NEAA at BSU

So I’m avoiding the DNA business today and going to touch on the Northeastern Anthropological Association (NEAA) conference at Bridgewater State. I attended the NEAA conference after emailing with my ex professor Dr. Ellen Ingmanson. She was really enthusiastic to have me not only attend but she encouraged me to present my work! So I did.

But first I became a member of the NEAA, which is always a good thing because you never know who you’re going to meet or what you’re going to come across; especially in such a holistic field. Plus it contributes to bulking up a portion or your resume/CV. Wink wink.

Then I submitted my abstract. I guess I can post it here because it’s already out there somewhere else but I should really copyright it. Tom helped me out with this a little. We were in Atlanta and I had already spent about a week and a half souping up my original abstract for my thesis; however, I wanted to make it a little more relevant to the theme of this conference: Anthropological constructs of time. The main speaker talked about the Mayan culture, the Mayan calendar, and the whole 2012 end of the world concept. I wasn’t able to attend that part in particular but the idea is that things exist and are created in a certain time and space and the interpretation of past peoples by present day peoples is obviously affected my many factors such as the differences in culture, technology, and the acknowledgement of “self” and varying points of view (to name a few; and this is totally my interpretation of the conference and Mayan man’s abstract).  Basically, and obviously, things were different on this Earth when the ancient Mayan peoples existed, different but who’s to say exactly what it was like? We can get an idea from archaeological findings but we’ll never truly know. I would like to know if some tribes were cannibalistic though, hmm.

The conference was on Friday, March 9th, and Saturday, March 10th. I presented on Friday, March 9th, and luckily my boss is very flexible so I checked in from home in the morning then went to BSU, saw some posters, listened to some presentations, presented my presentation, and when my General Anthropology section presentations were complete, I was able to go home and check back in with work no problem. After that, a little later at night, around 7 or 8 I drove back down to Middleboro for an event at the Robbins Museum http://www.massarchaeology.org/museum.htm (the picture on this post was taken from this site). We not only toured the Archaeology museum, but chatted with each other about archaeology and what we specialize in, and watched a documentary on the Wampanoag (Native Americans that are still living in Massachusetts today), called “We Still Live Here” http://www.pbs.org/independentlens/we-still-live-here/. It’s really a great story and I learned something really valuable about cultural and linguistic anthropology from Jessie Little Doe, the woman who put her life’s work into restoring native languages and culture in the Mashpee area; if there is something in your culture, there is a word for it. She used this philosophy to reconstruct words of her native language from other local native languages. So if she couldn’t find the word for “dog” in her native language, she could relate sounds and patterns in the words as they compare to local native languages and come up with the word for dog. Pretty fascinating if you ask me. Nevertheless, the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the native languages and cultures brought unity and hope to the people of these native groups that had a huge piece of their history, lives, and families missing. I accept that cultures die off or fade away as time goes on and I understand it is inevitable; however, when passion is so deep and a community comes together because of the individuals’ heritage, it’s like magic, no? I guess it just depends on individual preference.

I’ll show you my abstract in the next post, but I want to add something else about the documentary. It was really crazy to see how the Native Americans were treated by the “white” Europeans through text; physical evidence. The Europeans brought the Bible and English over to Massachusetts and pretty much forced them to learn English and study the Bible (I’m not sure if it was physical force but an overpowering pressure that took the natives necessities away). Some of the Bibles from that time show notes along the sides of the texts that the natives wrote questioning stories of the Bible (as we can imagine, they had different spiritual ways), and writing accounts of abuse; there were letters from the natives to the English-speaking men asking them to stop taking away their land and treat them better. One overarching observation was that the English-speaking men set laws and the natives had to obey those laws. Why? I don’t know, but the natives would have to fill out paper work and write appeal letters, and I don’t know probably pay taxes? Just a thought. Either way, seeing hard evidence of forcing a native culture to change is troubling and it leads me to think about what if this land was discovered by someone else? It also leads me to wonder if what we consider today as “helping” native cultures is always necessary. Helping other cultures, or countries, that need help. Who’s to say they need help? The US? I’m not being cynical, just asking questions. Is it always ok to intervene, even in this  so-called modern-day and age? I don’t want people to die, or suffer by any means. I think intervention can be good, just at the right time and I don’t know who can determine what the right time is. But if native cultures are being hurt by a “higher power” then is it critical to their survival for one higher power to seize the other higher power? War and violence. Blech. Let me look at your bones and figure out what happened so we can prevent it from happening again. 

I think I’m going to read a little on the facial feature similarities between Native Americans and Asians. I wonder what the correlation of their origins is and I want to tap into theories about how the Native Americans got to North America from Africa. Did they go from Africa to Asia to North America? Or did they go from Africa to Europe to North America? Or just does no one know?

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