Stones of Contention
By Timothy H. Ives
Archaeologist Dr. Timothy H. Ives stands alone against a juggernaut of wishful thinking masquerading as science. In his new book, Stones of Contention, he shows us that it is becoming impossible to deny that the pervasion of leftist ideology in New England is precipitating a retrogression of race relations among descendants of colonial-era populations. This is exemplified by the Ceremonial Stone Landscape Movement, the central claim of which is that many, if not most, of the stone heaps, walls, and other structures scattered about the region’s secondary forests are not vestiges of abandoned historic farmsteads but ancient Indian ceremonial constructions that require protection from the ongoing ravages of settler colonial development.
Applauded for its voguishly defiant pose against Western histories and institutions, this claim has been uncritically embraced by tribal authorities, established scholars, residential property owners, and even federal and municipal agencies. For who, in this golden-age of identity politics, dares question indigenous sacred property claims? But there is an elephant in the room. Sourcing political power from old racial anxieties, this activist movement galvanizes a victimhood identity among Indians, weaponizes white settler colonial guilt, and tramples the boundary between history and propaganda before an understandably confused and racially paranoid public. As this movement’s top persona non grata, Dr. Ives exposes its ironic origins in the settler colonial imagination, defends the fascinating histories that it undermines, and considers its costs to society at large.
Dr. Ives tells us:
Nobody is entitled to a history that makes them feel good about themselves or the groups to which they belong.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no shortage of [American] Indians today, only an apparent surplus of miseducated settler colonists.
The remarkable idea of a privileged socioracial group benevolently lifting a less privileged one should always be met with remarkable skepticism. If this were so when the Massachusetts Bay Colony put the words ‘Come over and help us’ in an Indian’s mouth, perhaps things would be different today.
It reminded me of an idea the late American novelist James Baldwin posed in various ways over the course of his career: ‘As long as you think that you are white, there is no hope for you.’ Perhaps equally relevant is that he never said, ‘As long as you think that you are an antiracist white, there is some hope for you.’
What started as an idea by fanciful antiquarians positing that the stone piles found in New England’s forests, far from being the work of nineteenth-century farmers whose famously stony fields have since long been abandoned, were actually the work of ancient Indians in connection with religious rites.
The Ceremonial Stone Landscape Movement, liberally mixed with racial grievance and guilt, has succeeded in derailing an airport runway expansion and has postponed or scuttled several other development plans because it is alleged that moving the stones would disturb the “peace, balance, and harmony” of the earth and, more importantly, cause offense to the ancient Indians’ modern-day descendants. Stones of Contention is a microcosm of the how race and religion have become a volatile mix in America and how fear of offense is now driving scientific inquiry.
Stones of Contention is about a difficult subject that nonetheless serves as a microcosm of strained relations where religion and race are concerned – between Indians and whites in New England. It also shows how science is gradually becoming corrupted by political correctness. This book will greatly interest those studying archaeology, cultural resource management, decolonialism, race relations in post-Civil Rights era America, leftist bias in academia, and New England history.
The transformation of certain strains of American Indian activism into a shakedown culture complete with lawyers, fake science, and internal schisms makes Timothy Ives’ book both a microcosm and a warning about the direction of our country. Read this carefully and ponder deeply its augury about a future that will make the providential plantations of early Rhode Island appear a preferable world to live in by comparison.
–Bruce Gilley, Author of “The Last Imperialist: Sir Alan Burns’ Epic Defense of the British Empire”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Ives currently works as principal archaeologist at the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, though this book does not represent the views of his office. He is a leading contributor to the debate over the origins of the stone heaps commonly found in New England’s forested hills. He has expressed concern regarding the broader social costs of ceremonial stone landscape preservation campaigns, citing their record of mobilizing white guilt, the psychosocial phenomenon described by race relations scholar Shelby Steele, to gain political support and subvert criticism.