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Archaeologies of Persistence: Reconsidering the Legacies of Colonialism in Native North America

  • Lee M. Panich (a1)

This article seeks to define common ground from which to build a more integrated approach to the persistence of indigenous societies in North America. Three concepts are discussed—identity, practice, and context—that may prove useful for the development of archaeologies of persistence by allowing us to counter terminal narratives and essentialist concepts of cultural identity that are deeply ingrained in scholarly and popular thinking about Native American societies. The use of these concepts is illustrated in an example that shows how current archaeological research is challenging long-held scholarty and popular beliefs about the effects of colonialism in coastal California, where the policies of Spanish colonial missionaries have long been thought to have driven local native peoples to cultural extinction. By exploring how the sometimes dramatic changes of the colonial period were internally structured and are just one part of long and dynamic native histories, archaeologies of persistence may help to bring about a shift in how the archaeology of colonialism presents the histories of native peoples in North America—one that can make archaeology more relevant to descendant communities.


Este artículo define los puntos comunes para construir un enfoque integral sobre la persistencia de sociedades indígenas en Norteamérica. Tres conceptos son discutidos—la identidad, la práctica, y el contexto—que puede resultar útil para el desarrollo de las arqueologías de persistencia, permitiéndonos contradecir las narrativas terminales y el esencialismo de identidad cultural que son inculcadas profundamente en el pensamiento arqueológico y popular sobre sociedades indígenas americanas. Para ilustrar el uso de dichos conceptos, este artículo examina las maneras en cómo las presentes investigadones arqueológicas están desafiando las creencias populares y antropológicas acerca de los efectos del colonialismo en la costa de California, donde se ha pensado que las políticas de misioneros coloniales españoles exterminaron las culturas nativas locales. Explorando cómo los cambios dramáticos del período colonial fueron estructurados internamente y el hecho de que son solamente una parte de historias nativas, dinámicas y largas, las arqueologías de persistencia pueden ayudar a producir un cambio en cómo la arqueología del colonialismo presenta las historias de pueblos nativos en Norteamérica—uno que puede hacer la arqueología más pertinente para comunidades indígenas actuales y futuras.

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