Alice Beck Kehoe

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Alice Beck Kehoe (born 1934, New York City) is a feminist anthropologist and archaeologist. She has done considerable field research among Native American peoples in the upper plains of the US and Canada, and has authored research volumes on Native American archaeology and Native American history. She is also the author of several general anthropology and archaeology textbooks.


She attended Barnard College and Harvard University, from which she received her PhD in Anthropology. While a student at Barnard, she was influenced by James Ford, Gordon Ekholm, and Junius Bird; she worked summers at the American Museum of Natural History Anthropology Department. While at Harvard, she worked with Gordon Willey and Evon Vogt. Many of her influences have been colleagues such as David H. Kelley, Jane Kelley, Jennifer Brown, Robert L. Hall, George F. Carter and his students Stephen C. Jett and Carl Johannesen.


Kehoe taught at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln before teaching at Marquette University, from which she retired in 2000 as professor emeritus. She resides in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kehoe has held offices with the American Anthropological Association (AAA), and was president of the Central States Anthropological Society (CSAS).

Kehoe has studied many aspects of Native America and is a strong believer in the theoretical link between the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex (SECC) (of the Native southeastern U.S.) and Mesoamerica (Mexico and Central America). Her principal area of interest is the archaeology and cultures of the northwestern plains of the U.S. While searching for an ethnographic research topic for her dissertation, she happened upon the Saskatchewan Dakota New Tidings Ghost Dance. Kehoe has worked many years with the Blackfeet of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, an Algonquian Native American group of Browning, Montana, with whom she visits each year to study their history and culture. She has studied Native American spiritual healers ("medicine people") and worked with Piakwutch, "an elderly deeply respected Cree man who served his Saskatchewan Cree community...".[1]: 60  She has also worked among Native Americans of Bolivia at Lake Titicaca, where she chewed coca leaves with Native women of the region.[1]: 70 

Kehoe has taken some contrarian or controversial positions throughout her career. One of the original proponents of feminist archaeology, she coedited with Sarah Milledge Nelson one of the first collections of feminist archaeology papers, Powers of Observation in 1990. She is one of the few in the field with an expansive view of pre-Columbian transoceanic contacts, summarized in her book Traveling Prehistoric Seas. This interest led to her meeting Richard Nielsen, who asked her to advise on archaeological aspects while testing the Kensington Runestone of Minnesota. Though a majority of relevant scholars have concluded the Runestone is a 19th Century hoax,[2] nevertheless there remains a community convinced of the stone's authenticity.[3] Kehoe is satisfied the item represents actual runic writing by members of a Scandinavian voyage to North America in the 14th century.

Her interpretation of the Kensington Runestone convinced Kehoe of a different North American history than what is widely taught in schools. She states:

It has been conventional to treat American history as if it were identical with United States history. Such a myopic view cuts students off from the context in which the United States developed, a larger history that will not go away. America's history begins some fourteen thousand years ago ... Invading Europeans met no wilderness, but landscapes and resources rendered through millennia of human actions.[4]: 1 

In her many years of teaching and writing, Kehoe has emphasized the importance of critical thinking in looking at anthropology, archaeology, and history, particularly as it pertains to Native America. She speaks of the "limited and biased archaeological record" (2007:personal communication) of the Americas and of how many archaeologists were molded by preconceptions of ancient Amerindians having been "savage" or "primitive" and incapable of having "real" civilizations in European terms. Kehoe minces few words in her distaste for such tunnel-visioned attitudes, stating, for example, "...the massive mounds of the Midwest, most of them larger than any prehistoric mounds in Europe, could not be accommodated in a scenario of virgin wilderness inhabited by Men-Brutes..."[5]: 164 

The history of American archaeology ... is a remarkable example of post-hoc objectification of the doctrine of Manifest Destiny. From its inception, American archaeology has been politically charged, legitimating domination of North America by capitalists imbued with British bourgeois culture.[5]: xi 

In 2016, Kehoe was honored by the Plains Anthropological Association with its Distinguished Service Award for her "enduring work in Anthropology and Archaeology of the Great Plains" (wording on plaque presented to Kehoe). Her memoir of her career as a woman in American archaeology, Girl Archaeologist: Sisterhood in a Sexist Profession, was published in 2022 by University of Nebraska Press.


  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (1989). The Ghost Dance: Ethnohistory and Revitalization. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston. ISBN 978-1577664536.
  • Nelson, Sarah M. and Kehoe, Alice Beck, eds. (1990) Powers of Observation: Alternative Views of Archaeology. Archaeological Papers of AAA Archaeology Division 2. Washington: American Anthropological Association.
  • Kehoe, Alice B. (1992). North American Indians: A Comprehensive Account (3rd ed.). Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. ISBN 978-0131928763.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (1998). Humans: An Introduction to Four-Field Anthropology. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415919845.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (1998). The Land of Prehistory: A Critical History of American Archaeology. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0415920544.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck; Emmerichs, Mary Beth, eds. (1999). Assembling the Past: Studies in the Professionalization of Archaeology. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. ISBN 978-0826319395.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (2000). Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. Prospect Heights, Ill.: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1577661627.
  • Sterk, Helen M.; Hay, Carla H.; Kehoe, Alice B.; Ratcliffe, Krista; VendeVusse, Leona G. (2002). Who's Having this Baby? Perspectives on Birthing. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press. ISBN 978-0870136153.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (2002). America Before the European Invasions. New York: Longman. ISBN 978-0582414860. Second edition titled North America Before the European Invasions, published 2017 by Routledge, New York.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (2005). The Kensington Runestone: Approaching a Research Question Holistically. Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1577663713.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck; Pleger, Thomas C. (2007). Archaeology: A Concise Introduction. Long Grove, Ill.: Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1577664505.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (2008). Controversies in Archaeology. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press. ISBN 978-1598740615.
  • Kehoe, Alice Beck (2012). Militant Christianity: An Anthropological History. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1137282149.
  • Wissler, Clark; Kehoe, Alice Beck; Miller, Stewart E. (2012). Amskapi Pikuni: The Blackfeet People. Albany: State University of New York Press. ISBN 978-1438443355.
  • Kehoe, Alice (2014). A Passion for the True and Just: Felix and Lucy Kramer Cohen and the Indian New Deal. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 978-0816530939.
  • Kehoe, Alice (2016). Traveling Prehistoric Seas: Critical Thinking on Ancient Transoceanic Voyages. Walnut Creek, Calif.: Left Coast Press. ISBN 978-1-62958-067-8.
  • Kehoe, Alice (2022). Girl Archaeologist: Sisterhood in a Sexist Profession. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 978-1496229366.


  1. ^ a b Kehoe, Alice Beck (1 September 2000). Shamans and Religion: An Anthropological Exploration in Critical Thinking. Waveland Press. ISBN 978-1577661627.
  2. ^ Gustavson, Helmer. "The non-enigmatic runes of the Kensington stone". Viking Heritage Magazine. Gotland University. 2004 (3). "[...] every Scandinavian runologist and expert in Scandinavian historical linguistics has declared the Kensington stone a hoax [...]"; Wallace, B (1971). "Some points of controversy". In Ashe G; et al. (eds.). The Quest for America. New York: Praeger. pp. 154–174. ISBN 0-269-02787-4.; Wahlgren, Erik (1986). The Vikings and America (Ancient Peoples and Places). Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-02109-0.; Michlovic MG (1990). "Folk Archaeology in Anthropological Perspective". Current Anthropology. 31 (11): 103–107. doi:10.1086/203813. S2CID 144500409.; Hughey M, Michlovic MG (1989). "Making history: The Vikings in the American heartland". Politics, Culture and Society. 2 (3): 338–360. doi:10.1007/BF01384829. S2CID 145559328.
  3. ^ " Kan du stole på Wikipedia?" (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 2007-10-07. Retrieved 2008-12-19. "Det finnes en liten klikk med amerikanere som sverger til at steinen er ekte. De er stort sett skandinaviskættede realister uten peiling på språk, og de har store skarer med tilhengere." Translation: "There is a small clique of Americans who swear to the stone's authenticity. They are mainly natural scientists of Scandinavian descent with no knowledge of linguistics, and they have large numbers of adherents."
  4. ^ Kehoe, Alice Beck (7 August 2002). America Before the European Invasions. Routledge. ISBN 978-0582414860.
  5. ^ a b Kehoe, Alice Beck (27 August 1998). The Land of Prehistory: A Critical History of American Archaeology. Routledge. ISBN 978-0415920544.

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