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Before Clovis in America - Review

Updated: Feb 15

The Indigenous Paleolithic of the Western Hemisphere by Paulette Steeves

Steeves' groundbreaking volume begins by untelling the falsehoods and pseduoscience that gave birth to what we know as Anthropology and Archaeology. Her opening chapter deconstructs the unscientific and ill-motivated conjectures that established a deeply inaccurate narrative that was designed to negate Indigenous legacy and sovereignty. Steeves exposes the lack of evidence for prevailing assumptions that have burdened research on Indigenous peoples for a hundred years.

We've all heard the old trope that Indigenous people of the West came over a land bridge in one small window of time around 12,ooo years ago. Not all of us know that conjecture is the child of a Czech eugenics fan and supremacist who regarded Indigenous people as inferior - a "self-taught" physical antrhopologist who was also an assistant curator at the Smithsonian Museum. The Smithsonian itself is named for and founded by an English aristocrat who was a also a supremacist, and who used his inheritance to finance attempts to establish Lost Israelites as replacements for Indigenous peoples as creators of America's archaeological heritage.

Part of the decolonization process confronts the practices of gatekeeping and blackballing in the academic community. She details the history of repression against any and all scientists -whether they be archaeologist, paleontologist, geologist or other - who dare to present evidence of ancient Indigenous people in the West. Steeves recounts the attacks on scientists and the destroyed careers attached to just about every discovery of pre-Clovis sites in the Western Hemisphere. She compares this to the ready acceptance of Pleistocene human sites in Europe and Asia, while also pointing out the many periods of ice-free passage to the Americas used by the fauna known to be pursued and hunted by the first peoples in the West.

Unpacking Colonial Baggage names a chapter that takes on the entangled narratives and pretenses of a century-long legacy of politicized science and pseudoscience. Next, Steeves highlights those who Opened the Way for an evidenc-based examination of the true legacy of humans in the Pleistocene Western Hemisphere.

For one example of a site dating back 24,000 years in the Yukon, and the long suffering of its investigator, Jacques Cinq-Mars, whose work was reconfirmed many times, but his career was not restored - visit our earlier post at

The next two chapters review in detail an astonishing array of sites across North America that date to pre-Clovis times, including sites possibly as old as 60,000 years and older. Working through objective data and responding to peer challenges, Steeves presents compelling argument for recognition of and fair discourse about Pleistocene human sites in the Western Hemisphere. She then visits South America and continues an inventory of astonishing sites, astonishing both in content and number.

Having presented evidence for a host of very ancient sites across the Western Hemisphere, Steeves pursues in Chapter 7 several other lines of evidence: Genetics, Linguistics, Oral Traditions and others. By this point, the reader has found an entire hidden world of science and sites that boggles the mind.

The final chapter addresses the path to better science through a revised narrative that resists political tampering and is rewritten from the evidence free of overarching racial agendas. For an Indigenous reader who works in the field, the book is a sometimes painful, mostly liberating and healing journey.

There are two excellent appendices following that list, in order of age, a host of sites from North and South America all of which are contemporary with or predate Clovis culture. Along with the site information, references to the full investigative studies for each are given. There is nothing missing for the reader who wishes to examine fully the evidence available and nothing hidden from those who would raise challenges - so unlike other volumes of its kind because no other volume acknowledges the existence of contradictory evidence.

This is a seminal work that is destined to change the consensus on Western Anthroplogy over time as denial is eroded by a deluge of evidence.

Published 2021, University of Nebraska Press. Paulette F. C. Steeves (Cree-Metis) is associate professor of sociology and Canada Research Chair Tier II Indigenous History Healing and Reconiliation at Algoma University, and adjunct faculty at Mount Allison University.

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