One of the greatest privileges in NW Coast Archaeology is the opportunity to work with First Nations people of all walks of life and to be afforded the chance to tell a small part of their magnificent histories. How many settlers in this area don’t know a single aboriginal person? More than a few, I reckon. Yet how to get that face to face contact so essential for gaining an understanding of the historical circumstances of First Nations if, unlike me, your day job doesn’t have it somewhat built in? If you live in Victoria, you have three great options coming up – and all three include some archaeological content. Perhaps archaeology has the potential, not commonly realized, of forming a space of shared interest where conversations can start.
Following on the heels of the amazing clam garden event a couple of weeks ago there will be a second iteration of this event on Thursday November 13th – that’s tomorrow! Or even today! I see it on the Aboriginal Neighbours website discussed below so I am assuming it is open to the broader community.
There will be an event centered around community mapping on the 22nd of November, this one will include Cowichan traditional “gravedigger” and film-maker Harold Joe. Those who bear the hereditary responsibility to tend to the dead has in recent years expanded their scope to mean that many of those “gravediggers” now work alongside archaeologists to ensure proper protocols are followed to ensure the safety of all concerned. It makes so much sense when you think about it, and the experience has been transformative for more than one archaeologist I know.
The community mapping event includes the involvement of an intriguing organization I hadn’t come across before: Aboriginal Neighbours. This group is spearheaded by a group of local faith groups who seek reconciliation, from a starting point of appropriate humility and frank acknowledgment of the historical excesses of the Church. That’s about all I know of them, but if they continue to sponsor events based in respect, where people can come together, learn, and talk then they’ll be contributing to greater cross-cultural understanding, which itself should inform and strengthen and perhaps mobilize allies within settler society. It’s been heartening to see the settler community of SaltSpring Island rise to protect the Grace Islet Coast Salish cemetery, for example.
Indeed, “Love your neighbour as thyself” might actually be a decent, even under-rated, place to start.