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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/xvs0-e374


AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Speaking Truth to Anthropology: Reckonings, Reflections, & Contributions of American Indian Scholars in the Profession


american indian/alaska native


action anthropology

What “truths” are American Indian anthropologists finding in the discipline well into the 21st century? How do those truths remedy centuries of misrepresentation? This Roundtable of practicing American Indian anthropologists will speak truth to anthropology from diverse experiences and perspectives. Native North America was exceedingly diverse prior to European incursion of the “new world.” Indigenous peoples comprised more than seven million inhabitants north of Mexico, reflecting hundreds of ethnicities speaking over 300 languages and practicing scores of spiritual traditions. Despite some higher-order commonalities among these peoples•e.g., widespread stewardship of and devotion to sacred non-human persons for long and prosperous lives, profound orientation to space and place within regional ecologies, robust relationality as a primary mode of engagement in the world•it was the colonial encounter with Europeans and (later) Euro-Americans that ultimately stamped the generic label “American Indian” into existence. Along with it, colonization enforced familiar policies and practices of subjugation such as land appropriation, resource extraction, population control, and coercive assimilation. This subjugation collectively served to forge commonalities in experience, expectation, and outlook among formerly disparate indigenous peoples. Early anthropologists, of course, played their role in representing American Indians for the rest of the world, and their dedication to salvage anthropology ignored in important respects the adaptability of Native communities even as it amplified associations of Native peoples with primitivity and imperialist nostalgia. Critiques of anthropological history with respect to the discipline’s exploitative entanglements with American Indians have long since arisen, but less visible or acknowledged is the place that contemporary American Indian people have found in anthropology to reimagine the field in ways that meet present and pressing demands throughout “Indian Country.” Thus, American Indian anthropologists today seek to convey truths from alternative vantage points, whether refracted through lenses of indigeneity, gender, sexuality, social class, and various intersections of these. These truths contest and contend with supposed knowledge about indigenous peoples that seems to circulate endemically throughout the USA, and the broader world. For this Roundtable, we convene eight American Indian anthropologists•who themselves represent diversity in gender, tribal affiliation, subfield specialization, and career stage•to describe their efforts to bear witness, take action, and be held accountable for the work they contribute to and through the discipline. Common themes of these presentations will include innovative professional efforts to render anthropology relevant for American Indian people today, thorny challenges associated with balancing accountability to both tribal communities and the discipline more broadly, and determined efforts to unsettle the harmful legacies of settler colonialism that continue to haunt Indian Country. The resulting conversation will affirm the primacy of truth and responsibility for American Indian anthropologists as the twin foundations of their professional practice and personal relationships. NOTE: We invited a senior American Indian anthropologist, Professor Jennie Joe (Dine), to serve as our session Discussant. She was willing, but encountered trouble confirming her participation (and AAA website support could not assist her in time). If selected for the program, we hope that Dr. Joe can be added as our Discussant at that time.


Transcript English (automatic)

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