Dana Lepofsky

Date award received: 

Dana Lepofsky received her M.A. at UBC in 1985 and her Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1995, focusing on the paleoethnobotany of Polynesia. That same year she secured a teaching position at Simon Fraser University (SFU), which is still her academic home. Dana’s most significant archaeological contribution is her historical ecology research on the Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast, which has transformed anthropological thought on these hunting-gathering-fishing peoples as cultivators and intensive resource managers. As stated in the nomination letter:

Her trail-blazing work is extensively cited across North America and will be consulted for generations.

Dana has a stellar record of publication and conference presentations. She is the editor of three special topic journal issues and has published 75 peer-reviewed book chapters and articles, and in the last seven years alone has presented close to 50 conference papers and posters, not to mention many public lectures to community and school groups. She has also created two interactive websites aimed at a general audience and is working on a third, in collaboration with Indigenous communities. Several of Dana’s publications are co-authored with her students, demonstrating how seriously she takes her mentoring role for the next generation of archaeologists. As stated in a letter of support for Dana’s nomination by Dave Burley, her publications have:

broad international readership and many aspects of Dana’s work transcend archaeology per se, providing data and insights for marine and terrestrial ecologists, planners and government departments among others.

In addition to her prolific research output, Dana has developed close relationships with members of several Northwest Coast Indigenous communities, including the Heiltsuk, Tsleil-Waututh, Sts’ailes, Scowlitz, Gitga’at and Sliammon, and she has earned their deepest respect, leading to her 2017 Warren Gill Award for Community Impact from SFU. Dave Burley, in his letter of support shared some words of praise from First Nations for Dana as a person and as an archaeologist. For example, the Heiltsuk First Nation think of her as a source of boundless enthusiasm, respect, knowledge and encouragement in engaging with their community and that she has “been exceptionally supportive of incorporating a Heiltsuk voice” in her research. From the Gitga’at First Nation:

The effort Dana Lepofsky has put into our community for the sake of our people, knowledge, lands, and future is an honour and a blessing. .... Because of her integrity, we see this relationship lasting a lifetime.

Lastly, praise from the Sts’ailes First Nation:

Dana's respectful approach to her work in our territory has gained her the trust and respect of our elders and knowledgeable people. Dana’s work has left a lasting legacy of using science and archaeology to reinforce and validate our stories, ceremonies, and protocols. Her passion about our history and heritage is evident in all of her work and interactions. Dana’s ongoing efforts and support continue to help Sts'ailes in maintaining the integrity of our relationship to the land and resources in our territory. Colleagues from other communities around British Columbia have equally good experiences with Dana, and have benefited from her positive impact on their communities as well. We all agree that we wish more researchers could be like Dana, and contribute in a respectful, meaningful, and lasting way.

In addition to her research, teaching and mentoring, Dana has somehow managed to find time to serve as a journal editor, organize conferences, and serve as President of the Society of Ethnobiology. Dana’s contribution to Canadian archaeology is truly exemplary, particularly her work on paleoethnobotany, historical ecology, and collaboration with Indigenous communities. Dana is neither retiring nor in the twilight of her career—her archaeological achievements just keep getting bigger and better with each passing year—a promising future for her and Canadian archaeology. It is my sincere pleasure to present Dana Lepofsky with the Smith-Wintemberg Award.