Respectful Terminology in Archaeological Compliance

James T. Watson, Aaron J. Young, Angela Garcia-Lewis, Cristin Lucas, Shannon Plummer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Archaeological compliance is defined by state and federal legislation and the constrained, precise language in which it is written. Rules and policies operationalize the law but provide some flexibility in its interpretation and implementation. The pronounced use of legal and scientific language in archaeological compliance can be considered insensitive or offensive to some tribal members when discussing the disposition and care of the remains and belongings of their ancestors. The language we use constructs our reality and defines how we interpret our interactions of the lived experience. It is therefore necessary to revise the language employed in archaeological compliance to ensure that it reflects the values of the communities that these laws define to determine treatment and ultimate disposition of their ancestral remains and belongings. This article describes and encourages the use of a respectful terminology, developed in conjunction with compliance professionals and tribal representatives, to restructure the language we use and redefine our interactions as more considerate of tribal concerns for repatriation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)140-148
Number of pages9
JournalAdvances in Archaeological Practice
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 1 2022


  • archaeological compliance
  • cultural heritage
  • repatriation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Archaeology
  • Archaeology


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