Ethics, Data, and North American Archaeology

The Digital Index of North American Archaeology (DINAA) recognizes that ethics is a fundamental aspect of good scientific practice and cultural heritage stewardship. DINAA strives to develop practices based on the core values of collaboration with Indigenous peoples, and respect for Indigenous communities, their history, interests, and needs. We feel it is important to reaffirm this and to encourage our colleagues to do the same.

From our beginnings in 2012, DINAA has sought the guidance and participation of Indigenous communities regarding the areas where we work. We have collaborated directly with several tribal groups to use our systems to access open digital information for reuse to benefit their communities as they see fit. For example, DINAA has sent representatives to the annual meeting of the National Association of Tribal Historic Preservation Officers to offer free consultation for several years. DINAA project members have also helped facilitate free workshops for Indigenous scholars to help the project learn about the best ways to accomplish our ethical goals, and to provide information to build community capacity for archaeological data management.

We also maintain a rigorous and continuous process of data evaluation to prevent sensitive data from appearing online in our system and to deal with issues if they emerge. To be ethically respectful of others is not anti-science, it should be the core of any scientific activity.

We have recently published a new book chapter regarding our efforts, and our hope to promote the CARE principles (collective benefit, authority to control, responsibility, ethics) for Indigenous data governance in our work to better serve Indigenous communities as part of our efforts to foster open and free data accessibility in American archaeology. An almost comprehensive preview is available on Google Books, and we will make a preprint available on our website (it’s so new we’re not quite there yet).

Kansa, E., S. Kansa, D. Anderson, J. Wells, K. Noack Meyers, and S. Yerka. 2021. Access to Government Information and Inclusive Stewardship of America’s Archaeological Heritage. In Digital Mapping and Indigenous America, edited by Janet Berry Hess, pp. 121-135. Routledge, New York.

The past is too important to leave anybody out, and our only way forward is to be inclusive.

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