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Lowering the Voting Age — August 29, 2018

Lowering the Voting Age

A little while ago, Lucas told us about the History of the Vote in BC, and the proposed changes. Today Sasha is here with another proposed change – dropping the voting age to 16. What do you think? Let us know in the comments!

 

In the 2013 British Columbian provincial election, only 57.1% of eligible voters cast their ballots, 13.9% down from the 70% voter turnout in 1983. What is causing the political apathy that B.C. is witnessing? In order to vote in a British Columbian election, one must be a Canadian citizen, have resided in the province for at least 6 months and be at least 18 years of age on voting day; but it hasn’t always been this way. Historically, women, Indigenous people and those from other ethnic groups have had to fight for their right to vote. The voting age in B.C. was even dropped from 19 to 18 in 1992. Continuing this trend by lowering the voting age to 16 years old will help combat the declining voter turnout that B.C. is seeing and will strengthen the democracy in the province. Most importantly, lowering the voting age will empower youth to be more involved in politics and allow them to become comfortable with this important responsibility.

Voting1

The voter turnout by age demographic for the 2013 BC provincial election (source: Elections BC and BC Stats)

Permitting 16 year olds to vote in British Columbia will increase the voter turnout. Countries like Austria and Scotland that have already lowered their voting ages have experienced considerable success in this aspect. In the Scottish referendum in 2014, 71% of voters aged 16-17 cast their ballots, which was the highest voter turnout among any age demographic. Elections in Austria have found that within the 16 to 20 age group, 16 year olds had the highest voter turnout. It also appears that there is a “trickle up effect in the whole family when youth are involved in politics,” according to Andrew Weaver, the leader of the BC Green Party, who is pushing for this change to be made. He continues by arguing that the whole family’s voting turnout is positively impacted by the conversations that lowering the voting age will foster. On top of all this, habits formed at a younger age are more likely to become lifelong, so the younger people start voting, the more probable it is that they become lifelong voters. Data for Elections Canada shows that voting consistently for the first few elections results in an 85% chance of creating habitual voters. Allowing teens to vote provincially will encourage them to become lifelong participants in politics, thereby increasing the voter turnout.

Creating a culture of engagement by allowing youth as young as 16 years old to vote will help ensure that democracy is truly being upheld. At 16, teens are expected to become functioning members of society and are able to work, pay taxes, drive, get married, and may be sentenced for crimes as adults under the law. According to the Bureau of Labour Statistics, the part-time and full-time employment rate of those aged 16 to 17 in the U.S. in the past year has ranged from 80.2 to 84.7%, showing that youth do in fact actively participate in society. All of these activities are directly affected by the work of politicians and as Green Party leader Andrew Weaver stated, “the notion of taxation without representation is not one that is founded within our democracy.” Another fundamental pillar of democracy is having everyone’s voice heard, and voting is one of the most effective ways of expressing your values. The final important component of democracy is civil society, or the educated public, and lowering the voting age will encourage youth to become educated through both experience and the buzz created around politics. Currently, 17% of B.C.’s consistent non-voters cited lack of knowledge as the main cause for their apathy, but lowering the voting age will create conversation within peer groups and families and motivate citizens to get educated. It is critical to our democratic process that everyone feels that they have the tools to participate. Lowering the voting age will combat the disenfranchisement of youth and ensure that all voices are heard in dialogue, upholding our standard of democracy.

Finally, allowing 16 year olds to vote provincially in B.C. will empower teens and enable them to become accustomed to this aspect of adult life. Voting gives teens, an age group that is looking to assert itself, a voice, which is hugely important for their development. Efforts to involve youth politically like the Student Vote program have proven themselves to be widely successful, with over 170000 elementary and high school students in the province participating, reinforcing the fact that age doesn’t necessarily indicate political maturity. Enfranchising youth in the political world proves time and time again to be as important as it is beneficial to young people, and as ex B.C. Minister of Finance Mike de Jong said:

Instead of simply decrying the fact that fewer and fewer people are participating, we have to create a culture of engagement, and the only way to do that is to say to a student at a formative time in their lives, you are full members of society, and instead of leaving here and never voting or never voting until you’re 40 or 50, here’s your chance to make a difference. (qtd. in the Globe and Mail)

Keeping youth enfranchised so that they can become acclimated to the adult habit of voting is essential. Sixteen year olds are as capable of making well thought out, or cold cognitive decisions as their older counterparts. There is no reason that youth shouldn’t be able to familiarise themselves with the important responsibility of voting at the younger age of 16 as it will contribute to the enfranchisement and development of teens as well as their habitualization to this important aspect of adult life.

Sixteen year olds should be allowed to cast their ballots in British Columbian provincial elections. Doing so will give teens a voice and allow them to become familiarized with this adult responsibility, help guarantee that democracy is truly taking place by ensuring taxation with representation and will increase the overall voter turnout. With such crucial components of society on the line, enfranchising youth as young as 16 years old by letting them vote is a crucial step in B.C’s development that the provincial government must take.

 

Works Cited

“Age-Based Legal Rights.” Legal Rights for Youth, Justice Education Society, 2016, www.legalrightsforyouth.ca/age-based-legal-rights.

 

“Andrew Weaver Introduces Bill to Lower the Voting Age in B.C.” Greens of British Columbia, Green Party of B.C., 20 Feb. 2017, http://www.bcgreens.ca/andrew_weaver_introduces_bill_to_lower_the_voting_age_in_b_c.

 

Bailey, Ian, and Justine Hunter. “Mike De Jong Wants to Drop Voting Age to 16.” The Globe and Mail, The Globe and Mail, 16 Dec. 2010, www.theglobeandmail.com/news/british-columbia/mike-de-jong-wants-to-drop-voting-age-to-16/article1320093/.

 

Birch, Sarah, et al. “Votes at 16: What the UK Can Learn from Austria, Norway and the Crown Dependencies.” Democratic Audit UK, 5 Oct. 2013, http://www.democraticaudit.com/2013/09/28/votes-at-16-what-the-uk-can-learn-from-austria-norway-and-the-crown-dependencies/.

 

Bureau of Labour Statistics. “A-10. Unemployment Rates by Age, Sex, and Marital Status, Seasonally Adjusted.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.Department of Labor, 2017, http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm.

 

Burgar, Joanna, and Martin Monkman. Who Heads to the Polls?: Exploring the Demographics of Voters in British Columbia. March 2010. BCStats, 2010, 142.34.128.33/docs/stats/Who-heads-to-the-polls.pdf.

 

“Electoral History of B.C.” Elections BC, Elections BC, 2017, 142.34.128.33/index.php//resources/electoral-history-of-bc/.

 

“Fast Facts- Youth Voting in B.C.” 142.34.128.33/docs/news/FF-YouthVoting-20090223.pdf.

 

Jospeh, Chanté, and Andrew Mycock. “Argument: Should 16-Year-Olds Get the Vote?” New Internationalist, New Internationalist, 1 Sept. 2013, newint.org/sections/argument/2013/09/01/vote-argument/.

 

Malatest, R.A., and Associates. “National Youth Survey Report.” Elections Canada, Elections Canada, 20 Sept. 2011, www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=rec%2Fpart%2Fnysr&document=p3&lang=e#a50.

 

Mangione, Kendra. “Lower Voting Age to 16 in B.C., Green Party Argues.” CTV News, CTV News, 12 May 2016, bc.ctvnews.ca/lower-voting-age-to-16-in-b-c-green-party-argues-1.2899791.

 

Plante, Thomas. “Health Habits Develop Early and Are Hard to Change.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 29 May 2012, www.psychologytoday.com/blog/do-the-right-thing/201205/health-habits-develop-early-and-are-hard-change.

 

“The Results.” Student Vote British Columbia Election 2017, Student Vote, May 2017, studentvote.ca/bc2017/the-results/.

 

“Scottish Independence: Poll Reveals Who Voted, How and Why.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 20 Sept. 2014, http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/sep/20/scottish-independence-lord-ashcroft-poll.

Statistics BC “B.C. Voter Participation: 1983 to 2013.” http://www.elections.bc.ca/docs/stats/bc-voter-participation-1983-2013.pdf.

 

Steinberg, Laurence. “Let Science Decide the Voting Age.” New Scientist, New Scientist, 8 Oct. 2014, http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22429900-200-let-science-decide-the-voting-age/.

 

“Unemployment Rates by Age, Sex, and Marital Status, Seasonally Adjusted.” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S.Department of Labor, 2017, http://www.bls.gov/web/empsit/cpseea10.htm.

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Are We All Capable Of Rationalizing Genocide? How Do We Make It Stop? — August 27, 2018

Are We All Capable Of Rationalizing Genocide? How Do We Make It Stop?

Today we have a post from Gita about the horrors humanity inflicts on each other. Let us know what you think in the comments: how do we become better people? 

 

My inquiry question is tied to the largest series of death camps in history, where six million Jewish people were killed as part of an ethnic cleansing. However, I recognize that genocides do not only occur on foreign land. It can be argued that the First Nations people of Canada have faced similar persecution, and ultimately a cultural genocide much like that of the Holocaust. Half a century later here is what has me hung up: how could an individual come to rationalize, let alone endorse, the atrocities that were being committed in front of them? Is humanity capable of repeating history because matters of self-righteousness, like superiority, arrogance and egotism, are innate? Are we doomed?

In attempting to make sense of this dilemma, I proposed a timeline; I thought about what has happened in the past, where we stand presently, and where I see us heading in the future – and we will get to that.

So first, let’s take it back to the Holocaust. I read Christopher Browning’s Ordinary Men, which traces the members of a single German unit, Reserve Police Battalion 101, throughout their military duty, as they are instructed to kill innocent Jewish men, women, and children face-to-face in Poland. Browning documents their transition from men, originally ironically deemed unworthy of conscription, to efficient killers.

“Having explained what awaited his men, Trapp then made an extraordinary offer: if any of the men among them did not feel up to the task that lay before him, he could step out” (Page 2).

Browning questions how ‘ordinary men’ could commit such extraordinary crimes, because these men were not desk murderers who could take refuge in distance, routine and bureaucratic understatements that veiled the reality of mass murder. These men saw their victims face to face. No one participating in the events described in Browning’s historical account could have had the slightest doubt about what he was involved in.

No longer can there remain the misconception that the men of the Police Battalion faced a lack of choice altogether regarding the situations they faced. So why was the number of men who declared themselves unwilling to participate so small in the beginning?

“Nazism was cruel because Nazis were cruel; and the Nazis were cruel because cruel people tended to become Nazis” (Page 166).

But it’s not that simple.

I came to understand that, when placed in a coherent group setting, most people adhere to the commands given, even if they find the actions morally reprehensible. Additionally, individuals will more than likely follow orders and commit actions they would never do of their own volition when they perceive the orders as having originated from an authority.

“‘Who would have dared,’ one policeman declared empathetically, ‘to lose face before the assembled troops… I must answer that no one wants to be thought coward’” (Page 64-65).

Everywhere society conditions people to respect and defer to authority. Indeed, society could scarcely function otherwise. Within virtually every social collective, the peer group exerts tremendous pressures on behaviour and sets moral norms. Those who did not shoot risked isolations, rejection and ostracism – a very uncomfortable prospect within the framework of a tight-knit unit stationed abroad, amongst a hostile population, so that the individual had presumably nowhere else to turn for support and social contact.

Another policeman, more aware of what truly required courage, said quite simply “I was cowardly” (p. 71).

The Holocaust was not caused by a unique form of German prejudice, or anti-Semitism; it was brought about by human flaws present in bureaucratic  society. Uncover the mindset of a group of mass murderers – and one reveals ordinary men.

So great, I thought; we’re all doomed. And yet, I was again caught up by one tiny detail.

In reading a compilation of short stories and Canadian essay compositions, I again found that, as children, we are naïve and easily influenced by the cultural teachings that surround us. We are taught right from wrong in accordance with the moral constructs of our society. Yet, for all the influence society may hold over us, this does not prevent individuals from acting against our moral constructs. We identify this at all levels of society, from the innocence of a child refusing to share, to the terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels.

Often, today, society prefers to assign blame for the atrocities that have torn a hole in humanity’s reputation. Perhaps it lies with society, or perhaps with the individual. Simply stated, a matter of nature or nurture.

As children, we are taught right from wrong in accordance with the moral constructs of our society. But again, for all the influence society may hold over us, it still fails in preventing individuals from expressing their inner darkness and contradicting society’s morals. What I have come to realize is that, in narrowing our field of focus to solely determine if genocide is the result of nature or nurture, the matter itself becomes irrelevant, almost obsolete. We are evading the inherent truth that, regardless of whether each of us has been born innately evil, or act this way as a result of learned behaviour, darkness resonates within each of us. However the decision to unleash it has always rested solely in our hands. There is undeniably the factor of choice.

Unfortunately for us, humanity doesn’t have the greatest track record when it comes to decision-making. Once again, say goodbye, because we are completely and utterly doomed – ok, well, there might be something here, but don’t get your hopes up yet, because it is a timely process.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”  – Albert Einstein

Today, Raymond Mason is 64 years old, but he can still feel the sting of the strap landing across his hands and back, and the hollow empty pit of hunger in his stomach, aching. He can still remember silently weeping in tune with others’ at only the darkest hours of night. If Einstein was correct, then this is the education that Raymond Mason received. It is time for us all to be re-educated.

Reading Drew Hayden Taylor’s play Education is Our Right, I found that our subconscious biases are what allow us to become familiar with stereotypes as we are taught what to expect and from whom to expect it. Where media is our educator, racism has often been found embedded in these stereotypes, which continue to taint our perspectives regardless of age.

When it comes to First Nations in Canada, for too long the term education was shrouded with the implications of assimilation. So how were Canadians supposed to react to the given circumstances?  But no longer can we live in ignorance or accept education in its previous forms. No longer must we simply condemn “the aim of education to destroy[ing] the Indian” (Davian 1879). We must now seek to provide support to communities, and recognize what passed.

In writing that “Educated Indians cause trouble” (page 120) in Education is Our Right, Drew Hayden Taylor implied that any individual with an opinion and means of expression, regardless of their skin colour, has the means to instigate change.

 

Education is what has the power to reverse bad decisions in the making. It can shed light, amplify voice, and bring about new socially accepted standards.

Recognize that education is about learning from each other. Learn, and learn to adapt, because education is not my right, or your right, or their right. As appropriately stated by Drew Hayden Taylor: Education is Our Right.

In the past it was ordinary individuals who stood by genocide, a story with far too few heroes and all too many perpetrators and victims. So yes, as it is clear, we are all quite capable of rationalizing genocide ourselves.

But, there has always been a choice.

So, if there is any hope in swaying humanity from repeating history, it lies with collectively re-approaching and re-defining our education.

I guess we might be fine after all.

Canadian Healthcare – How it Came to Be — August 22, 2018

Canadian Healthcare – How it Came to Be

Have you ever thought about how lucky we are as Canadians to have good healthcare? Vedanshi did too, and is here to tell us about the history of this wonderful institution.

 

I found myself wondering from a hospital room one day about the current state of the medical system in Canada. Healthcare in our nation is accessible, and affordable for citizens. Did you know about the fascinating history behind how this system came to be what it is today? Don’t worry, I didn’t either, but I’ve done the research to save  you the time by satiating your curiosity right away.

The first provincial hospital insurance program was introduced in Saskatchewan in the year 1947, a first step towards the path to our medical system today. Ten years later in 1957, there was an initiative introduced to expand this system to a national scale, however, there was much opposition from businesses, insurance companies, and even doctors! Furthermore, the Canadian Medical Association made it clear in 1960 that they would not support any funded medical care structure. After a period of long and passionate campaigns in opposition to these new ideas, which include the likes of even protests and strikes, the minority government in Ottawa introduced a program where half of the medical costs would be covered in 1966.

This program introduced a new era of healthcare and professional standards in the medical field. For example, doctors now dropped an old habit of charging whatever lump sum amount they desired to their patients. This success was short-lived as doctors soon decided to charge surplus amounts to their patients so that they were able to boost their income. This is called “extra-billing.” However, not all hope was lost for Canadians. In 1984, the Trudeau government introduced the Canada Health Act. This act banned “extra-billing.”

The year 1997 saw some dramatic shifts in the healthcare field. It was this year that many Canadians were infected with the AIDS virus and Hepatitis C. This is one of the nation’s darkest chapters to date in the domain of health, safety, and well-being.  The same year as this so-called “tainted blood scandal,” Pharmacare made sure that patients no longer needed to pay to see their doctor at each and every visit. In addition, the National Forum on Health took the stance that public healthcare needed to expand to include home care as well.

Today, we have come a long way. Our current healthcare system allows for the costs of treatment and consultation for any health related condition or issue to be covered. However, mental health and home care are not included in the health plan. This is most certainly something that we can continue to work towards improving, as we are able to recognize the equal importance of mental health and well-being to physical health. Here’s to working together to continuing to evolve the health care system to provide even better treatment and services for healthier, and happier Canadians.

A History of Our National Anthem — August 20, 2018

A History of Our National Anthem

Today, Rehma is here with her first-ever blog post to tell us about the history of an important symbol: Canada’s national anthem. 

 

“O Canada” is our national anthem. Usually, in schools and Canadian events we sing this anthem to show our love for the country, but have you ever wondered about its history?

 

Calixa Lavallée

Born in 1842, in southern Quebec was a boy named name Calixa Lavallee. He was O Canada’s original composer. He got his first gig at age 9, he played the organ barefooted in a church. At fifteen he followed numerous musicians from Montreal to New Orleans. Calixa enlisted in the Union Army at the start of the American Civil War and served as a cornetist; he was wounded and discharged with a monthly pension of $8.

Calixa then worked as a composer. He travelled through Quebec, Boston, and France. Calixa composed the music to “O Canada” and Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier, a judge and poet wrote the lyrics. He died penniless in Boston in 1891.

 

Sir Adolphe-Basile Routhier

Born on May 8th, 1839, to farmer and veteran Charles Routhier, and Angélique Lefleur, Sir Routhier was a lawyer, judge, Chief Justice, and poet. His childhood was not very known, except for a piece of written work he wrote at the end of his life. “All that is known about his [Sir Routhier’s] childhood is what he wrote near the end of his life in “Souvenirs d’enfance,” which was published in the Revue Canadienne (Montréal) in 1920.” Sadly he died on the 27th of June 1920.

 

Our 2018 anthem

If you may not know, recently Canada had a change to their national anthem. The phrase “True patriot love in all thy sons command” has been changed to “in all of us command.” This has happened because of the new bill. Towards this change, Prime minister Justin Trudeau has tweeted about it. His original tweet states:

“Mauril’s bill to make O Canada gender neutral passed third reading in the Senate tonight – another positive step towards gender equality. #inallofuscommand.” Along with this change, there has been a lot of disagreement. For example, Denise Batters who is a conservative Senator tweeted: “Shameful, anti-democratic behaviour by #Trudeau-appointed senators, including #SenCA Speaker, as they shut down legitimate debate in Chamber.”

 

The Maple Leaf Forever

“The Maple Leaf Forever” was written by Alexander Muir in 1867. His inspiration started when he noticed a large maple leaf tree in his garden. This patriotic song became well known and popular in Canada at that time. You may wonder why this song didn’t become the national anthem of Canada. That is because in that time the Francophone population of Canada thought that it was celebrating British military victory in its verses. the reason why I’m talking about “The Maple Leaf Forever” is because of our change in the 2018 anthem. As I talked about earlier they changed a verse for gender equality. Some citizens are wondering why don’t they use “The Maple Leaf Forever” as the new anthem. They say that the song is gender neutral and has a better beat to it. This idea has not reached the government nor the Prime Minister, so for now, our national anthem will still be “O Canada.”

 

A national anthem is very important for a nation, its culture, tradition, languages, ethnicity, people, festivals, region and so on. As Canadians, the anthem ties us together, whether it’s for peace or war. Our anthem is played at most events. The Canadian anthem works like an icebreaker because the audience can relate. I will end this blog post with my favourite lyric of Canada’s national anthem: “With glowing hearts we see thee rise/The true north strong and free.”

An Interview with a Professional: Stephanie Halmhofer, Bioarchaeologist — August 13, 2018

An Interview with a Professional: Stephanie Halmhofer, Bioarchaeologist

One thing we love to do here at the Alumni Council is to interview professionals in the fields relating to history. You may have seen Jolie’s interview a few months back with Podcaster Daniel Clark, and here we have another one! Alumni Lucas interviewed Stephanie Halmhofer, bioarchaeologist, and writer at Bones, Stones, and Books. She is currently running a survey on Canadians, archaeology, and social media use so please help her out by doing the survey and spreading it widely – you can hear her talk more about the project on the Archaeological Fantasies podcast, episode 96. 

It’s something we definitely don’t get to do enough of, so if you’re a professional and you’re interested in either being interviewed by a student for a blog post, or joining us on a call next year, please leave us a comment. We’d love to talk to you! 

 

Hey everyone! Around a month ago, the Alumni Council had the wonderful opportunity to attend a conference call with Stephanie Halmhofer, a bioarchaeologist (someone who studies human skeletal remains) who has done notable work digging and exploring around the country. However, since I was unable to attend the call, I decided to email Stephanie a few questions I had about her profession. Being a complete novice to the “field,” I found Stephanie’s replies super cool and exciting to read. I have attached them below. Enjoy, and a huge thanks to Stephanie for being such a great interview subject!

 

How do archaeologists get paid, and who are they paid by?

We get paid a through a variety of ways. We get paid for doing surveys, excavations, writing reports, and conducting lab work. Sometimes we also get paid for outreach efforts like going to schools/events to give presentations, interviews for TV programs, doing consulting work for TV programs (whether a documentary or a fictional film looking to get the archaeology right), etc. Who pays us also really varies. If you work for a university, it’s the university that pays you.

You can apply for grants as well to help pay for your work supplies (like lab equipment, travel, etc.) and to help you pay the students or employees you hire. But important to note is that the grant does NOT pay you. If you don’t work for a university (I don’t work for a university), you can also apply for grants for the same purposes, but again we cannot use the grant money to pay ourselves. Like I mentioned, not all archaeologists work for universities.

Many of us work in what’s called Cultural (sometimes Heritage) Resource Management. This is the archaeological work that is done in conjunction with construction projects, city-planning projects (i.e. the city wants to build a new public park and include some of the heritage of the area in the planning), area studies, etc. Our pay comes from the people who hire us. Sometimes that’s an engineering firm, sometimes a construction company, sometimes it’s the local or provincial or federal government (I sometimes get hired by Parks Canada and their funding comes from the federal government). Sometimes it’s a home-owner. What a lot of home-owners don’t realize is that archaeological permitting is also part of their construction process (this is an on-going struggle archaeologists have, making this fact better understood). So just like you have to get the proper building permits in place to build a new balcony or addition to your house, you also have to have archaeological permits in place making sure that *if* there are archaeological resources on your property these resources are protected and managed properly. So just as a home-owner pays the construction companies, they would pay archaeologists.

 

What do you think the role of an archaeologist is in helping society improve (i.e. how archaeology helps society become more knowledgeable/well informed)?

I always say that archaeology is as much about the present and the future as it is about the past. Archaeology can offer some unique insights to help society better prepare itself for the future, especially with regards to matters involving the environment. Including climate change. We can look to the past and see how people managed their environments and how they dealt with climate change. We can see what worked and what didn’t work and use that information to help develop environmental sustainability policies today. For example, controlled burning is something that has been practiced for thousands of years. We can see archaeological evidence for controlled burning and the environmental results of it and how that benefited (or perhaps didn’t?) people in the past. Another cool example is the Clam Garden Network. First Nations peoples along the coast developed incredible clam gardens to help sustain an important food source, and today Parks Canada, Dana Lepofsky (at SFU), and several First Nations are working together to continue the use of clam gardens along the coast. Archaeologists are also rapidly becoming involved in climate change studies/policy-making as well.

 

How do you consider the moral ethics of archaeology/justify what you do? (ex. how do you make a difference between digging for historical purposes and “grave robbing”)?

This is an especially important question. The answer comes down to differences in the purposes/how/who/whats of the work. Grave-robbers/looters destroy sites and take objects for personal monetary gain. They don’t care about the site and its importance to descendant communities. They only care about how much money they can get for that mask or that projectile point. Archaeologists have an extraordinary amount of ethics they follow. Nothing is sold for money. Descendant communities are always involved in the work (some are more involved than others).

We also have very strict government guidelines, regulations, and requirements for conducting archaeological work – not everyone is legally allowed to be an archaeologist! We have to meet certain requirements before we’re given permission to conduct our work (like educational requirements, experience requirements). As a bioarchaeologist specifically, my work is considered highly culturally sensitive. So, EVERYTHING I do is done in collaboration with the descendant communities. I start off every conversation with “How can I help you, what would you like me to do.” My work is determined by what the descendant community decides. Grave-robbers/looters don’t do that.

Another form of ethical consideration is archaeologists standing up and speaking out against pseudoarchaeology. Pseudoarchaeology is when archaeology is used for alternative purposes and about 99% of the time it’s used to support very racist agendas. Myself and a small but growing number of colleagues spend a lot of time talking about when pseudoarchaeology is wrong/racist, and we use our voices to help support the communities being impacted by it.

 

Are there any accurate and non-fake news documentaries about archaeology (this question is partly inspired after I read your article about the racist TV show) that you would recommend to me?

There are many fantastic archaeology documentaries and shows out there. If you’re interested in seeing archaeology physically take place, there’s a show on APTN (all the episodes are available on the APTN website) called Wild Archaeology. Three First Nations hosts (including Dr. Rudy Reimer at SFU) travel around Canada visiting various archaeological sites. It’s very well produced and really informative. Right now all of season 1 is on the APTN website and they’re in the process of filming season 2 (the site I’ve worked on quite a bit in Sechelt is going to be featured in season 2). Another fantastic show is called Time Team. The British one is the original. I’m pretty sure you can find episodes on Youtube.

If you’re interested in learning about specific sites or specific topics, spend some time on Youtube looking for documentaries because there are a lot of good ones on there! Pseudoarchaeology (which is what I referred to in that blog post about the CBC documentary that you mentioned) is fairly easy to spot once you know what you’re looking for. This is a blog post I wrote about learning how to spot pseudoarchaeology. One word you’ll hear quite a bit in pseudoarch is “mainstream.” The “mainstream” archaeologists and historians are hiding the truth. The “mainstream” archaeologists and historians refuse to look at things this way. Etc. But often pseudoarch documentaries will claim that some sort of truth is being hidden or manipulated, so if you find yourself watching a show and they start talking about things like that you’ll know you need to watch it critically because it’s likely pseudoarchaeology! Avoid any documentary featuring Graham Hancock. He is a huge pseudoarchaeologist who presents himself very professionally (so many consider him an actual archaeologist).

 

How much time do you spend in the field digging compared to examining samples in a lab?

Lab versus field time varies with every project. But typically one week in the field = three weeks in the lab. This includes things like writing reports and cleaning/analyzing artifacts. If you have to do special additional testing on artifacts (i.e. carbon dating, XRF, etc.) that would add a lot of additional time. But if you didn’t uncover many artifacts on your site than you won’t have to spend much time in the lab. We typically have a “field season” which runs from mid-April to end of Oct/early Nov. That of course varies each year depending on temperatures and what the projects are (i.e. if a construction company is working in the winter and we need to be there then we work in the winter too). Our “lab season” will then pick up as soon as the field season is finished.

I’m in a bit of unique situation right now where I’m actually spending quite a bit of time in the lab instead of the field. We need to finish analyzing the artifacts from a large project we started last October. We spent 8 weeks excavating in Point Pelee National park and we have about 60,000 artifacts we need to go through. So, while my colleagues are all out in the field I’ve been spending time in the lab going through all of these artifacts because they need to be finished before the end of August (when I move back to BC) and before the next phase of our project starts, which would be another 6-8 weeks excavating. So far, I’ve spent about 3 months working with these artifacts and it’s probably going to take me at least another month to finish them.

 

What’s the coolest thing you’ve ever found on a dig?

Honestly, it’s all very cool. And to be even more honest, the artifacts themselves aren’t what’s important. An artifact on its own tells us almost nothing. What’s important is to look at the context surrounding the artifact. Where was it found? What position was it sitting in? What was it sitting near? Things like that. That being said, A few things stand out in mind. A few years ago, I found some glass beads in BC and it turns out they’re an extremely rare style! So rare, in fact, that this is the first time they have ever been found on an archaeological site in Canada. I ended up writing about them for my school work.

I also had the chance to work on a cool historic site in Kingston, ON, a couple of years ago. It was associated with Fort Frontenac (and almost right beside the fort). It had some fantastic stone foundation walls, stone sewer drains, and amazing historical artifacts going back to the mid-1700’s. And the project in Point Pelee that I mentioned above has also been super cool. It’s a huge site with parts of it being about 2000 years old! Beautiful pottery and projectile points, plus lots of post-holes that help us see where the longhouses would have stood.

Note: Below are some links to articles written by Stephanie that I would recommend to everyone as great reading!

https://bonesstonesandbooks.com/2016/07/18/so-what-do-archaeologists-actually-do/

https://bonesstonesandbooks.com/2018/01/15/sprinkling-some-grains-of-salt-on-ice-bridge/

You can also find Stephanie on Twitter: @Bones_Canada.