Numu views of Numu cultures and history : cultural stewardship issues and a Punown view of Gosiute and Shoshone archaeology in the northeast Great Basin
Brewster, Melvin G., 1960-
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Brewster, Melvin G., 1960-
The culture history of the northeastern Great Basin, as currently written by the archaeological profession, is silent as to the view of Gosiute and Shoshone natives about their own ancestors. The goal of this dissertation is the infusion of Punown (interrelated Numic speaking peoples) epistemology into mainstream anthropological interpretation, as provided through North American Desert West prehistory. The hypothesized Numic expansion into the Northeast Great Basin, according to which the Punown natives now resident throughout the region are very recent immigrants, is problematic on several grounds. In the dissertation I show that late population movement into this region by Numic ancestors has not been demonstrated. After a hundred years of research no consensus yet exists as to the origins of the Northern Uto-Aztecan speaking Numic peoples (Punown). In spite of that, and in spite of the fact that it takes no account of the natives' own view of their origins, the Numic Expansion Hypothesis is being used in a way by some archaeologists and cultural resource managers that denies to the Punown their cultural heritage. The archaeological record of the region, extending back into deep time, is rich in the similarities it shows with the native Punown cultures of the contact-historic period. The epistemology and spiritual beliefs of the Punown also assert their cultural continuity with the ancient traditions documented in that archaeological recoret;It is not acceptable that a scientific hypothesis impedes native people's role in the care and stewardship of sites and places throughout the region that their own spiritual traditions tell them they are responsible for. The mainstream anthropological concept of science and the epistemology of the Punown are opposed diametrically. Punown view the world and its people as interconnected through the Sacred Earth Matrix, while anthropologists see the human world as bifurcated from nature. Punown understand archaeology and relatedness spiritually, while archaeologists see dead objects in an "objectified" way. Conformity to the existing paradigm, with its persistent building and rebuilding of earlier untenable Euroamerican views of Numic origins, makes the Punown outsiders to the region in which they live. This goes on even though many scholars, reviewing the case for a Numic Expansion, find it seriously lacking. Infusion of Punown epistemology into current archaeological practice offers a basis for pooling Punown and mainstream anthropological approaches to the prehistory of the Desert West. A mutually enhancing research partnership based on beneficial objectives is advocated; this will go far to repair a strained relationship that now exists between Punown and archaeological researchers, and result in a fuller and richer history for all to contemplate.
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