Pjila'si Welcome Bienvenue CAA/ACA 2023 Membertou, NS/NE 3–6 May/mai

55th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Archaeological Association

Plenary Address – Honoured Guest Speaker, Mi’kmaw Elder Ernest Johnson

This year’s Plenary Address will be a different experience from years past. We begin with presentation of a particularly poignant paper submitted which stood out for the organizers as powerfully relevant for this historic conference, co-hosted by the Maw-lukutijitk Saqmaq / Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaw Chiefs. Katherine Nichols and Eldon Yellowhorn will share their experiences researching Indigenous children’s identities whose burials were identified at the Brandon Indian Residential school site. The lessons learned from this community-based project seemed like ones we maybe all should keep at the forefront of our thinking and not risk missing as we session-hop. Theirs will be a story of a professional archaeological experience, humanized beyond data and theory, to one of legacy and archaeologists efforts and contributions to long-awaited answers and justice.

We then pass the stage to our Plenary Speaker, Mi’kmaw Elder, Ernest Johnson – a man of many journeys, experiences, wisdom and stories. He will be joined in a “fireside chat” by Jeff Ward who will ask questions about archaeology’s use to Indigenous Peoples, how we can do archaeology in more positive ways, and expectations Indigenous Peoples’ may have for archaeologists to address.
Listening to an Elder, a Knowledge Keeper, a Teacher, a Storyteller, is a wonderful opportunity to gain perspective and grow. We are honoured to have a chance to listen to Ernest and to hear him and the lessons he has to share with us as we gather together to gain some extra perspective on archaeology.

Reflecting on community-based investigation at the Brandon Indian Residential School

Presentation format: In-Person

• Katherine Nichols - Simon Fraser University
• Eldon Yellowhorn - Simon Fraser University

In partnership with the Sioux Valley Dakota Nation, researchers from Simon Fraser University, Windsor University and Brandon University began an investigation of an abandoned cemetery associated with the Brandon Indian Residential School in 2019. Prior research using multiple geophysical methods had revealed the existence of 104 graves. Our main objective was to recover the identities of the children buried in these unmarked graves. While the archaeological and forensic component was the initial focus, the outcomes generated for the project were the result of archival research. Since this was one of the first research project of its kind in Canada we report on our experience, the work that remains to be done, and the lessons we gained from it.

Biography – Ernest Johnson

Ernest JohnsonErnest Johnson is a Mi’kmaw Elder, treasured for his deep knowledge of Mi’kmaw culture, practice and language. He uses land-based learning and a lifetime of experience to help teach us about the descriptive character of Mi’kmaw language and its deep connection with the animals, plants and landscapes of Mi’kma’ki.

Ernest is a member of the Mikmawey Debert Elders’ Advisory Council, helping to guide this flagship Mi’kmaw cultural centre through its development as a premier venue for Mi’kmaw stories, collections and research. He is also a former Executive Director of the Union of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq and recipient of the Grand Chief Donald Marshall Senior Elder Award.

Ernest was one of the 14 Mi’kmaw men who made the historic 31-day canoe trip to Kahnewake First Nation in 1967, stopping at Montreal where Canada's centennial year festivities were in full swing at Expo ’67. The Mi’kmaw journey, however, was an independent activity celebrating Mi'kmaw history, despite the press and celebrity coverage of their arrival at the Expo. The canoe trip was organized by the Santé Mawiomi or Mi'kmaw Grand Council and followed the same route as the one taken by Mi’kmaw representatives in the late 1800s to meet and enter into a peace treaty with the Kahnawake Mohawks.

In 2014, Elder Ernest was selected as the Role Model of the Year by Allison Bernard Memorial High School. He is a naturalist, a Knowledge Keeper and is always on the go.