Paulette Steves is the director of the Native American Studies program at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and her work as an archaeologist seeks to upend long-held notions about indigenous culture in the Americas.
Steeves, who is Cree-Metis, was the first Ph.D. candidate in her field to successfully defend her dissertation using indigenous method and theory. She has spent years building a database of Pleistocene archeological sites that show her ancestors have been in the Americas far longer than previously acknowledged. (The Pleistocene [Pleis·to·cene], is the geological epoch that lasted from 2.6 million to approximately 12,000 years ago.)
Her work, which challenges the “colonial” legacy of archeology, is considered revolutionary by some, controversial by others. Steeves believes objections to the inclusion of “indigenous ways and methods” in archeology comes from “a really strong, and deep-rooted racism in North American anthropology against Native Americans.”