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Remote Sensing and Indigenous Communities

Challenges and Opportunities

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 August 2021

Matthew C. Sanger*
National Museum of the American Indian, 4220 Silver Hill Road, Suitland, MD20746, USA
Kristen Barnett
American Studies, Bates College, 4 Andrews Road, Lewiston, ME04240, USA
(, corresponding author)


Although remote sensing techniques are increasingly becoming ubiquitous within archaeological research, their proper and ethical use has rarely been critically examined, particularly among Native American communities. Potential ethical challenges are outlined, along with suggested changes to archaeological frameworks that will better address Native American concerns. These changes center on a revised view of remote sensing instruments as being potentially invasive and extractive, even if nondestructive. Understanding the potentially invasive and extractive nature of these tools and methods, archaeologists are urged to work closely with Native/Indigenous communities to create more holistic practices that include community knowledge holders and to actively discourage stereotypes that pit archaeologists and Native/Indigenous communities against one another. Considering the speed at which remote sensing is being used in archaeology, these changes need to be embraced as soon as possible so that future work can be conducted in an ethical manner.

Si bien las técnicas de percepción remota se están volviendo cada vez más omnipresentes dentro de la investigación arqueológica, su uso correcto y ético rara vez ha sido examinado críticamente, particularmente entre las comunidades Nativas Americanas. En este artículo, describimos los posibles desafíos éticos junto con los cambios sugeridos a la práctica arqueológica abordando las preocupaciones de los Nativos Americanos. Dichos cambios se centran una visión revisada del uso de instrumentos de percepción remota como potencialmente invasivos y extractivos, incluso si no son destructivos. Al comprender la naturaleza potencialmente invasiva y extractiva de estas herramientas y métodos, se insta a los arqueólogos a trabajar en estrecha colaboración con las comunidades Nativas/Indígenas, para crear prácticas más holísticas que incluyan a los guardianes del conocimiento comunitario desalentando activamente los estereotipos antagónicos. Teniendo en cuenta la velocidad en la que se está utilizando la percepción remota en la arqueología se debe considerar la aplicación de esta propuesta lo antes posible para que los trabajos a futuro se puedan realizar de manera ética.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Society for American Archaeology

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