'Decolonized Afterlife' and Tribal Cultural Resource Preservation

Authors: Deondre Smiles*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Indigenous Peoples, Land Use
Keywords: Indigenous geographies, settler colonialism, science/technology studies, tribal cultural resource preservation
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 9:35 AM / 10:50 AM
Room: Virtual 21
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In this paper, I explore the potential ways that ‘everyday’ resistance, expressed through tribal historic preservation processes, can help preserve cultural resources on the reservation, encompassing both the living and the dead. I show that this resistance/preservation is accomplished through a rigorous set of conservation and review policies that bring both ‘Western’ forms of scientific knowledge production and Indigenous cultural and geographic knowledge; these policies ultimately ensure that not only are burial grounds and other culturally sensitive sites not dug up, but also that plants, animals, and spaces that are important to Indigenous tribal nations are also not disturbed as a result of construction or infrastructure development.

In spite of the aforementioned complex legal geographies that often intersect within the boundaries of reservations (Biolsi, 2005), these processes make it so that companies and state agencies that wish to do infrastructure construction and development within reservation boundaries find it both desirable and advantageous to work directly with the tribe in order to ensure no cultural resources are negatively impacted, no matter the ownership status of the land being worked on.

The net result of this work is that new political and ecological possibilities can be created for tribal sovereign nations, possibilities that not only can ensure continued environmental protection but can lead to increased tribal input over land usage on reservations, especially ones that have been affected by decreased tribal control over land due to historic ‘checkerboarding’ of reservations.

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