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October 11, 2018

Society for American Archaeology Condemns European Auctions
of Native American Cultural Heritage


The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) condemns the continued auction of objects of Native American cultural heritage by EVE (Estimations Ventes aux Enchères), and calls upon that firm to immediately cease these harmful transactions.

SAA is an international organization that, since its founding in 1934, has been dedicated to the research about and interpretation and protection of the archaeological heritage of the Americas. With more than 7,200 members, SAA represents professional archaeologists in colleges and universities, museums, government agencies, and the private sector. SAA has members in all 50 states as well as more than 60 nations around the world.

In 2015, SAA and other organizations repeatedly requested that the EVE and Drouot auction companies cancel their planned sales of Native American Kachina dolls, ceremonial masks, and sculptures. Those requests were ignored, and on October 4, 2018, EVE held another auction of tribal objects. It is our understanding that additional auctions are scheduled in the coming months.

Our objections to these sales remain. SAA has long opposed the buying and selling of objects out of archaeological context. As noted in our Principles of Archaeological Ethics, these actions are “…contributing to the destruction of the archaeological record on the American continents and around the world. The commercialization of archaeological objects—their use as commodities to be exploited for personal enjoyment or profit—results in the destruction of archaeological sites and of contextual information that is essential to understanding the archaeological record.”

In addition, while the procurement of many of the tribal items currently in European collections did not break state or federal law at the time, it was certainly a violation of the laws and customs of the numerous tribes whose items will be offered for sale in the coming weeks. The 19th and first half of the 20th centuries—the primary period of collecting activity by Europeans in the U.S.—was a time of extreme poverty for Native Americans. It is extremely likely that any sales undertaken at that time were made under conditions of duress. The articles in question could be sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. The auctions’ scattering of the collection to potential buyers around the world would further degrade the irreplaceable information and context that the items possess, in addition to contributing to the erosion of the concerned tribes’ cultural and spiritual traditions. European governments and auction houses have recognized ethical issues involved with collections obtained under duress, given experiences on the continent during and after World War II; this empathy now needs to be extended to the rest of the world.

U.S. law does not explicitly prohibit the export of illegally procured Native American cultural items, although SAA and other groups are promoting legislation in the current Congress that would do just that. In the meantime, the voluntary cancellation of any further sales would be a critical first step toward preserving these collections and beginning discussions for their eventual repatriation to their tribes of origin.


August 7, 2018

Oona Schmid Named New Executive Director of the
Society for American Archaeology

The Society for American Archaeology (SAA) announced today that it has appointed Oona Schmid, CAE, as its new Executive Director. Ms. Schmid will join SAA on September 17th, working closely with the SAA Board to ensure a smooth transition. She will officially assume the role of Executive Director on September 28th upon the retirement of the current Executive Director.

In her role as Executive Director, Ms. Schmid will be responsible for leading SAA’s dedicated staff while growing the value of the organization to its members, supporters, sponsors, partners, and other stakeholders. She will lead efforts to expand the quality and quantity of the organization’s programs while increasing and strengthening its membership base.

Ms. Schmid brings extensive experience in association management, including earning a Certified Association Executive (CAE) designation from the American Society of Association Executives. She also has expertise with publications, strategic planning, and development of new programs and staff. Ms. Schmid served as Chief of Staff for Operation Renewed Hope Foundation beginning in May 2016, where she oversaw a budget of $1 million. Prior to that, she served for nearly nine years as Director, Publishing, for the American Anthropological Association, where she managed a $3.5 million operations budget.

“Ms. Schmid’s excellent leadership skills and proven track record of collaboration and creative problem solving make her the perfect choice for SAA’s Executive Director,” said SAA President Susan Chandler. “We look forward to working with her and to exploring strategies to move the Society forward into the future.”

“I am well acquainted with the crucial role that societies like SAA play. I’m very excited to join SAA, the central voice for defending the contributions of archaeologists and protecting the sites that undergird our comprehension of past human experience,” said Ms. Schmid. “I consider preservation of heritage and the study of the human past to be at a watershed moment. My background and experience will enhance SAA’s commitment to its members, their professional development, and ensuring the work of future generations. I look forward to continuing the organization’s strengths and expanding its reach.”

The search was conducted by association and nonprofit search experts Vetted Solutions.

Download SAA press release

June 21, 2018

SAA Statement on the Proposed Changes to AP World History Revisions

The College Board has proposed revising the Advanced Placement World History course and exam to include only material from c. 1450 to the present. SAA recently wrote to the College Board to express its concerns about these changes. The College Board responded that it is working on solutions to the concerns expressed by SAA and others. We are monitoring the situation and look forward to seeing and evaluating the College Board’s new proposals for AP World History, which are due in mid-July.

 June 13, 2018

Poll Finds Overwhelming Support for Archaeology in the US
Funding and Preservation of Archaeological Sites Should Be a Priority

Washington, DC A majority of Americans overwhelmingly value the work of archaeologists, according to a recent poll released by the Society for American Archaeology (SAA) and Ipsos, with a clear majority supporting increased protections and funding for archaeology.

The poll found that 93% of Americans say the work archaeologists do is important. More than half believe the US should increase funding for archaeology and enact stronger laws to protect sites and artifacts.

“We’re gratified but not surprised that Americans place a very high value on archaeology and the knowledge it gives us about our heritage,” said SAA President Susan Chandler. “Public support is crucial. Especially now, when archaeologists are seeing increased threats to US archaeological sites and artifacts from climate change, regulatory rollbacks, and looting.”

Poll respondents also strongly believe in archaeological education, with 87% saying that students should learn about archaeology in school at some point in their academic career. The poll shows a majority of Americans learn about archaeology at school and in museums, and finds that up to 60% of people familiar with archaeology who have not previously engaged in archaeological activities, such as visiting a site, would like to do so.

“Summer is a great time to visit archaeological sites,” Chandler said. “Many heritage sites have public archaeology days. Museums and historic sites also have special summer programs for visitors and children. Visiting a site really connects people to the work and to the past.”

The two infographics above show highlights of the poll results. Click on the images to view the full-size PDFs. The full report provided by Ipsos (PDF) is available to read online.

May 3, 2018

SAA Statement on the Participation of BLM Archaeologists
at the 83th Annual Meeting

We’re very disappointed that archaeologists from the Bureau of Land Management were denied permission to present their session on land management and archaeology at the SAA 83rd Annual Meeting in DC this month. Archaeologists from around the world were deprived of a symposium filled with valuable information about the tough issues facing land-managing agencies, and from learning about BLM’s innovative solutions to handling conflicts with development, using data to inform future land management decisions, and working with Native American communities to protect their extensive cultural heritage from looting and other threats. Preserving the US archaeological record is a charge entrusted to all Americans, often via our government agencies. BLM archaeologists handle large-scale, complex issues involving multiple stakeholders, and we were sorry to lose the chance to learn from their experience.

Susan Chandler, RPA
President, Society for American Archaeology

April 2018

2018 SAA Award Recipients

Public Service Award
Supervisory Special Agent Timothy S. Carpenter and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Art Crime Team

Gene S. Stuart Award
Nicholas St. Fleur

Paul Goldberg Award
Zaakiyah Cua

Dienje Kenyon Memorial Fellowship
Ashleigh Rogers

Fred Plog Memorial Fellowship
R. J. Sinensky

Douglas Kellogg Fellowship for Geoarchaeological Research
Rachel Cajigas

Arthur C. Parker Scholarship for Archaeological Training for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians
Jay Rapoza

NSF Scholarship for Archaeological Training for Native Americans and Native Hawaiians
Ashlyn Weaver

SAA Native American Undergraduate Archaeology Scholarship
Barry Bausman

SAA Native American Graduate Archaeology Scholarship
Raquel Romero

Dissertation Award
Katherine L. Chiou

Book Award: Scholarly
Tom Dillehay

Book Award: Popular
Peter Bogucki

Award for Excellence in Archaeological Analysis
Joseph W. Ball

Award for Excellence in Cultural Resource Management
Myles R. Miller III

Award for Excellence in Public Education
Kentucky Archaeological Survey

Crabtree Award
James Warnica

Fryxell Award for Interdisciplinary Research
Vance T. Holliday

Award for Excellence in Latin American and Caribbean Archaeology
Maria Victoria Castro Rojas

Lifetime Achievement Award
Martin McAllister