Dear Association for Washington Archaeology,
Like you, we have witnessed the violence and oppression directed against Black lives, particularly those committed by police. These events lay bare a traumatic reality that has long haunted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including many of our colleagues. The horror of this violence is compounded by police efforts to criminalize and brutalize protestors who are challenging institutional racism. Fighting to change unjust systems should not be a crime.
The Association for Washington Archaeology (AWA) Board of Directors stands in solidarity with the communities impacted by and protesting this violence. We join a number of our colleagues in denouncing the systemic racism directed at Black Americans in the United States. We mourn the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Walter Scott, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Charleena Lyles, Said Joquin, and so many others killed. We acknowledge that these murders are not isolated incidents, but are parts of a pattern of oppression, violence, and de-legitimization woven throughout the history of the United States. We decry the failure and unwillingness of our institutions to address the violence and abuse that Black members of our communities face. We recognize that this harm manifests in our government, businesses, neighborhoods, and communities, all of which is disproportionately compounded by the very pandemic now sweeping the nation.
Our own discipline was formed in the context of white supremacy, as part of European and Euro-American colonialism, imperialism, and expansion. Archaeologists, most of whom have built their careers studying the heritage of non-white and Indigenous peoples, have both benefited from and perpetuated these structures of oppression and inequality. Our discipline was built upon the idea that excavating sacred sites and putting artifacts in museums far from descendant communities was important for history and science. That these issues are not merely historical, but haunt and affect our present, is especially obvious when considering archaeology’s traditional treatment of human remains. The resistance to following human burial laws after finding The Ancient One (Kennewick Man) and the mishandling of initial studies at the African Burial Ground in NYC, are but two of the numerous cases of our discipline’s failure to grapple with our colonial and racist legacy. That our community remains situated within the colonial system it emerged from and sustains was made clear at Tse-whit-zen.
Archaeology has the potential to be a transformative discipline that can challenge hegemonic narratives of the past and create spaces for collaboration and healing. However, we recognize that doing so requires reflecting on our own privilege and capacity to act. We must listen, we must learn, and we must act in both our personal and professional lives, so that we can move archaeology towards equity and justice. The AWA Board of Directors calls on our members and all archaeologists in Washington State and beyond to join us in working towards dismantling racism and white supremacy, both in archaeology and in our communities.
To such an end, we, the AWA Board of Directors, commit to the following:
1. We commit to funding and sustaining yearly scholarship(s) to financially support BIPOC individuals conducting research related to Washington State archaeology and heritage, attending a Washington State school for archaeology- or heritage-related studies, or attending an archaeology field school in Washington State. Opportunities to donate to BIPOC scholarship funds will be available to all members.
2. We commit to diversifying the AWA Board of Directors and the general membership. We recognize that AWA provides opportunities for networking, fellowship, and the mentoring of young professionals, scholars, and students. We also understand, as a white-majority organization, that AWA is not currently a comfortable place for people who are impacted by racism. So, we commit to:
We also encourage our fellow archaeologists, museum professionals, faculty, and other community members to actively recruit and adequately support BIPOC students, staff, faculty, and community members in their individual organizations.
3. We commit to sponsoring facilitated anti-racism trainings and/or workshops, and encouraging Washington State archaeologists and heritage professionals to attend them, so that we might all become more knowledgeable and capable of making the changes needed in our communities. Trainings/workshops will also address preventing and reporting harassment and bystander intervention.
4. We commit to amplifying the voices of AWA community members who are working for social and racial justice. This includes, but is not limited to, highlighting archaeological and non-archaeological resources on anti-racism. We ask our professional and academic members to amplify the voices of BIPOC individuals who have deep knowledge of our region by including their perspectives in publications, reports, and presentations.
5. We commit to financially supporting cultural heritage-related causes and organizations that operate in Washington State to address racism and promote anti-racism. Organizations dedicated to social justice work that support BIPOC individuals in archaeology and heritage studies will be identified by AWA to encourage members to donate and support. These organizations include, but are not limited to, Archaeology in the Community, the Wing Luke Museum, and the Northwest African American Museum. We also encourage our members to donate to local and national organizations dedicated to addressing racism .
6. We commit to educating ourselves on racism, anti-Blackness, settler colonialism, and white supremacy in the United States. Members will be provided with opportunities to learn about the effect of archaeology and anthropology on BIPOC in Washington State, as well as the wider Pacific Northwest, while seeking to understand how the history of the discipline still impacts people today.
The AWA Board of Directors asks our members to self-educate and participate in training opportunities that will be organized and advertised by AWA. In addition, AWA encourages local archaeology faculty and professionals to identify and incorporate BIPOC scholarship into their courses and bibliographies. Lastly, we ask the membership to consider making the knowledge you produce more easily accessible as a community resource.
7. We commit to treating this as a living document, which we will revisit and revise with new input and concerns as needed and at least once per year.
The AWA Board of Directors would like to acknowledge the statements put out by Michigan State University and Wayne State University Departments of Anthropology, as well as that of the Association of Black Anthropologists, all of which have been particularly inspirational to this document.
For non-archaeological causes, consider donating to support protesters (e.g. the Northwest Community Bail Fund, which operates in King and Snohomish Counties) or legal funds (e.g. NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund). You might also search for Mutual Aid, legal defense funding, and COVID-19 relief networks in your local area!