Introduction to TIPDBA
Today, there is a commonly held belief that thousands of years ago, as the world counts time, Mongolian nomads crossed a land bridge to enter the Western Hemisphere and became the people known as the American Indians. There is, it can be said, some scanty evidence to support the myth of the land bridge. But there is an enormous wealth of proof that the other truths are all valid (Holm & Reid 1976, 7).
One of the most acrimonious debates within archaeological discussion in the United States and Canada has been the theorized dates of the earliest human presence in the Western Hemisphere (the Americas). Archaeologists have spent untold fortunes seeking answers to who the first people to enter the Western Hemisphere were, where they came from, and when. In her research, Dr. Steeves clearly shows that contrary to traditional archaeological studies on early people in the Western Hemisphere, her research focuses not on where the First People came from or when they arrived. She has stated that First Peoples are Indigenous to these lands; this is where they are from. Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere have their own histories, many of which speak to a genesis in these lands. Research on older than 12,000 years before present archaeology sites in the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) has Dr. Steeves research supports opening and funding archaeological research on the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) to acknowledge and carry out research across time during the Middle and Early Pleistocene.
Until recently, archaeologists argued that the first people to enter the Western Hemisphere walked across the Bering Land Bridge from Siberia 12,000 years ago, bringing fluted Clovis tools. However, there are many problematic areas of this archaeological story: one being that fluted Clovis tools have never been found outside of the Western Hemisphere, another being that in North and South America, there are published reports of hundreds of pre-11,000 to 12,000 year before present archaeology sites which meet or exceed archaeological standards for dating, stratigraphy, and cultural artifacts. The field of Pleistocene archaeological studies in the Americas has historically been described as a battleground littered with academic causalities. Archaeologists have only recently conceded that Indigenous people were present in the Western Hemisphere a few 1000 years prior to Clovis. This is, however, the same scenario as the Clovis First hypothesis regarding diminishing the time frames of initial migrations; it is just a few 1000 years earlier than Clovis. This scenario reproduces and maintains archaeological power and control over the Indigenous past.
Many archaeologists have denied there was ever a Paleolithic in the Western Hemisphere (the Americas). However, archaeological and other evidence supports a human presence, thus an old stone age in the Western Hemisphere during the Pleistocene 10,000 to over 100,000 years ago, possibly earlier. This should not surprise anyone as we know early humans (Hominins) were present in the area we know today as Asia over two million years ago. There was a land connection between the Eastern and Western hemispheres for millions of years, and mammals migrated between the continents for millions of years. Thus, as mammals migrated between the Eastern and Western hemispheres during warmer interglacial times, so could Hominins. In short, it was never impossible, during interglacial times, for Hominins from the area we know today as Asia to have migrated to the Western Hemisphere (the Americas) across the time they were present in the area we know today as Asia, for over 2 million years.
What has made it impossible is not the paleoenvironmental, paleontological, or archaeological records. What has made it impossible is a deeply embedded racism among settler (Western) archaeologists. There is a well-documented history of racism in American archaeology that has kept Indigenous people of the Western Hemisphere as “recent” on a global time scale of human habitations and migrations.
Many oral histories of the Indigenous people of North and South America speak to their origination in the Western Hemisphere (Grinnell 1893, 113; Secco 1992, 60), telling in vivid detail how the people have been here forever (Calloway 2012, 16). Oral histories tell stories of how the people “emerged into the world, into their identity, and into history” (Calloway 2012, 40). In origin stories, people were “given ceremonies and rituals that enabled them to find their place on the continent” (Deloria & Lytle 1984, 8). Considering a group of first people whose distinct identities, cultures, and traditions grew from their relationship to their homelands, it could be said they have been here forever. For Indigenous people, forever may mean from their physical creation or the beginning of their cultural identities in a specific place, “an emergence into a precise cultural identity” (Silko 1996, 30). Indigenous people have an unalienable right to tell their history and stories in their voices and ways of knowing. Indigenous discourse challenges academic hegemony, which maintains the traditional privileging of non-indigenous written sources in knowledge production of the Indigenous past (Wilson 2005, 8).
This database is a work in progress and will include the Indigenous Paleolithic database of the Americas, oral histories, rock art and petroglyph sites, a photo gallery of Paleolithic (stone tools) and archaeology sites, a bibliography page, links to other forms of evidence and articles on colonization in academia and Indigenously authored articles on the impacts of an erased and denied history and ongoing colonization in education. Finally, there will be a page to introduce, acknowledge, and honour archaeologists who researched and published on Paleolithic archaeology sites in the Western Hemisphere.
The website includes the TIPDBA and other forms of evidence that support a much earlier initial habitation of the Western Hemisphere, including discussion of Indigenous oral histories, mammalian migrations, paleobotany, rock art and petroglyphs sites, and paleontology.
Motive behind TIPDBA
Dr. Steeves's research focus is centred in Indigenous Methodologies and both Indigenous and Western sciences. Her focus is on reclaiming Indigenous histories and deep links to the land across time through gathering the evidence that supports a counternarrative to colonized Western academic stories of the Indigenous past. Reclaiming an erased and denied Indigenous history and links to homelands weaves paths of healing and reconciliation throughout all Indigenous nations of Turtle Island (North America) and South America.
Bringing a century of archaeological research into a public space honours the archaeologists who researched Pleistocene archaeology sites in the Americas, even though they knew it was dangerous to their careers. They would likely be rejected and draw harsh critiques.
Bringing what is known regarding archaeology sites on Turtle Island (North America) and South America provides a space for all people to learn the truth about the Pleistocene human history of the continents. This allows people to step outside the box of Western colonial bias that has framed the knowledge and worldviews of Indigenous people and the past.
The existence of Pleistocene sites and ancestral connections between First Peoples and contemporary Indigenous communities is empowering to these people. The existence of hundreds of ancestral sites in the Pleistocene creates a dialogue from which Indigenous people can challenge the erasures of histories. It foregrounds their Indigenous identities and links to the land and empowers them to seek justice. To allow Indigenous people to be present in the Western Hemisphere for much more time is solidifying their claims to Indigeneity and supporting Indigenous ownership of the past, culture, and links to homelands and material heritage (McNiven & Russell 2005, 196). To accept that Indigenous peoples have been in the Western Hemisphere for over 100,000 years is to put them on equal footing with other areas of the so-called Old World. Vine Deloria Jr. made a very important point when he spoke at the Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archaeology in 1992; Deloria (1992, 597) stated that “Unless and until -‘Indians' are in some way connected with world history as early peoples… we will never be accorded full humanity”. In this statement, Deloria highlights what many scholars have discussed, that Indigenous people have had their history and humanity erased through processes of colonization and Western knowledge production (Betttingner 1991, 32; Kennedy 2010, 8; Marmon-Silko 1996, 22; Newcomb 2012, 1; Smith 1999, 5, Trigger 1980, 665; Watkins 2000, 5; Willey & Sabloff 1980, 40). David Meltzer (2009, xiv) acknowledged archaeologists' understanding of the meaning of an earlier peopling of the Western Hemisphere: “Archaeologists are acutely aware of the possible implications of the earlier peopling of the Americas, which reflects on contemporary issues of identity, ancestry, and ownership of the past and present” (Meltzer 2009, xvi). This research and the story it tells supports the empowerment of Indigenous people by discussing and reviewing the evidence for numerous Pre-Clovis sites dated 11,200 years before present (ybp) to over 100,000 ybp.
For many, if not all, Indigenous people, there is no separation between the past and the present. All time and all history is crucial to their culture and well-being. Therefore, as American archaeology has done, rupturing the connection between the present and the past, contemporary and ancestral people, and the people and the land has been a violent and destructive historical event. For Indigenous peoples, identities weave threads of primordial memories through space and time and acknowledge connections to ancestors and sacred homelands. The Western denial of ancient ancestral connections to the land remains part of the lingering intergenerational trauma and individual and community illness within Indigenous communities. The existence of numerous Pleistocene age sites and ancestral connections between ancient First Peoples and contemporary Indigenous communities is empowering to these people. The existence of hundreds of ancestral sites in the Pleistocene creates a dialogue from which Indigenous people can challenge the erasures of history. It foregrounds their Indigenous identities and links to the land and empowers them to seek justice. To allow Indigenous people to be present in the Western Hemisphere for much more time is to support Indigenous ownership of the past and present, and lands and material heritage. To accept that Indigenous peoples have been in the Western Hemisphere for over 60,000 years and possibly prior to 100,000 ybp is to put them on equal footing with areas of the so-called Old World. I concur with Vine Deloria Jr. that Indians will never be accorded full humanity until they relate to world history.