Andrew Martindale
Department of Archaeology
University of British Columbia
Baldwin Hall - Room 264

The legal evaluation of Indigenous claims to history in settler-colonial contexts present significant evidentiary, methodological, and interpretive challenges to the discipline of archaeology. Indigenous records of and scholarship on history are often framed within distinct epistemological and philosophical domains that can be opaque or insubstantial to archaeological outsiders. However, archaeology itself occupies a cultural space that creates similar opportunities for the construction of claims of objectivity that are vulnerable to ethnocentrism. These tensions are both productive and consequential. At stake in Canada are federal Crown lands which constitute the majority of the country, the management of key national resources, and compensation to Indigenous communities for centuries of colonial imposition. The legal scrutiny of the past that this context brings to bear can illuminate weaknesses in the long inferential chains between the archaeological record and history. These can work both to improve archaeological logic and find space for understanding and collaboration between archaeology and Indigenous history; the two are not mutually exclusive. In this presentation, I will explore recent work siconducted in partnership with the Lax Kw’alaams and Metlakatla First Nations that was conceived as a logical test of Tsimshian oral records as a defense against legal rejection of rights and title claims. I argue that empirical and methodological rigor focused on sampling and representation combined with caution on historical causality allow for a comparison of conjunction between oral and archaeological records across what I have referred to as the federated landscape of knowledge. Legal and scholarly critique of these issues refine rather than undermine archaeological interpretations of complex historical events and processes and demonstrate the value of partnerships between archaeologists and Indigenous communities.