Rudy Reimer, MA, Archaeology
Some archaeologists use trowels and shovels. Dr. Rudy Reimer arrives at dig sites armed with an entourage of make-up artists, cameramen and film grips.
Reimer is an Assistant Professor cross-appointed with SFU’s Department of First Nations Studies and Department of Archaeology. He graduated with a Master’s Degree in Archaeology at SFU in 2000 before completing a Doctoral Degree in the same discipline from McMaster University. He is a member of the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw (Squamish) First Nation.
Reimer combines forms of cultural knowledge, such as oral histories with geological analyses, to investigate landscapes and interpret their pasts. His work is about helping Indigenous communities explore and manage their own cultural resource and environmental assets, as compared to the historical practice where scientists excavated artifacts to serve external parties such as museums.
Reimer is also supporting First Nation-led archaeological projects across Canada through his role as host of a soon-to-be-released documentary series called Wild Archeology. The show follows him and his two assistants as they tour Indigenous-led archaeology sites across Canada. The program will be broadcast on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in 2016.
“Our goal with the program is to bring to life the extensive history of human habitation in Canada — and to show how much of that culture is still thriving today thanks to the work that Indigenous communities are doing in leading their own archaeological projects,” says Reimer.
One of Reimer’s earliest community-based archaeology projects was a resource management map for the Skwxwu7mesh Uxwumixw First Nation. The map identified what areas were critical to the traditional practices of his people and was later used to guide the community’s economic development. The information that Reimer and the rest of the team used to create the map was gathered through community workshops, guided surveys, and interviews with elders.
“The end result truly represented the voice of the people. I realized then that this is how research needs to be done — in a way that engages communities and is meaningful to them,” says Reimer.
Reimer is not only driven by his passion to support First Nation communities, but also by his belief in the power of archaeology — something he first experienced during his undergraduate degree when he was working part-time for a cultural resource management company called Arcas.
“A mountaineer thought he saw artifacts at a high alpine location in my home nation so we were called in to do a survey. It was a transformative moment — all the oral histories that I had heard from the elders while I was growing up were suddenly there in the land, stretching back thousands of years,” says Reimer.
Reimer was so inspired by the experience, he decided to explore the site and its implications further through his MA thesis with SFU’s Department of Archaeology.
“I felt very supported in my graduate degree at SFU. I got lots of guidance from faculty members in the program during my MA research — that is something that I try to carry on today to help our current students,” he says.
Author: Jackie Amsden