Sacred Places and Contested Spaces in Maine: the Long Shadow of Colonialist Science in the Light of Repatriation

Author(s): Ryan Wheeler; Bonnie Newsom; Chris Sockalexis

Year: 2019


This is an abstract from the "Sins of Our Ancestors (and of Ourselves): Confronting Archaeological Legacies" session, at the 84th annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.

The Nevin site in Maine has become a contested space as Wabanaki people, seeking to repatriate their ancestors, confront archaeologists who adhere to the antiquated postulates of their predecessors. From 1912-1920, Warren K. Moorehead of Phillips Academy’s archaeology department, focused field work on Maine’s so-called "Red Paint" cemeteries. Moorehead acknowledged the antiquity of the cemeteries, but saw the people as members of a "lost civilization," culturally distinct from later Indigenous groups. Douglas Byers succeeded Moorehead and excavated graves at the Nevin site from 1936-1940. Despite radiocarbon dates and a better understanding of the Archaic period, Byers could not bring himself to attribute Nevin’s lavish grave goods to an early era. The confusion sowed by Moorehead and Byers have influenced archaeologists and museum personnel who resist Wabanaki efforts to repatriate their ancestors under contemporary legislation. Despite the lack of robust research on in-migration, prevailing ideas about the Late Archaic in Maine envision a population replacement by immigrants from the south. This hypothesis opposes claims of cultural connectedness by contemporary Wabanaki peoples. Here, we explore the archaeological legacy associated with the Nevin cemetery and challenge archaeologists to confront the remnants of colonialist science that permeate repatriation.

Cite this Record

Sacred Places and Contested Spaces in Maine: the Long Shadow of Colonialist Science in the Light of Repatriation. Ryan Wheeler, Bonnie Newsom, Chris Sockalexis. Presented at The 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Albuquerque, NM. 2019 ( tDAR id: 452576)

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Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 26332