Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Archaeology and Residential Schools

This week two archaeologists stopped by the archive I work at.  These particular archaeologists have in recent years been focusing on Residential Schools.  Prior to their visit I had not considered the tremendous value that archaeology can add to ongoing research relating to Residential Schools.   The majority of my work focus on textual records, photographs, artifacts, and oral history -- leaving me far away from archaeology field work.  Material culture and archeology speaks to areas of the history of Residential Schools that is not captured in historical documents.

Many of the Residential Schools that existed in Canada are no longer standing and in many cases the original land which the schools resided on has been re-purposed or left abandoned.  Unless a monument or other marker has been erected it is often impossible to tell Residential School sites apart from the landscape. Through archaeology and the use of historical records it is possible to identify where buildings were, uses of the land, and the location of burial grounds that were established as part of the schools. 

Overall, the visit reminded me of the importance of interdisciplinary work and the value of reaching out beyond one's immediate field.  The video below, "Encountering Modernity - The Piikani Historical Archaeology Project"does an excellent job of describing some of the efforts related to First Nations and Residential School archaeology projects. 

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