Well into The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere, Paulette Steeves wearily observes: “Disagreements between archeologists over the peopling of the Americas have been so fierce that the field has been described as a battleground and an archeological badlands.”
A battlefield might be a strange place to find Steeves: she is a Tier II Canada Research Chair in Healing and Reconciliation, as well as an associate professor of sociology, at Algoma University. Of Cree-Métis ancestry, she is a force to be reckoned with on any academic battlefield.
Steeves argues, on good evidence, that Indigenous peoples are not just recent Asian immigrants, but peoples long and deeply entangled in what we call the Americas. Both they and their lands transformed one another thousands of years before the Europeans belatedly stumbled in. In that sense, they have indeed been here “forever.”
Yet many archeologists refuse to believe it and reject or ignore the evidence. Worse yet, they discourage research that might prove them wrong. American archeology is indeed both a battlefield and a badlands.
An Indigenous archeologist on how her discipline has shaped the view of the ground beneath our feet.