Can you dig it?

Ask that question to the class of the First Nations Archaeological Field Skills program and you’ll get a resounding “yes!”

A joint program of Alberta Culture and Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation, the two-week field skills program offers Aboriginal youth and young adults the opportunity to learn the finer points of identifying and preserving archaeological and palaeontological resources.

Opportunity to put newfound skills to the test

Blair First Rider with Alberta Culture and student Mikki Plume of the Kainai Nation assemble a camera extension used for taking pictures of stone features such as tipi rings

Blair First Rider with Alberta Culture and student Mikki Plume of the Kainai Nation assemble a camera extension used for taking pictures of stone features such as tipi rings

After a week of classroom instruction which began Sept. 2, students from the Kainai, Piikani and Tsuu T’ina First Nations will be heading out into the field to put theory into practice. Students will assist staff from Alberta Culture’s Archaeological Survey to conduct historic resources impact assessments at flood remediation projects in Fish Creek Provincial Park. The park, like many areas in southern Alberta, was hit hard by flooding in June 2013, with swollen rivers revealing a number of previously hidden archaeological sites.

Blair First Rider demonstrates the proper technique for using the ancient atlatl-and-dart weapon system

Blair First Rider demonstrates the proper technique for using the ancient atlatl-and-dart weapon system

June 2013 floods revealed important archaeological/palaeontological resources

“This first class of students is going to play a very important role in helping us to identify sites and recover artifacts and palaeontological resources that the flood uncovered,” said Darryl Bereziuk, director of Alberta Culture’s Archaeological Survey. “The flood of 2013 cut a huge swath and this program is part of a much broader effort to identify, preserve and protect valuable archaeological and palaeontological resources along the shoreline of impacted waterways. The clock is ticking and the longer these historic resources are left to the elements, the greater the risk that we could lose them forever.”

Dawn Chief Moon of the Kainai Nation tries out the ancient atlatl-and-dart weapon system.

Dawn Chief Moon of the Kainai Nation tries out the ancient atlatl-and-dart weapon system.

Engaging First Nations and youth perspectives

Bereziuk is excited to have the involvement of First Nations members in that flood recovery effort.

“Many of the artifacts that are discovered are linked to the First Peoples of this land. They are the ancestors of those within the First Nations communities that are taking part in this program, so these students are bringing a very unique perspective and appreciation for the work that we are doing here, “ said Bereziuk . “One of the goals of the program is to build upon that knowledge and provide some instruction that might just entice these students to see archaeology or palaeontology as a career option.”

That perspective, Bereziuk says, is a vital component of the First Nations Field Skills program. “Treaty 7 elders will be participating with the class throughout the two weeks. Their comments and stories have really enriched the classroom activities and they will also be sharing their knowledge relating to traditional use sites and the Aboriginal world view, so this is an incredible learning opportunity and experience not only for students but for our own staff.”

Nathan Meguinis of the Tsuu T’ina Nation tries his hand at pressure flaking a sharp edge onto a stone tool.

Nathan Meguinis of the Tsuu T’ina Nation tries his hand at pressure flaking a sharp edge onto a stone tool.

Bereziuk sees the recovery of flood impacted archaeological and palaeontological resources as a community effort.

“The area of flooding was so extensive that the public is going to play a really important role in identifying and reporting these sites. Also, we’ll be out along the rivers over the next few years conducting archaeological survey work and that is going to put us very close to private lands that border these watercourses,” said Bereziuk. “We want to ensure that owners are aware of what we are doing and encourage them to bring any concerns they may have forward.”

To report the discovery of artifacts, bones or fossils, or to discuss Alberta’s plan to address flood impacts to archaeological and palaeontological resources, contact the Archaeological Survey at (780) 431-2316.

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