Colonialism, Community, and Heritage in Native New England

Siobhan M. Hart

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“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  
 
“An innovative analysis. Hart’s 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, this illuminating book offers a much-needed critique of the collaborative work being done 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. She looks at interpretive signage, exhibits, events, and visitor engagement strategies that try to reverse the common idea that Native peoples no longer exist in these landscapes and asks whether the messages of these sites really do help break apart the power structures of colonialism. She finds that in many cases whiteness is still presented to visitors as the cultural norm and that the burden of decolonizing often falls on indigenous curators, interpreters, and collaborators.
 
Hart’s analysis spotlights the persistence of racialization and structural inequalities in these landscapes, as well as the negative effects of these problems on current Native American sovereignty. The broader goal of decolonization, she argues, remains unrealized. This book presents startling evidence of the ways even well-intentioned multiperspective approaches to heritage presentations can undermine the social justice they seek.  
 
Siobhan M. Hart is associate professor of anthropology at Skidmore College.  
 
A volume in the series Cultural Heritage Studies, edited by Paul A. Shackel

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