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Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?
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Author:  AuLoS303 [ Fri Apr 12, 2019 5:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

I'd never heard the word Anasazi till recently. I'm still not sure who it refers to!

Author:  Nanohedron [ Fri Apr 12, 2019 6:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

AuLoS303 wrote:
I'm still not sure who it refers to!

I should think the thread would have made it clear to you. But if not, then a quick Google will give you tons of reference material on a civilization we know scarcely anything about, but which continues to fascinate for the surprising cliff-dwelling urban architecture they left behind, and for the fact that they obviously prospered for centuries in an extremely water-poor biome, yet nevertheless were able to sustain large populations.

It is generally assumed that the so-called "Anasazi" were ancestral to the present-day Puebloan cultures. If that means nothing to you, start with looking up "Puebloan". Fascinating stuff.

Author:  Hi4head [ Fri Apr 12, 2019 8:36 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

You can also look up the Basket Maker Era(s).
The Flutopedia website also has info.

Author:  michaelpthompson [ Sat Apr 13, 2019 7:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

AuLoS303 wrote:
I'd never heard the word Anasazi till recently. I'm still not sure who it refers to!

Basically, it refers to the people who lived in the Four Corners area, where Colorado Utah, New Mexico, and Arizona come together, up until about 1280 AD. Archaeologists in the 1930s, began to discover their villages, and especially their intriguing cliff dwellings, from which they "disappeared" just about that time. The Navajo called them Anasazi, which is a word meaning "Ancient Ones" or more likely, "Ancient Enemies." They had stories in their oral history about conflicts with these people. So the archaeologists used that term to describe them, whom they presumed had mysteriously vanished in some sudden fashion. Perhaps disease, perhaps war, perhaps they just ran away. Nobody knew, so the mystique grew.

Problem is, very little of that is true. They left the area rather suddenly at the end of the 13th Century. Mostly, they traveled East where their descendants include the modern day Pueblo people along the Rio Grande in New Mexico, and the Hopi tribe in Arizona. We still don't know a lot of detail about why they left, but these people have always known about their ancestors. Archaeologists either didn't ask them, or discounted their stories as mystical and unreliable. Cultural supremacy ruled the day, and the romantic theories are much more attractive to most people than the truth.

If you're really interested, I highly recommend a book by Stephen H. Lekson, recently retired as Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of Natural History, University of Colorado, Boulder, called A History of the Ancient Southwest. It brings together the best and most recent archaeological research about the history and culture of these people, in a most compelling way.

Author:  AuLoS303 [ Sun Apr 14, 2019 6:21 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

Very interesting Michael, so they are inhabitants of America prior to the arrival of what became known as 'Indians'. That would make them aboriginal to that area.
I'm currently reading The History of the Indians of the Unitee States by Angie Debo.

Author:  Nanohedron [ Sun Apr 14, 2019 12:20 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

AuLoS303 wrote: they are inhabitants of America prior to the arrival of what became known as 'Indians'.

I'm having trouble with your wording, which suggests that you think that modern Puebloans came from elsewhere to fill a gap left by the so-called Anasazi. Rather, the one became the other; our use of the words "descendants" and "ancestors" should have made this abundantly clear. Your use of the word "Indians" is also problematic, as you appear to think that it doesn't apply to the Anasazi: all such indigenous populations would be Native American, which is to say, "Indian".

AuLoS303 wrote:
That would make them aboriginal to that area.

As are their descendants, the modern Puebloans. The archaic Puebloan culture ("Anasazi") and Puebloan cultures of today (Hopi, Zuni, Tewa, etc.) mark points along a continuum that, once established, stayed put geographically. To use language as a comparison, it wouldn't be unlike the progression from Old English to the English we speak now.

Here's a view of Taos Pueblo (not the city of Taos, NM, which is ... a city):


This is the oldest continuously inhabited community in the US, around a thousand years and still going. Puebloans are notable for their distinctive communal and multi-storied adobe architecture, and in having successfully resisted non-Native pressures that eventually destroyed the permanent villages of other sedentary cultures such as the Mandan. Like its architecture, Puebloan traditional culture has remained largely intact as well.

Of course there are practical concessions: The conventional grade-level doors and stairs you see are newfangled adoptions. Originally, entry was through a trapdoor in the roof, and outside access to that level was by ladder, which could be pulled up as a security measure.

AuLoS303 wrote:
I'm currently reading The History of the Indians of the Unitee States by Angie Debo.

I haven't read this myself, but reviews of the book and the author herself suggest that it would be time well spent indeed; Debo is still acknowledged as a real authority. In her own time her career was beset with difficulties due to her gender, her unflinching gaze, and her unwillingness to sweep things under the rug, all of which ruffled a lot of establishment feathers; retrospect shows that in many ways, she defined the leading edge in her field. Your book is devoted to the very fraught record of non-Native institutions and practices regarding the Native populations; however, if instead you are looking for cultural color and similar ethnic information, you may get less of that material than you might have hoped for. I would say read it anyway. :)

Author:  paddler [ Fri Jan 24, 2020 11:17 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

I think the more important question to ask regarding these flutes is whether it is appropriate for
us to name them after a group of people or culture at all! I think this is especially relevant given
that the instruments we have today are not made by members of that group/culture (in nearly all
cases), and do not generally replicate the design details of any original instrument, in either acoustically
relevant measurements or in blowing style. The similarities are rather vague when you look into it
in detail.

The vast majority of "Anasazi" flutes sold today have much wider bores than the original instruments, tone
holes that have been repositioned to better align with modern western musical intervals, and a flat or notch
at the rim to aid in a shakuhachi-style of blowing, which was not at all evident on original instruments.

Wear marks on original instruments, together with the earliest available photographs of Hopi players,
conclusively show that these flutes were typically blown using an inter-dental approach, like a persian
ney. These flutes sound very different when played this way.

We also have no idea of the kind of music these were used for, nor the cultural purpose or significance
of the instrument. Unfortunately, I think making these modern flutes and selling them as being in any
way connected to a past or present indigenous culture is just a blatant case of cultural appropriation.
This, I think, is far more offensive than whether we call the instrument "Anasazi" or "Ancestral Puebloan".

I think a better approach is to name these modern flutes based on their design characteristics
(rim blown, pentatonic, key of G#, etc) and perhaps make reference to a specific original flute if the
modern one is a close replica of some existing museum original.

There are several original instruments in various museums and they vary quite drastically in size, scale and
design, so it is not as if there was a common standard, or anything close to that. As with other Native
American-style flutes, I think we have conjured up quite a lot of fiction related to these instruments and have
(probably inadvertently) promoted our own fictions to the extent that many people now start to view them as fact.
It is easy to be very offensive, and to do a lot of cultural damage, this way, all while having the very best of

A few years ago I spent a lot of time studying original instruments, making acoustically accurate replicas,
learning to play them using a variety of different blowing techniques, studying archival photographs, and
collaborating with a Native American flute maker to replicate and document some of the lesser studied flutes
from this era (such as the Pueblo Bonito flutes, and the Grand Gulch flute), but the more I got into it the less
comfortable I felt about pushing my interpretations about someone else's cultural artifacts. Eventually, I learned
enough to realize that I really didn't know enough about the people, their culture, their music, or their instruments,
to be qualified to comment. So I eventually just stopped. If you are interested in learning more about these
instruments there is a lot of information (probably both informative and misleading) on the history section of
the Flutopedia website.

Author:  michaelpthompson [ Sun Apr 05, 2020 2:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

New article on this topic, so it seemed worthwhile to update this thread. The article seems to mostly agree with my contention that there is no completely suitable name for this people group or culture. Based on this, I still use either Anasazi or Basketmaker, though there are objections to both. Problem is, nobody has come up with an actual appropriate name.

Author:  jim stone [ Wed Apr 08, 2020 1:58 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Is the term "Anasazi" correct and/or offensive?

I live down the street from the Taos Pueblo. I think 'Anasazi' is a great word phonetically, and it makes money from tourists. At the end of the day I think these considerations will prevail. And it will provide an opportunity to tell people the real story.

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