In recent years, archaeologists and Native American communities have struggled to find common ground even though more than a century ago a man of Seneca descent raised on New York's Cattaraugus
Reservation, Arthur C. Parker, joined the ranks of professional archaeology. Until now, Parker's life and legacy as the first Native American archaeologist have been neither closely studied nor widely
recognized. At a time when heated debates about the control of Native American heritage have come to dominate archaeology, Parker's experiences form a singular lens to view the field's tangled history
and current predicaments with Indigenous peoples.
An interesting rumination on a prominent 20th century archaeologist. The author's consideration of the complexities of Parker's identity and the reasons he espoused social evolutionism are compelling.
In Inheriting the Past, Chip Colwell-Chanthaphonh examines Parker's winding career path and asks why it has taken generations for Native
peoples to follow in his footsteps. Closely tracing Parker's life through extensive archival research, Colwell-Chanthaphonh explores how Parker crafted a professional identity and negotiated dilemmas
arising from questions of privilege, ownership, authorship, and public participation. How Parker, as well as the discipline more broadly, chose to address the conflict between Native American rights
and the pursuit of scientific discovery ultimately helped form archaeology's moral community.
Parker's rise in archaeology just as the field was taking shape demonstrates that Native
Americans could have found a place in the scholarly pursuit of the past years ago and altered its trajectory. Instead, it has taken more than a century to articulate the promise of an Indigenous
archaeologyan archaeological practice carried out by, for, and with Native peoples. As the current generation of researchers explores new possibilities of inclusiveness, Parker's struggles and
successes serve as a singular reference point to reflect on archaeology's history and its future.