Learning from Land and Libraries: Methodologies in Historic Archaeology

Session Hosting Format: 
in-person session
Samedi, mai 4, 2024 - 8:00am - 10:00am
  • Lyndsay Dagg, Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta
  • Stephanie Halmhofer, Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta
  • Dawn Wambold, Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta
Contact Email: 
Session Description (300 word max): 

Recent years have seen a resurgence of historical archaeology in Western Canada. One reason for this may be the increased role of Indigenous community-led research. While pre-colonial Indigenous archaeology has a long history, more and more communities are interested in the ways archaeology can tell stories about Indigenous resiliency post European contact. Historical archaeology thus becomes a powerful tool for giving voice to both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples who were previously silenced in times when written records focused on those who were predominantly wealthy, literate, and European men.

As part of this resurgence, we acknowledge that historical archaeology has been characterized as a multi-disciplinary field that embodies a reciprocal relationship between archaeology and history (Orser, 2017:16), where historical records and oral histories can add rich insight and context to archaeology and archaeology can add temporal depth to the historical record and reveal stories not previously told. While this allows for the incorporation of research methodologies from both disciplines, it also means that the methodological challenges and advances from each discipline are present. As Charles Orser (2015:117) noted of historical archaeology, “ideas change and methods improve with the introduction of new concepts and the development of innovative technologies.” Whether conducting research in the library and archives, or solving fieldwork problems unique to historic sites, we invite presenters from the field of historical archaeology to share their research experiences and their solutions to methodological challenges that they have encountered.

08:00 AM - 08:20 AM: Rabbit holes: Not Just a Nuisance in the Field
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • R. Dawn Wambold - Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta

A research rabbit hole can refer to a situation in which you are so interested in the subject matter that you can’t stop researching it and all the various lines of inquiry that it takes you down. At their best, research rabbit holes are tangential to the research that you are working on. At their worst, they are wholly unrelated. While literal rabbit holes in the field pose a tripping hazard on the surface and can complicate subsurface stratigraphy, metaphorical rabbit holes can present their own forms of tripping hazards and complications. In my own work seeking the archaeological presence of the Métis in Southern Alberta, I have encountered both the literal and figurative versions of the rabbit hole. In this presentation I will discuss some of the rabbit holes that I have encountered in the archives, the interesting places that they have taken me, and present a few of the strategies that I will use going forward to sidestep their hazards.

08:20 AM - 08:40 AM: Where a Cabin is Not Just a Cabin: Combining Archives and Archaeology to Uncover a 1920s Conspiritual Organization in British Columbia
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Stephanie Halmhofer - Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, University of Alberta

Led by the enigmatic Brother XII, from 1927 to 1933 a conspiritual organization called the Aquarian Foundation constructed three settlements on the south coast of British Columbia (BC). Each was built to serve a specific ideological purpose within the Foundation’s conspiritual worldviews – two were for the spiritual transition of humanity that was to be led by the spiritual Masters of Wisdom from Atlantis, and one was for exposing an evil cabal working towards total world domination. Texts, such as books, articles, and pamphlets, are important pieces of the Aquarian Foundation’s material culture, used by Brother XII in the 1920s to communicate conspiritual ideals and goals to Foundation members, and by me in the 2020s to uncover a deeper understanding of the Foundation’s settlements that I am examining archaeologically. My presentation will share examples of how I am combining texts and other archival materials with archaeology to not only locate the Aquarian Foundation’s built structures and related material culture, but to also uncover a deeper understanding of what those structures and material culture meant to the Aquarian Foundation’s members.   

08:40 AM - 09:00 AM: Machine-Assisted Seed Bead Recovery: The Example of Chimney Coulee (DjOe-6)
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Solène Mallet Gauthier - University of Alberta

Small colourful glass beads, called seed beads, are found frequently on historic-period sites in western Canada. Produced in Europe, they were acquired at trading posts and used by Indigenous women to decorate functional items. However, their small size has made it that they are not systematically sought out by archaeologists, which often results in the recovery of what is likely only a fraction of the total number of seed beads deposited at a site. While some might argue that only a limited amount of knowledge can be obtained from these mass-produced objects, this bias in the recovery of seed beads limits the space occupied by Indigenous women in archaeological narratives. To remedy to this problem, members of the EMITA (Exploring Métis Identity Through Archaeology) project have been experimenting with different systems of sediment screening to collect seed beads from Métis archaeological sites. Using the example of the work done at Chimney Coulee (DjOe-6) in the summer of 2023, I will present the most efficient system EMITA members have come up with so far. The goal of the presentation is to inspire other archaeologists to build their own on-site water-screening systems and experiment with them.

09:00 AM - 09:20 AM: Reframing the Importance of Excavations: The Use of Geophysics and Air Photos in Historic Landscape Archaeology
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Lyndsay Dagg - University of ALberta

For most of archaeology’s history excavations have been the most important form of investigating a site, with countless hours and years devoted to improving excavation techniques. However, as more and more methods of archaeological research have begun to be developed and applied to sites, excavations are no longer as important as they once were. The use of non-invasive geophysical techniques has grown in popularity in recent years at all types of archaeological sites but has been found to be particularly useful at Indigenous sites where non-invasive methods of investigation are often preferred, and historic sites when combined with archival data. While these methods have often been used to inform excavations, excavations themselves can become less important depending on the research goal, sometimes slipping into a more supplementary role. In this paper, I use the Métis Historic Site, River Lots 23 & 24 in St. Albert, Alberta to argue that excavations can be a helpful supplemental method for supporting the results of archival research and geophysical surveys, rather than the primary focus of an archaeological investigation.

09:20 AM - 09:40 AM: How Many Laser Scanners Does it Take to Rerelocate a Building? Discussing Digital Repatriation of a Kootenai Brown Cabin
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Madisen Hvidberg - University of Calgary
  • Peter Dawson - University of Calgary
  • Christina Robinson - University of Calgary

“Kootenai” Brown is well-known in Canadian history for being the first European to see and experience what is now known as Waterton Lakes National Park. In his years at Waterton Lakes Brown lived at at least four places: the Kanouse Cabin, his first homestead, the second homestead, and his house at Lake Linnet. All of these locations have been known historically until 1977 when his second homestead was relocated to the Kootenai Brown Pioneering Village in Pincher Creek. Sometime after it was moved, the original location of the homestead was lost to memory.

The disconnect between cabin and location lasted until 2016 when a grove containing culturally modified trees (CMTs) was identified as the cabins’ location by Parks Canada employee Edwin Knox. In May 2022, the Digital Heritage Research lab at the University of Calgary digitally captured the meadow as well as the surrounding CMTs using geoSLAM mobile mapping technology. In July 2023, Kootenai Brown cabin in Pincher Creek was documented with a Z+F 5010X IMAGER with the intention of merging the datasets. The digital reconnection of cabin with surroundings provides a unique example of using innovative technologies to explore topics in historic archaeology.  

09:40 AM - 10:00 AM: Bringing Truth: Challenging the Erasure of Métis Material Culture through Historical Archaeology
Format de présentation : In-Person
Auteur-e(s) :
  • Kisha Supernant - University of Alberta

Over the past several decades, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of Indigenous histories during the post-contact era in demonstrating resistance, resilience, and survivance of Indigenous communities in the wake of colonization. This resurgence of historical archaeology that is about countering the narratives of European exploration and colonization has opened up new possibilities for revisiting previous archaeology that contributed to Indigenous erasure at historic-era sites. In this paper, I investigate how early historic archaeology in western Canada has contributed to the erasure of Métis material culture from sites that are important to our emergence as a distinct nation and people. I also explore how working within a time frame that has documentary evidence provides an opportunity to challenge this erasure by integrating multiple sources to tell a very different story of our presence. Through examples from fur trade archaeology, I demonstrate how the use of documentary and demographic records can challenge previous interpretations of material culture and reveal the presence of the Métis in the archaeological record.