Archaeologists who study the past histories and lifeways of Indigenous cultures have long used Indigenous traditional knowledge as a source of historical information. Initially, archaeologists primarily accessed traditional knowledge second-hand, attempting to extract historical data from ethnographic sources. However, as archaeologists increasingly work with (and sometimes for) Indigenous communities, they have the opportunity to access traditional knowledge directly. Traditional knowledge is a powerful resource for archaeology, but working with it raises significant socio-political issues. Additionally, integrating traditional knowledge with archaeology’s interpretive frameworks can present methodological and epistemological challenges.This thesis examines the implications of archaeologists’ engagement with traditional knowledge in British Columbia, Canada, where changes at both a disciplinary and broader societal level indicate that archaeologists will increasingly need to find effective and ethical ways to work with traditional knowledge (and knowledge-holders). Through a series of in-depth interviews with practicing archaeologists from around the province, I explore how personal histories, professional circumstances, social realities, and theoretical frameworks affect how traditional knowledge is used in British Columbian archaeology. I conclude by highlighting five emergent interview themes: 1) the significance of personal background and social context in determining how researchers approach traditional knowledge; 2) the importance of long-term relationships between archaeologists and individual First Nations communities; 3) the value of traditional knowledge for illuminating more “ephemeral” aspects of the past; 4) the need for researchers to develop regionally and culturally specific understandings of traditional knowledge in order to work with it responsibly; and 5) the tension between studying Indigenous epistemologies and incorporating them into archaeological interpretations.
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Thesis advisor: Nicholas, George
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