Undoing settler claims to indigenous history: Peter A. Nelson, ‘Refusing Settler Epistemologies and Maintaining an Indigenous Future for Tolay Lake, Sonoma County, California’, American Indian Quarterly, 44, 2, 2020, pp. 221-242


Abstract: Archaeological research has traditionally been a top-down scientific process of knowledge production with little involvement from the descendant communities whose cultural resources and heritage are under investigation. The analysis of collections resulting from archaeological research and the empirical data that it provides can legitimate settler scientists’ claims to know and revise Indigenous histories and eliminate the legitimacy of Indigenous claims about these histories from the standpoint of traditional knowledges. Despite these settler colonial tendencies within the discipline of archaeology, decolonizing archaeological practices and narratives and making space for Native American peoples is possible when research is refocused on the desires of descendent communities. Using a framework of responsive justice in working with communities to co-develop questions, methodologies and interpretations, the physical and intellectual heritage and histories of Indigenous communities can be maintained. This article will discuss one case from the Tolay Valley in which Indigenous archaeological research in collaboration with the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria has been leveraged to support the tribe’s goals of environmental and cultural restoration at this place and has also revised and enriched the history that can be told about Coast Miwok people’s long-term engagement with the Tolay Valley.

%d bloggers like this: