Newswise — An Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) professor's early career decision to rebury Native American human remains " an act then considered academic suicide " recently earned the professor international recognition for significant contributions to world archaeology.
The World Archaeological Congress awarded its inaugural Peter J. Ucko Memorial Award to Larry J. Zimmerman, anthropology and museum studies professor in the School of Liberal Arts at IUPUI. Zimmerman is also jointly appointed with the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art as the Public Scholar of Native American Representation.
Four Native American archaeologists nominated Zimmerman in recognition of his role in indigenous archaeology and for "paving the way for a generation of Native Americans to believe we could join this profession without having to sacrifice our deeply help moral beliefs about our rights and responsibilities as Indigenous people," says Smithsonian Institution Repatriation Officer Dr. Dorothy Lippert, one of the nominating group.
During a 1978 dig at the site of the 1330s Crow Creek Massacre in South Dakota, Zimmerman decided to rebury Native American remains unearthed at the site. That act was considered a turning point in the field of archaeology.
"What many would view as academic suicide was, for Zimmerman, an act of respect for other human beings. This was the first step on a path that would offer inspiration to many Native students who hoped to find their way in archaeology," Lippert and her colleagues wrote in their nomination letter.
Zimmerman's reflections in a 1986 conference paper entitled, "Made Radical by My Own," show how one need not sacrifice personal beliefs or cultural values to succeed as an archaeologist.
"In reading this work, each of us was inspired in our own way to find our own voice and (use) it to promote humane and ethical archaeological practice," the nominators wrote.
WAC, a non-profit organization of practicing archaeologists, presented the Peter J. Ucko Memorial Award to Zimmerman during a June 29-July 4, 2008, conference attended by more than 1,800 archaeologists, native peoples and international scholars from 74 nations. The Ucko Memorial Award is named after group's founder who died in 2007.
Zimmerman, who holds a doctorate from University of Kansas-Lawrence, joined the IUPUI faculty in 2004.
"All of Professor Zimmerman's colleagues here in Liberal Arts at IUPUI share the World Archaeological Congress' esteem for Zimmerman's path-breaking accomplishments and contributions," William Blomquist, dean of the School of Liberal Arts, said. "Clearly the fruits of his labors in archaeology and on behalf of indigenous populations will positively affect researchers, students, and indigenous communities for generations to come."
About IUPUI: Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI) combines the strengths of Indiana University's programs in liberal arts, medicine, nursing, dentistry, law, public affairs, informatics, social work, education and music with Purdue University's expertise in engineering, technology, and science. With 22 schools and academic units, IUPUI grants degrees in more than 200 programs from both Indiana University and Purdue University.