“A compelling and timely challenge to archaeologists and all heritage professionals whose work articulates with Native community partners. Analyzing the narratives of four contemporary heritage sites in New England, Hart critically identifies deeply entrenched structures of whiteness, state power, and racism that continue to hinder Native sovereignty.”—Katherine Howlett Hayes, coeditor of Rethinking Colonialism: Comparative Archaeological Approaches
“Refreshingly candid. Hart’s innovative and masterful consideration of Aquinnah, Pocumtuck, Mashantucket, and Plimoth heritage landscapes reveals the extent to which collaborative approaches can challenge public perceptions of Native American persistence in New England today.”—Mary Ann Levine, coeditor of Archaeology and Community Service Learning
Exploring museums and cultural centers in New England that hold important meanings for Native American communities today, Colonialism, Community, and Heritage in Native New England offers a much-needed critique of collaborative efforts to preserve and promote the cultural heritage of the region.
Siobhan Hart examines the narratives told by and about Native American communities at heritage sites of the Aquinnah Wampanoag tribe on Martha’s Vineyard, the Pocumtuck in Deerfield, Massachusetts, the Mashantucket Pequot reservation in Connecticut, and Plimoth Plantation in Massachusetts. Aimed largely at non-Native audiences, the interpretive signage, exhibits, events, and visitor-engagement strategies are intended to dispel the myth that Native peoples no longer live there. Hart investigates whether these tactics really do help topple the power structures of colonialism. She finds that in many cases, sites’ efforts reinforce the privilege of whiteness. The burden of decolonizing falls on Indigenous curators, interpreters, and collaborators, while visitors can leave the difficult places, stories, and experiences behind them.
Hart’s analysis spotlights the persistence of racialization and structural inequalities in these landscapes, as well as the negative effects on current Native American sovereignty. While their messages are changing public perceptions of Indigenous-community persistence in New England, the broader goal of decolonization, she argues, remains unrealized. This book presents startling evidence of the ways even well-intentioned multiperspective approaches to heritage can undermine the social justice they seek. Hart asks the difficult question, What do we want heritage sites to do?
Siobhan M. Hart is associate professor of anthropology at Skidmore College.