Friday, January 20, 2017

Ceremonial Stone Landscapes in New England/Time to End Shameful Colonial Bias

Native American Ceremonial Stone Landscapes in New England: Fact or Myth?
By FlazyJ 
Saturday Mar 19, 2016
     Do Native American ceremonial stone landscapes exist in New England, or is all stonework in the region post-contact European handiwork? According to a Massachusetts Historical Commission brochure on historic stone landscape features excerpted below, the answer is that Native American ceremonial stone landscapes are a myth! This is the first in a series of posts that questions this viewpoint, and examines historical bias among New England archaeologists that precludes acknowledging the existence of Native American ceremonial stone landscapes—and the people who created them..."

. . . Archaeologists also consider ethnographic and ethnohistorical information. For example, Native American oral traditions record that people did place small stones or twigs on a sacred spot as they passed by. Over time this might result in a small pile of pebbles, tiny cobbles, or sticks, but not large piles. Conversely there is a strong, documented ethnohistory of stone building traditions among the European settlers of Massachusetts. Together, archaeology and ethnohistory provide conclusive evidence that stone walls, piles and chambers are not the work of ancient cultures.
The Massachusetts Historical Commission is the guiding state agency for the protection of historic and prehistoric properties; if you have a question regarding the significance of a stone feature, please contact them . . . .
    "As the self-proclaimed “guiding state agency for protection of historic and prehistoric properties”, the Massachusetts Historical Commission has assiduously ignored the beliefs of the United Southern and Eastern Tribes, an inter-tribal organization with 26 federally-recognized Tribal Nation members (including Federally recognized tribes of New England), who declared in a resolution written in 2002 that their people created ceremonial stone landscapes, and that these places do exist."
[F]or thousands of years before the immigration of Europeans, the medicine people of the United South and Eastern Tribal [USET] ancestors used [ceremonial stone] landscapes to sustain the people’s reliance on Mother Earth and the spirit energies of balance and harmony.
[D]uring and following the Colonial oppression of Southern and Eastern Tribes, many cultural and ceremonial practices, including ceremonial use of stones and stone landscapes, were suppressed. . . .
[W]hether these stone structures are massive or small structures, stacked, stone rows or effigies, these prayers in stone are often mistaken by archaeologists and State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs) as the efforts of farmers clearing stones for agricultural or wall building purposes.
[A]rchaeologists and SHPOs categorically thereafter, dismiss these structures as non-Indian and insignificant, permitting them to be the subjects of the sacrilege of archaeological dissection and later destruction during development projects. . . .
[C]laiming them as products of farm clearing, professional archaeologists and the SHPOs annually pass judgment on the significance and potential protection of these sacred ceremonial stone landscapes and their structures within USET ancestral territories.
   "Could it be that consultation with indigenous people by New England archaeologists might involve a potentially wrenching change in the balance of power, the fear of which has caused some of them to avoid such consultations? And could it be that deeply engrained cultural bias on the part of Eurocentric archaeologists prevents them from recognizing Native American ceremonial stone landscapes in the northeast?

    Consider this. For decades, the Massachusetts SHPO has refused to visit the site of a remarkable beehive-shaped stone chamber in Upton, MA that is acknowledged by four federally-recognized New England tribes as part of a highly significant ceremonial stone landscape. In absentia she has determined that it is a colonial root cellar—end of story. Yet recently-completed optically stimulated luminescence analysis of backfill behind a chamber wall yielded dates between 1350 A.D. and 1625 A.D.—predating European settlement in the area. Is it not time for the Massachusetts SHPO to reconsider the colonial attribution?
    The time has come to challenge the “facts” and hypotheses of New England archaeologists who pontificate without benefit of the Native American voice (which many mistakenly believe has vanished), and to encourage them to open their minds to the truth that hides in plain sight all around them."
Time to End Shameful Colonial Bias in New England Archaeology
By FlazyJ 
Monday Jul 11, 2016
    " In New England, the victors and oppressors have successfully shaped the pre-contact narrative--without Tribal consultation. It is time for that shameful practice to end. New England is rich in Native American ceremonial stone landscapes--places where stones were carefully placed, grouped, propped, shaped, and/or split, etc. for sacred purposes. Celestial alignments in these places form the foundation of ancient spiritual communication with Mother Earth. Elsewhere in North America, these ceremonial stone features are accepted for what they are, the work of Indigenous People. But in New England, colonial bias--and dare I say racism--have propelled the mainstream archaeological community to attribute all stone features in the region to European settlers.

     The prevailing narrative insinuates that Indigenous People were not “advanced” enough to create the stone features found throughout New England. Dr. Paulette Steeves explains this phenomenon: “The archaeological construction of Indigenous people’s histories has been framed in Eurocentric thought and centered in power and control.” She adds that: “Benefits of control of the past in archaeology include the power to define the past of ‘‘others’’, capital gain, and the creation of social memories which dehumanize and disempower ‘‘others’’. [“Decolonizing the Past and Present of the Western Hemisphere (The Americas)”, P. 45/49 Archaeologies: Journal of the World Archaeological Congress (2015) DOI 10.1007/s11759-015-9270-2]
     Mercifully, the narrative is starting to change. Why? Because after generations of remaining silent, Native voices are speaking up. Tribal Elders are encouraging cautious openness about ceremonial stone landscapes out of concern that sacred places will be destroyed from ignorance of their very existence...
    ...It is time for the archaeological community to wake from its colonial stupor to actively seek Tribal consultation, and recognize that answers do not come only from digging and peering into holes. Visit ceremonial places with openness. As Narragansett Hereditary Elder Tribal Medicine Man Lloyd “Running Wolf” Wilcox counselled: “In putting [ceremonial stone landscapes] in front of the public and government for judgment, do not rely on Tribal oral history and lore alone, that, they always find a way to ridicule and devalue. Instead, allow the landscape to speak for itself and allow the oral history and lore to stand as its witness.”

    Places of spirit will reveal themselves to those who are open to their message, not to archaeologists mired in a petrified colonial mindset that blinds them to the truth."


Norman said...

Who is FlazyJ?

Tim MacSweeney said...

I'm not really sure - there's a profile here:

Tommy Hudson said...

Err on the side of caution. Once destroyed, they are lost forever. These stone constructions should be considered prehistoric unless proven otherwise. Shouldn't that be the "best practice" solution? If the SHPO starts to recognize these sites as prehistoric, then it causes all sorts of paperwork, government, corporate, and financial problems. They are well aware of this. Even at that, aren't these sites protected by fed law if they are 100+ years old? I need to brush up on my fed law.

Norman said...

It took me a while to come around to looking seriously at chambers, but now I accept that a number of them are prehistoric. I have no direct proof of their age, only supporting evidence, such as the proximity of standing stones, quartz cobbles and stone circles to the chambers. What we need are some actual dates, as that would help convince archaeologists that not all chambers are Colonial.