Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology

2008-2009 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship Winner

Kerry F. Thompson

Kerry ThompsonAAA and the Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology are pleased to announce the selection of Kerry F. Thompson as the recipient of the 2008-09 AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship. Her dissertation research title is Atk’idáá da hooghanée: An archaeological Study of 19th Century Navajo households.

Ms. Thompson began her career in anthropology in 1992 when she was hired as a student in the Navajo Nation Archaeology Department (NNAD) at the department’s Northern Arizona University office. Between 1992 and receiving her BA in 1998, she worked in the NNAD-NAU student-training program on small and large-scale archaeological projects for the Navajo Nation.

During these years, she trained as a technological lithic analyst.  With two other undergraduates, she was invited to work in Australia during the summer of 1998 where she surveyed in the dry lakes region of Victoria with Aboriginal archaeologist, April Blair, Ph.D.  Between 1992 and receiving her BA in 1998, she worked in the NNAD-NAU student-training program on small and large-scale archaeological projects for the Navajo Nation.  During these years, she trained as a technological lithic analyst.  With two other undergraduates, she was invited to work in Australia during the summer of 1998 where she surveyed in the dry lakes region of Victoria with Aboriginal archaeologist, April Blair, Ph.D.  After receiving her degree, she was promoted to a staff archaeologist position and coordinated the NNAD-NAU student-training program.  She received her MA in anthropology from NAU in 2002, where George Gummerman served as her thesis advisor.  While in the NAU graduate program, she pursued her interest in lithic technology with the Moche Foodways Archaeological Project on the north coast of Peru.  Her master’s thesis is entitled, A Technological Analysis of Three Moche Lithic Assemblages from the North Coast of Peru.  She began her doctoral work at the University of Arizona in 2003.

During her doctoral studies, Ms. Thompson received a minor in the American Indian Studies Program (AISP).  Part of her minor coursework included Federal Indian law and policy, critical race studies and globalization.  Coupled with a fifteen-year career in Southwestern archaeology, Thompson’s interests expanded to include Federal Indian law, critical race studies and cultural resource management legislation.  While studying Federal Indian law, she became aware of a large set of recordings of Navajo archaeological sites and ethnographic data.  These data were generated as an exhibit for the Navajo Land Claim (NLC) against the United States in the mid-20th century.

Thomson states that the data set, comprising approximately 5,000 sites, ranging from Hogan sites to hunting and ceremonial sites, remains understudied.    These data present an opportunity to study archaeologically visible impacts of the 19th Century Euro-American contact with Navajo hogan households beginning with the US/Mexico Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 through the Navajo incarceration at Fort Sumner from 1864-1868 to the turn of the century. 

This 52-year period of her tribe’s history is primarily understood through American historical accounts.  Thompson seeks to present a Diné perspective on this initial period of intense Euro-American contact by analyzing the archaeological data for a perspective informed by relevant historical, ethnographic, biographic and anthropological information.  She expects to establish the presence or absence of correlations between policy periods and patterns of change in Diné households through available ethnographic information and measured change in the size, distribution and organization of Diné Households and artifact distributions.

Thompson observes that interpretations of colonized peoples’ cultures have, for centuries, begun and ended with colonizers’ perspectives.  Further, colonizer perspectives have informed and shaped public perception and policy directed at colonized people the world over.  Thompson believes that her resea4rch will address, broadly, issues of multivocality and postcoloniality of the study of the Native American past.  She finds that critical re-reading and analysis of early anthropological work is necessary in order to create space for contemporary studies that take seriously the inclusion of Native peoples’ perspectives and interpretations of their own past.  Her dissertation work will address issues in cultural diversity in both archaeology and cultural anthropology.  For example, she has been asked to develop her dissertation into a course on Navajo archaeology for the undergraduates in the NNAD-NAU student-training program, in order to provide a Navajo perspective on Navajo archaeology. 

Thomson states that teaching on a college level figures largely into her overall career plans.  However, she also intends to be involved with the education of children on the Navajo reservation.  Towards that end, she has been asked to collaborate, at the conclusion of her dissertation, with the Curriculum Development Director at the Pinon Unified School District in Pinon, Arizona on an age appropriate text for teaching junior and senior high school students the national issues in Federal Indian law and policy that were the subject of her AISP minor.  Ms. Thompson hopes to use this study to further develop research into issues of cultural affiliation, identity, normative archaeological thought in the Southwest, and implementation of Federal and tribal cultural research management legislation.

Since August 2007, Ms. Thompson has been an Instructor in the Department of Anthropology at NAU in flagstaff, Arizona.  Barbara J. Mills, Ph.D. is the chair of her dissertation committee.

Ms. Thompson was recognized at the AAA Annual Meetings in San Francisco, CA during the awards ceremony. The Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology (CMIA) also chose Aide Acosta (U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) and Laurette Ann McGuire (U California, Riverside) to receive “honorable mention” distinction. 

The following photos were taken at the 2008 AAA Annual meeting in San Francisco.

Kerry Thompson
Kerry F. Thompson
Kerry Thompson and Setha Low
Setha Low and Kerry F. Thompson