Abstract: Don’t Let This Die with You, Make Sure You Pass This On To Others: Perspectives on First Nation Heritage and Archaeology
Everyone is shaped and molded by their experiences. To understand where I am coming from, I would like to share some of the experiences that have molded me. Over the last twenty years, I have been engaged in Manitoba archaeology. During this time, I have witnessed a dramatic shift in the role of First Nations in archaeological research. I am fortunate to have experienced many different roles during this time including field assistant, cataloguer, Aboriginal intern, field crew supervisor, heritage advisor for First Nations and film work, newspaper columnist, educator, Aboriginal Liaison and most recently, Curator of Archaeology. These roles have led me to work for many different institutions such as Brandon University, the Manitoba Government, The Manitoba Museum, consulting firms, various film production companies, First Nation newspapers, countless schools both on and off reserves and Band Councils. Despite these roles and experiences or maybe because of them I see myself as not only a student but very much a facilitator for the First Nation community. The true knowledge holders are the culturally proficient Elders and other knowledgeable people in the communities who have been so generous to take me under their wing to become my teachers.
What drives me in this profession is that I have a passion for understanding my Cree culture and heritage. My attitude diverges from traditional archaeology where I have always found the academic divisions of First Nation heritage unusual and irrelevant. Dividing First Nation heritage into archaeology, history, ethnology, native studies is inconsistent with what I have learned. Knowledge of our past, culture and heritage requires an understanding of all of these areas. Archaeology is a piece of the puzzle that cannot be kept in isolation from other disciplines relevant to First Nations heritage or we run the risk of alienating First Nation people. In order to work collaboratively with First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples we must first agree on what we want to accomplish and work together to achieve these goals.