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Indigenous heritage stewardship and the transformation of archaeological practice: two case studies from the mid-Fraser region of British Columbia

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Thesis type
(Thesis) Ph.D.
Date created
Over the past two decades, archaeology in British Columbia has been marked by two dramatic changes: the steep rise in forest industry-related “cultural resource management” (CRM) and the concomitant increase in First Nations engagement with archaeology and heritage stewardship. These trends have led to conflict between indigenous perspectives and CRM practice, but have also led to alliances and collaborations with archaeologists and the implementation of applied archaeological approaches. This dissertation addresses the implications of indigenous heritage stewardship, from the viewpoints of the St’át’imc and Nlaka’pamux nations, in the historical and contemporary context of CRM practice and applied archaeology in the mid-Fraser region of British Columbia. To place their engagement in perspective, I consider recent theoretical debates in community-based and indigenous archaeologies, as well as the development of participatory action research in archaeology. I also review the involvement of First Nations throughout British Columbia in CRM, stewardship, heritage legislation, and ethics. The St’át’imc and Nlaka’pamux case studies presented in this dissertation relate their outlooks on archaeology and their specific efforts in heritage stewardship, based on literature reviews, interviews, and direct participation. The St’át’imc study describes their traditional and contemporary views on archaeology and stewardship, relates their involvement in archaeology since the 1970s, and evaluates the process and outcomes of their recent direct involvement in the business of CRM. The Nlaka’pamux study recounts their experiences with archaeology since the late nineteenth century, as well as their more recent confrontations with CRM practice, and examines their current efforts at defining Nlaka’pamux heritage stewardship, particularly from the vantage of landscape. The different approaches taken by these two nations have their strengths and shortcomings, and both continue to aspire to greater participation and authority in archaeology and heritage stewardship. Most important, the standpoints and strategies of both nations provide insights into how applied archaeology practice can be transformed to better serve indigenous heritage stewardship, including in the realms of ethics, indigenous authority, intangible heritage, and landscapes. I contend that archaeologists can best accommodate these perspectives through participatory action research and the concept of archaeological praxis.
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Supervisor or Senior Supervisor
Thesis advisor: Yellowhorn, Eldon
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