for Massachusetts, and his predecessor Vic Mastone will survey the damage.
While I hope that the damage isn’t too extensive and that I will be able to bring future students back to this shipwreck, it does serve as an example about the fragility of archaeological sites.
Part of the missions of both R.S. Peabody Institute and the Massachusetts Archaeological Society is to engage and connect with all who are interested in archaeology. Since we are unable to do this in person, both institutions are excited to announce our joint digital speaker series: Diggin’ In.
This series show cases live presentations with archaeologists from across the United States who will take questions directly from you!
Different topics will be covered during each 30 min episodes, which start live at 1:30 pm (EST) every other Wednesday and then will be posted to YouTube afterwards.
Sign up through the following emails to get on the ZOOM invitation list:
While we are excited to welcome all our speakers digitally to our campus and community, we are particularly pleased to have Dr. Meg Conkey and Dr. Kristina Douglass join us.
In addition to her work at University of California, Berkeley and in France, Dr. Conkey is also a current member of the R.S. Peabody’s advisory board.
And while Phillips Academy might be unfamiliar to some of our speakers, that is certainly not the case for Dr. Kristina Douglass who graduated from PA in 2002. It will be fun to welcome her “home” even if it is remotely.
The Digital Resource Spotlight series will highlight a variety of heritage-based organizations that offer unique activities that educators and parents may want to explore. We hope that you find our compilations helpful as you navigate this new educational landscape.
The Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) is a premier educational resource for educators looking to incorporate easy, hands-on activities. Many of their lessons can easily be restructured to fit the current online learning model that many private and public schools are adapting to. They are also clear and straightforward, which makes them a perfect tool for the numerous parents who are finding themselves suddenly acting as their children’s teacher.
Their 130 page guide Beyond Artifacts is a trove of useful lesson plans that could readily be duplicated in a students home, with online guidance from the teacher. Want to study archaeology during lunch? They have a Peanut butter and Jelly Excavation lunch, which can even be followed up by a cookie excavation. YUM!!!!
In addition to the broad archaeology lessons they also offer more topical ones focused on prehistoric, historic, and underwater archaeology.
One of my favorite lessons that they ha is one called Stone Silent. It allows student to collect demographic data from a local cemetery. This is a perfect lesson as it will help everyone to get outside (which we all desperately need) while still practicing social distancing since there are probably not many people wandering cemeteries for fun right now.
FPAN has many other resources to offer, so be sure to check out all of them here.
As we all adapt to our new normal, the Peabody has compiled a list of various institutions that offer digital resources, from virtual tours to artifact images. If you are a caregiver at home with children, these can be used to enhance their educational experiences as you work to continue their learning.
And for those who simply are looking for something to do now that everyone has extra time on their hands (I’m sure no one misses their long commutes into work and sitting in traffic though), experiencing new and exciting things can be a perfect way to combat boredom!
Canadian Museum of History: This museum offers numerous online exhibits including Inuit Prints from Cape Dorset and Archaeological Mysteries in the Ottawa Area.
British Museum: The largest museum in the United Kingdom offers a digital tour of some of their most impressive collections.
The Louvre: Three virtual tours are offered on Egyptian Antiquities, Remains of the Louvre’s Moat, and the Galeried’Apollon.
National Museum of Anthropology: One of Mexico’s premiere institutions that houses numerous archaeological artifacts that have been digitized and shared with the public.
Blarney Castle: If you were sad to miss out on gathering with friends and strangers for St. Patrick’s Day, or just have a fondness for old castles, Blarney Castle has incredible 360-degree tours of the interior and grounds of the castle.
We also understand that after being cooped up in your house, you might not want to stay indoors, even virtually. So if you find yourself just needing to leave the confines of your house for a bit,our friends at the National Park Service have created a way to virtually escape the walls around you atfive differentNational Parks.
We’ll be posting other resources that can be used and explored during this unique situation, so check back with us often!