BORDERLAND IMAGES OF ATHAPASKAN NEW MEXICO,
7:30 PM, Tuesday, April 20, 2021
via Zoom at your Computer or Smart Phone
When the Spanish ventured into the Rio Grande Valley during the sixteenth century, they encountered a pluralistic society composed not just of sedentary, village-based agriculturalists (the “Pueblos”) but also mobile bands of Athapaskan-speaking hunters, traders, and craft-specialists. The Spanish uneasily called the latter “barbarians” (bárbaros) – a reference to both their mobility and the significant military threat they posed – but they quickly came to appreciate their crucial role in the political life of the region. Not only did migratory Athapaskan bands prove vital allies in military campaigns, they also provided essential economic access to the bison resources of the Great Plains in the east. Moreover, Spanish missionaries found the Athapaskans unusually willing to adopt at least a superficial Catholicism, presumably as a result of their long history of pragmatically navigating intercultural relationships.
In this presentation, I consider the impact of Spanish colonization on Athapaskan image production in New Mexico, using rock art as a window onto the unfolding cultural exchanges between settler and Indigenous societies. I focus on two types of Athapaskan images: the so-called Biographic Tradition images pioneered by Apache artists during the late seventeenth century and the distinctive Mountain Spirit (Gaan) imagery, the latter of which may have begun to develop during the seventeenth or eighteenth century but only attained its classic form during the nineteenth century. Such images, I suggest, emerged in response to the new aesthetics of colonial occupation, among an Indigenous community with a long pre-colonial history of innovation, cultural appropriation, and creative reinvention.
Severin Fowles is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the American Studies Department at Barnard College, Columbia University. For the past 25 years he has directed excavations and surveys in northern New Mexico, examining the history of Archaic hunter-gatherers through to the hippies of the 1960s. He is the author of An Archaeology of Doings: Secularism and the Study of Pueblo Religion and co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Southwest Archaeology. His current research has been designed in collaboration with Picuris Pueblo and is focused on the tribe’s ancestral landscapes and farming practices.
A day or so prior to the meeting, an email message will be sent to members with the link for the Zoom meeting. If you haven’t joined us before – or even if you have – plan to join the meeting 10–15 minutes before the 7:30 start time to get familiar with Zoom (some procedures may have changed or differ from other Zoom productions) and say “Hi” to friends already in the meeting. All the participants except the speakers will be muted by host Evan Kay when the presentations begin and until the question-and-answer session following the program.
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