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Mar 07, 2002 , vol. 23, no. 5

By Marianne Meadahl

Eldon Yellowhorn brings a unique perspective on his own heritage to the native studies program in which he teaches at SFU.

Recently hired as an assistant professor in archaeology, Yellowhorn, a former sessional instructor, is the first native faculty member to join the department. But he's no stranger to SFU. In 1993, Yellowhorn became the first native in Canada to earn a master of arts degree in archaeology, a feat accomplished at SFU.

Yellowhorn's graduate research focused on how global public policy on Indian lands has affected heritage protection. He followed a new direction when he began doctoral studies at McGill University and hopes to defend his thesis, within a few months, on how native folklore fits into archaeology.

“I'm interested in the use of oral tradition or folklore, as well as archaeological records, because both tap into history through unwritten sources,” says Yellowhorn who was born and raised on the Piikanii (Peigan) reserve in southern Alberta.

After graduating with a B.A. in archaeology from the University of Calgary in 1986, he worked as a curator-intern at the Glenbow museum. A few years later he earned a Smithsonian community scholar fellowship and worked on an archaeological dig in Colorado. Shortly after graduating from SFU, Yellowhorn directed the first all-Native archaeological crew at a dig at McLeod Lake, north of Prince George.

“It was a turning point in our understanding of the past,” says Yellowhorn. “We can now use archaeological techniques to investigate our own history.”

Since then he has also served as a heritage consultant for several bands, including those at McLeod Lake and Seabird Island in the Fraser Valley.

While he enjoys work in the field, Yellowhorn is captivated by museums. “I like the diversion that a trip to a new exhibition entails,” he wrote for Muse magazine.