chapter  11
11 Pages

Artefactual awareness: Spiro Mounds, grave goods and politics

ByJoe Watkins

Indigenous populations and archaeologists have long been at odds over the excavation and retention of human remains. However, it is important to understand that human skeletal remains are not the only objects of importance to indigenous populations. While American Indian protests between 1969 and 1979 (Watkins 1994:Appendix B) showed that their distrust of archaeology and archaeologists revolved primarily around the perceived threat to their ancestors’ human remains, tribal groups also began addressing the desire for the repatriation of artefacts. With the 1971 disruption of archaeological excavations at Welch, Minnesota, by the American Indian Movement and the occupation of the Southwest Museum in Los Angeles in the same year, American Indians were trying to force scientists to recognize American Indian concerns that their human remains and sensitive cultural material were treated by some scientists as nothing more than mere specimens to be excavated, analysed, displayed and then forgotten.