I think it’s just wound down, but the recurring Yukon College fieldschool “methods in subarctic ethnography and archaeology” spawned some good websites and blog entries. This fieldschool, convened by Norm Easton, has been happening for quite a few years now. It has inspired a lot of students, including some from these parts, as well as made major contributions to anthropological knowledge in the broad sense of the term.
This year there was an active facebook page on which, among many other things, are posted thousands of photographs. I checked and I don’t think you need to be on facebook to read these pages. Four students also started blogs to track their experiences. Of these, Yankee in the Yukon never really got off the ground with only two fairly short pieces. Yukon Adventures also only had two posts, but these are well written, longer reflections of the leadup to the project. Archaeology Adventures had more posts, but is primarily a photo blog – evocative photos but with relatively little context – the surface finds of the blogging world! It’s great to see students putting their thoughts and pictures out there beyond their own facebook udpdates – each of which is a bit of a walled garden relative to the rest of the internet.
The most sustained blog, one that is successful by any standard, is Yukonic.
Here you will find dozens of well-written and reflective entries from “Kalista”, a student from rural Alberta, who tracks the highs and lows, the trivia and depth, the raw and the cooked of the fieldschool experience. Consider how she comes to say goodbye:
Because while the Archaeology was cool: hearths, obsidian flakes, a rodent tooth, bone fragments, and a preliminary or perhaps heavily eroded side-notched point in addition to other student’s impressive finds of blades, a complete bison heel bone, a perhaps 13000+ year old game-changer biface, and the admittedly really cool, very old squirrel bones, behind all of those things except perhaps some of the bones, is people. The cultural material only exists because of people. Accordingly, it is the people that made my experience in Beaver Creek. People like Leslie, Chelsea, Tamika, Eddy, Blake, Bessie, Wilfred, Louis and Robert, Eldred, Jessica, Pat, Pat’s wife (whose name unfortunately always evades me), Jolinda, Ryan, Glen, other Glen, Marilyn, DJ, Mike, Tristain, Leon, Tayla, Tom, Forrest, Ian, Martha, Julius, Susie, Selena, Roland, Star, Derrick, Ken, Doug, many more people and names I am forgetting, and of course Ruth and David. A list of names that may be forgotten corresponding to a community of people I intend never to forget.
Luckily, Tamika had the great idea to have hers and Eddy’s birthday celebration before we left so there was a nice gathering that unfortunately ended with goodbyes. The birthday party felt like home: copious amounts of food, the older people eating first, and three types of dessert (because one just isn’t enough).
It felt like home because of the parallel’s to my own family’s celebrations but also due to the welcome we were afforded in our time at the Little John Site: our welcome sign the first day, countless visits, teaching us Upper Tanana and how to make birch bark baskets, shotgun and rifle shooting, ball games, numerous other activities; their way of life. As David said, we are now ambassadors of their culture and if possible, I hope to be able to show some of the character the White River First Nation showed us.
No, I am not good at goodbyes. What do you say? How do you thank enough, wish well enough people who did so much yet you may never see again? Consequently of these thoughts, I am a most awkward person at goodbyes and perhaps do not look like I feel much, but as I put this goodbye on paper, I could cry.
It’s strongly to the credit of the fieldschool leaders (Norm especially, no doubt, but I am sure he has cultivated a cast of characters….) that the experience is more about people than about things. Archaeology is always, or should always, be about people, not things, and if you can’t see the people in the present then what hope for finding them in the past?