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Awards and recognition

Community engagement and reconciliation efforts earn SFU Archaeology staff 2022 Staff Achievement Award

March 09, 2023

Behind Canada’s top-ranked archaeology program is a small team of highly engaged staff committed to excellence and collaboration. The administrative and laboratory staff in the Department of Archaeology including, Shannon Wood, Merrill Farmer, Peter Locher, Laura Walker, Kristina Pohl, and Megan Wong, are the recipients of the 2022 Staff Achievement Award in the team category in recognition of their reconciliation efforts, community engagement, and support of research and teaching excellence.

In recent years, SFU Archaeology’s staff has led and supported many events that carry forward the mission and goals of the Department and University. The wide range of events and initiatives that were coordinated in celebration of the Department’s 50th anniversary in 2021 – 2022 is a testament to this. The celebrations included building a legacy site, creating print materials, celebrating alumni, and curating a museum exhibit: 50 Accomplishments and Artifacts: 50 Reasons to Celebrate SFU Archaeology. The staff also engaged with a variety of community partners including Alumni Relations, Indigenous communities, and high schools at various events and initiatives.

The team is heavily involved in advancing reconciliation efforts of the Department and University through the repatriation of ancestral human remains to their Indigenous communities. While the discipline carries an unsettling history of benefiting from appropriating and stealing Indigenous heritage, SFU Archaeology and its staff, are changing the way archaeology is done. At the request of Indigenous communities, the team works to return artifacts and remains that have been retrieved from Indigenous archaeological sites and accumulated from over five decades of operation.

“Since 2011 and under the leadership of Shannon Wood, the Department has carried out 9 repatriations, in a total of about 150 ancestors, and carried out this important work in a very professional and respectful manner which have been appreciated by many First Nations,” says Hugo Cardoso, SFU professor of archaeology and Department chair.

The groups showed off their collaboration abilities and commitment to Indigenization again in the summer of 2022 through the Indigenous Garden Project. Led by Department Manager, Merrill Farmer, the staff secured a piece of land that was over-run by ivy and with the help of the SFU Archaeology community, began its transformation to a native species garden. The garden now includes plants that hold cultural significance to local Coast Salish people — on whose unceded traditional territory SFU resides. The team also commissioned a sculpture of a cormorant, seen as a portent of important archaeological sites, by a Coast Salish artist, creating a place-based connection to the land.

Beyond supporting the Department and faculty through their day-to-day tasks, engaging their community, and advancing reconciliation and Indigenization, members of the team stepped-up during the pandemic to enhance campus safety. The Department’s laboratory staff co-chaired SFU’s Northwest Health and Safety Committee during COVID, reviewing and approving all COVID Plans for various areas across SFU’s Burnaby campus.

The lasting success and strong community of SFU Archaeology would be impossible without its staff members who consistently go above and beyond for the Department with enthusiasm and cooperation.

“[Farmer] supports her staff by diving in, filling the gaps, and demonstrating that no job is too small for her attention. Kristina Pohl and Laura Walker rise to every occasion and have been noted to exuberantly jump into action to move an initiative forward,” says Michele Black, director of administration and strategic planning for the Faculty of Environment. “The laboratory and operations team including Shannon Wood, Peter Locher, and Megan Wong, bring the same level of commitment and dedication to the task of supporting researchers and teaching in the delivery of programming by the top QS ranked Archaeology program in Canada.”