Richard H. Peterson, Book Review Editor
Digging in the Southwest. By Ann Axtell Morris. Salt Lake City: Peregrine Smith, 1978. Reprint of the 1933 edition published by Doubleday, Doran, Garden City, N.Y. Photographs. 301 pages. $5.95.
Reviewed by Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Visiting Assistant Professor in History; Coordinator, Native American Studies, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque. Author of The Great Sioux Nation (1977) and “The Roots of Resistance: Spanish Colonization and Pueblo Land Tenure in New Mexico.”(1977)
The publication is an exact reprint of the original 1933 edition. Unfortunately, there is no editor’s introduction, nor are there notes to clarify references. The reader must conclude that the publisher conceived the book as having weathered forty-four years. However, it is not clear just why the book was published at all. Written by a professional archaeologist for the layman reader, the style is annoyingly cute and breezy.
Obviously, Ann Axtell Morris loved her profession and her fellow archaeologists. With that peculiar combination often reflected in North American scholarship, Morris attempted to make her beloved field comprehensible to the masses, and in doing so, showed a certain contempt for the ignorant common man. However, the reader does gain some knowledge of the procedure and technology of archaeology in a palatable form.
The book is filled with cliches, stereotypes, and outright racist observations of American Indian peoples, which comes as no surprise considering the date of publication. What is surprising is that the publisher did not solicit a contemporary introduction which would challenge the racism which fills the book.
Given the total lack of explanation for republication, it is doubtful that the publisher had in mind to expose the colonialist mentality of the American archaeologist (and anthropologist) and the great disservice these innocent professionals have done American Indian peoples. The book should have been reprinted with a lengthy introductory essay on American archaeology and be entitled: A Study in a Dying Colonialism. Ann Morris’ apparently unconscious colonialist mentality and Anglo-American ethnocentrism reveal her unscientific approach.
The author defined the goal of American archaeologists: “This, then, is the province of the New World archaeologists. To turn prehistory into history…” The archaeologist and his twin, the anthropologist, have failed as social scientists. Perhaps as technicians, they are unsurpassed. Certainly their devotion and energy are undeniable. Yet they have so distorted the social and governmental systems of American Indian peoples that the myths and fantasies have been perpetuated as reality.
At a time when a few historians, anthropologists, and other scholars are attempting to revise the colonialist interpretations of American Indian history, the publication of Digging in the Southwest is hardly a welcome or useful contribution to those efforts.