Gustaf Nordenskiöld and the Mesa Verde: Settler Colonial Disconnects and Finnish Colonial Legacies
Chapter from the book: Andersson R. & Lahti J. 2022. Finnish Settler Colonialism in North America: Rethinking Finnish Experiences in Transnational Spaces.
This chapter discusses the character and legacies of settler colonialism through the looting of Indigenous artefacts by Gustaf Nordenskiöld in Mesa Verde in 1891. Nordenskiöld tied in with settler colonialism in several ways, albeit his experiences and narratives showcase disconnects as much as connections. Nordenskiöld’s excavation and knowledge production was one of the many practices of settler colonialism, showcasing a form of Indigenous elimination. When writing about his exploits, the Indigenous past, and settler colonial present of the US Southwest, Nordenskiöld advanced conceptual displacement, the substitution of Indigenous pasts and knowledge with linear and modern settler histories. His excavations and writings propagated a disconnect of dead civilizations, vanishing Indigenous presents, and empty lands, ripe for settler colonialism to “discover” and make sense of. His writings, actions, and the fate of his collection also created a lasting connection for Finland with US settler colonialism.