Southwest Native American/White Interaction: History as told by Archaeologists, National Park Service, and Native Americans

Senior Capstone Experience by Nicole DeWitt ’19

Submitted to the Department of Anthropology

Advised by Dr. Julie Markin

Description: “I completed research in the Southwest that explored the dynamics of race relations between Native Americans and White Americans in museum settings and how this affects the content produced by federal agencies to the public. I also looked at how tourism impacts the way this information is presented and in turn how the information shapes the cultural understandings of the tourists. I studied these objectives through the lenses of archaeologists, National Park Service employees, and Native Americans.”

Abstract: “Native American history and culture has been, and continues to be, misrepresented in federal agencies/cultural institutions whose main objective is to display information about other cultures to the public. Tourists receive incomplete information which inhibits their cultural understandings, contributing to current racism and oppressive policies. Looking to archaeologists and the Park Service, their narratives are also not necessarily complete or inclusive of the indigenous groups they wish to represent, leading to inaccurate representation in scholarly records/reports. By gathering data from tourists through surveys aimed at their visitor experience and conducting a detailed analysis of the archaeologist, National Park Service, and Native American narratives concerning Navajo and Hopi cultural and historical representation in Southwest museums, I found that a majority of tourists are unaware of the politics at play inside and outside of the educational and exhibitional material presented through museums and that the lack of knowledge surrounding Native history and culture ultimately perpetuates the ideas of colonialism. Race plays a significant role in how people recognize the past, and historical interactions of Native Americans and White Americans inadvertently affect the lives of Native Americans today. Native Americans are the only ones who can provide a complete narrative of their history and culture and, while they have not been in control of the information produced through museums, they have more recently been involved in a more collaborative approach towards research and being consulted in educational and exhibit materials. Hopefully this type of inclusivity expands the understanding of Native American culture and history as well as produces a more accurate account of the information already represented.”

Read Nicole’s SCE below:

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