Pilgrimage, Ancestors, and Commemoration in Postcolonial Indigenous Homelands

Author(s): Martin Gallivan; Jeffrey Hantman

Year: 2016


In this paper we consider ritual practices at indigenous places in the Chesapeake that are traditionally described as ‘abandoned.’ Our study involves four sites in Virginia regarded as sacred by past and contemporary Monacan and Powhatan people. From a strictly non-indigenous perspective each of these places has been viewed as abandoned at or just past the moment of European colonization. Instead, we find evidence that these locations remained active as part of indigenous homelands. The archaeological and ethnohistorical records provide evidence of periodic journeys to towns, mounds, and burial grounds after the residential population had departed. Our research situates us in an ongoing discussion of pilgrimage rituals inferred at precontact centers in North America such as Cahokia and Chaco Canyon. However, monumentality, large gatherings, feasts, and social transformations (communitas) are not apparent in our studies. Instead, we posit that the rituals observed in the Chesapeake are part of postcolonial commemorations of ancestors, homeland, and continuity. This process of postcolonial commemoration within precolonial places has implications for contemporary indigenous connections to ancestors and ancestral homelands.

Cite this Record

Pilgrimage, Ancestors, and Commemoration in Postcolonial Indigenous Homelands. Martin Gallivan, Jeffrey Hantman. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Orlando, Florida. 2016 ( tDAR id: 405069)

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Spatial Coverage

min long: -84.067; min lat: 36.031 ; max long: -72.026; max lat: 43.325 ;