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Descendant Community Engagement

The Laboratory’s approach to community engagement is multilayered and includes shared stewardship, multi-vocal approaches, two-way communication, trust, capacity building, equitable partnerships, knowledge sharing, transparency, and joint decision-making. We refer to this as descendant community-informed institutional integrity (DCIII).

By recognizing that the Lab houses collections that are the intellectual and cultural property of many different descendant communities, we have shifted to practices that include the active exchange of ideas and the development of mutual respect the centers on correcting past mistakes and views within archaeology.


What Is a Descendant Community?

A "descendant community" within the Laboratory can mean many things, including, but not limited to, a tribal nation or an organization or family representing a diasporic or other community of origin. A descendant community retains ancestral and cultural ties to collections stewarded by the Laboratory.

Deep Collaboration and Research Integrity

The Lab’s implementation of our mission, in practice, now centers on high integrity through deep collaboration where our descendant community partners and archaeologists are equal decision-makers. 

One way we have incorporated this is through the Lab's new policies and procedures that were revised with descendant community input, including NAGPRA policies and a revised collections management policy. We have also established advisory boards comprised of descendent community representatives, Laboratory directors, and university faculty.


“Open-Door” Philosophy

Through ongoing efforts in building relationships and trust, the Lab has established an “open-door” philosophy with descendent communities concerning projects and collections. Regular communication and transparency concerning our work at the Lab is essential to ensure descendent community representation in decision-making and cooperative planning.

Institutional Change

These partnerships have directly allowed for the integration of descendant community perspectives in all aspects of lab management and policies, including research access, education and public engagement, and curation and collections management.

Through collaboration, we can foster a community of university-wide institutional integrity with respect for descendent communities and their histories.


Centering on People and Histories, Not Objects

Lived people of the past should not be viewed as different from or in separation of the descendants living today. Descendant community engagement has enhanced our ability to be a more conscientious organization that centers on people and their histories, not merely the objects of scientific study.

Our journey is ongoing, and we hope that the Lab will always retain this evolving and multivocal flow regarding the input of Indigenous and other descendant community perspectives and knowledge.