History to prehistory: An archaeology of being Indian

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17 Scopus citations


This paper explores a conception of being Indian in New Orleans that complicates and localizes Indian histories and identities. It poses that the notion of "being Indian" may be approached not only through the history and archaeology of persons but also as an identity such that being Indian itself is an artifact produced by a wide range of people in the development of New Orleans in the colonial and post-colonial periods. Employing a critical reading of intercultural relations, I explore archaeological evidence that suggests colonial New Orleans was created in both Indian and non-Indian terms through exchange. In this process archaeology shows that being Indian was part of a widely-shared colonial strategy that places a fluid Indian identity at the center of local history. The paper also considers how the marginalization of Indian people in the early nineteenth century was one way New Orleans and the greater southeast connected with dominant American sensibilities. Developing with the idea of "prehistory," nineteenth-century Native Americans were distanced as a cultural other and pushed to margins of New Orleans society. The subsequent internal tensions of assimilation and removal derailed Indian challenges to White domination they had employed over the previous 100 years. As this action coincides with the invention of American archaeology as the science of prehistory, the paper concludes with a critical reflection on archaeological terminology.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)271-295
Number of pages25
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2007


  • Archaeology
  • Identity
  • Native American
  • New Orleans
  • Prehistory


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