Thomas Andrews

Date award received: 

Thomas Andrews has worked for over 40 years in the Subarctic and Arctic regions of Canada, primarily at the Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre (PWNHC) in Yellowknife. Tom received a Ph.D. at the University of Dundee, Scotland in 2011, an interdisciplinary study focusing on over 30 years of museum collaboration with the Dene. He began his full-time work in archaeology for the Dene Mapping Project (1980-1989). In 1990, Tom was hired by the PWNHC as a Subarctic Archaeologist, and he remained there until he retired in 2017 from government service as the NWT Territorial Archaeologist and Manager of the PWNHC. His collaborative work with various Indigenous communities in the NWT changed archaeology in Canada. Tom, in partnership with George Nicholas, introduced the concept of Indigenous archaeology to Canada—“archaeology done with, for, and by Indigenous peoples.” Two clear examples of Tom’s hands-on collaboration with Indigenous communities is the Idaa Trail canoe route study and ethnoarchaeology, and the re-creation of a Tlicho birchbark canoe and caribou hide tent, captured in videos and on websites. Also, he established Indigenous cultural landscapes as a new field of study and has been a strong advocate for the protection and commemoration of such landscapes and the official renaming of northern Canada with Indigenous place names. Tom is also an internationally-recognized pioneer in the investigation of archaeological remains melting from ice patches in the North, alerting all of us to the destructive impact of climate change on archaeological sites in Canada’s alpine, Subarctic and Arctic regions.

George Nicholas praised Tom Andrews in the following manner:

I have been working with and for Indigenous communities in Canada and elsewhere for the past 30 years, but when I look at Tom’s record of community engagement, I feel like a rank amateur. In my eyes, he has long been ahead of the curve in terms of what archaeology needs to do, whether it is to serve local needs or explore opportunities provided by melting ice-patches. He has developed an international reputation for his community engagement, and for his efforts to respect and educate Western researchers about Indigenous ontology, epistemology and conceptions of “heritage” and “landscape,”—just to name two areas. What a treasure he is!

Tom has a significant record of publication and conference presentations, and museum exhibits and accompanying websites and award-winning popular publications. He has published 30 peer-reviewed articles/ book chapters and has made a number of conference paper presentations, not to mention many public lectures to Indigenous community and school groups. He has also created videos and two interactive websites on Indigenous cultural heritage, aimed at educators and a general audience, in collaboration with Indigenous communities. Despite his day job as a museum and government administrator, Tom mentored almost 20 graduate students and organized 20 years of archaeology field camps for Indigenous students. His research with Indigenous heritage has been translated into government policy through Tom’s active participation in the National Sites and Monuments Board of Canada and the Geographical Names Board of Canada.

While Tom’s ground-breaking research has helped to reframe archaeology in Canada, Tom’s main focus for his entire career has been doing research for the benefit of Indigenous communities, particularly the Dene. He has earned their deepest respect. As Leon Andrew, Tulita Dene, put it:

Through our work with Tom, we have gained a lot of information about the history of our people. Our work together will ensure that our knowledge and stories about life in the mountains will be preserved for future generations.

Tom’s contribution to Canadian archaeology is foundational, particularly his work on Indigenous archaeology, community-based archaeology, cultural and archaeological landscapes, and the archaeology of climate change. Tom was one of the first archaeologists in Canada to implement each one of these archaeologies, that have now become common practice in the discipline worldwide. It is my sincere pleasure to present Tom Andrews with the Smith-Wintemberg Award.