Archaeology Day at Wanapum

What’s to celebrate about archaeology? For many generations, Indians perceived archaeology in a negative light because of how Indian bodies were historically distributed wholesale around the country and treated like menagerie specimens. A big effort is required to rehabilitate the archaeology field of study in the eyes of Indian people. The Wanapum Band of Indians is working at just that, to highlight how archaeology benefits tribes in managing their own cultural resources. The Wanapum Band is allied with the Grant County PUD in central Washington state, and together they manage the Wanapum Heritage Center. During October, they hold two archaeology days at Beverly, Washington, west of the Hanford nuclear reservation. The Wanapum people demonstrate tule-mat making, flintknapping, hide-tanning, cornhusk weaving, often inviting visitors to participate. They do a beautiful job, and their mobile exhibit, tule lodges and pine canoes are impressive. They also schedule lectures on topics such as NAGPRA, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. I listened to one scientist talking about how her museum has drawn on the databases of known graverobbers. “They aren’t bad people,” she said, “and their documentation is painstaking.” She went on to show slides of burial illustrations showing the positioning of artifacts around the body that would link the burial to modern-day Tribes. Rex Buck, Wanapum leader, said something like, “I know this is disturbing for tribal people to take in, but the science is required for Tribes to participate in NAGPRA.”

Lamprey eel

Meet my little friend

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