Emily Van Alst

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Indiana U., Bloomington

Grant number

Gr. 10246

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Van Alst, Emily (Indiana U., Bloomington) "Elk Images and Elk Traditions: (Re)contextualizing Lakota rock art as sites of continued cultural knowledge and resiliency "

Depictions of elk in rock art are some the oldest carved images in the United States and have been a point of fascination for archaeologists. Yet, these images have primarily been studied from a Western art tradition which ignores Indigenous understandings of rock art. These representations transmit Indigenous knowledge across generations and require interpretations rooted in Indigenous ontologies to be fully contextualized. This project will bring together data collected from visiting circles, archival archaeological and ethnohistorical materials, stylistic analysis, and ethnobotany to bridge the gap between Indigenous knowledge and Western practices to answer these questions: how long Lakota people have practiced the elk dance, does understanding the role of women in Lakota history and culture indicate previously unidentified patterns in ancient rock art, and how does the landscape contextualize the rock art images. This research will propose a new rock art methodology that is simultaneously grounded in Lakota knowledge and Western archaeological tradition. This project will shift our comprehension of this particular medium’s materiality into Indigenous frameworks both past and present. The ultimate goal of this Indigenous-centered methodology will be to (re)contextualize and (re)engage rock art sites with, by, and for Lakota communities.