(June 30, 2021)—Preservation archaeology speaks not only to what we preserve and protect, but also what and whom we find worthy of preserving and protecting, of understanding, of learning from and respecting. It poses a unique opportunity to reevaluate the place of marginalized peoples and begs for the conservation of lands that hold invaluable histories and cultures. This also requires that we consider one’s “sense of place”—and archaeologist Kenny Bowekaty’s tour through Zuni Pueblo really brought this concept home.
Bowekaty spoke of his home, the history of the land, and of his strong familial connections that span centuries. Throughout his tour, the very structure of the land was integral. The landscape allowed us to envision his stories: how those he spoke of possessed, and continue to possess, strong relationships with the land. It was a wonderful and enlightening tour that, for me, was also accompanied by grief.
It came as a great shame to realize that the sentiment of patria, of love for one’s home and a singular, solitary sense of belonging to one place or another, is wholly nonexistent in my life. That I am never immersed in some bout of nostalgia when I recall any region, any landscape, implies a profound lack in my life. I have no grounding “sense of place,” no land or grasp of cultural attitudes that gives one a sense of longing or instills in them a willingness to fight for that connection to their past, to that of their ancestors, or to search for or pass on invaluable knowledge.
I have no home, and in this same vein, I have no identity, not one which I understand, certainly not one which I would like to protect and even nurture. There may certainly be some individual and personal tumults that lend to this degraded, stagnant, or nonexistent sense of identity, but it is not mine to bear alone. As a person of mixed race, I am not wholly accepted by either group—neither White nor Black. I am not alone in this.
This loss is not unique; it is a result of a long history wished to be forgotten, a long line of injustice, a deep stain on American history that’s often ignored and denied. Is this what becomes of the displaced?