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Book review: The Archaeology of Refuge and Recourse

The Archaeology of Refuge and Recourse explores the dual practices of refuge and recourse among Indigenous peoples of California.

From the 18th to the 20th century, Indigenous Coast Miwok communities in California persisted throughout multiple waves of colonial intrusion. But to what ends?

Applying theories of place and landscape, social memory, and mobility to the analysis of six archaeological sites, Tsim D. Schneider argues for a new direction in the archaeology of colonialism. This book offers insight into the critical and ongoing relationships Indigenous people maintained with their homelands despite colonization and the systematic destruction of their cultural sites.

Schneider is a citizen of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, the sovereign and federally recognized tribe of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people whose ancestral homelands and home waters are the central focus of the book. Viewing this colonial narrative from an Indigenous perspective, Schneider focuses on the nearly one-quarter of Coast Miwok people who survived the missions and created outlets within and beyond colonial settlements to resist and endure colonialism.

Fleeing these colonial missions and other establishments and taking refuge around the San Francisco Bay Area, Coast Miwok people sought to protect their identities by remaining connected to culturally and historically significant places. Mobility and a sense of place further enabled Coast Miwok people to find recourse and make decisions about their future through selective participation in colonial projects.

In this book, Schneider argues that this distancing and familiarizing efforts contribute to the resilience of Coast Miwok communities and a sense of relevance and belonging to stolen lands and waters. Facing death, violence, and the pervading uncertainty of change, Indigenous people of the Marin Peninsula balanced the pull and persistence of place against the unknown possibilities of a dynamic colonial landscape and the forward-thinking required to survive.

History, change, and the future can be read in the story of Coast Miwok people.

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