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SFU researcher advancing goals of Indigenous and community archaeology named 2022 Canada Research Chair

November 17, 2022

SFU archaeology professor and member of the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) Rudy Reimer (Yumks) combines western science with Indigenous knowledge to better understand and address issues and questions important to First Nations communities.

This year, Reimer joins SFU’s impressive line-up of Canada Research Chairs (CRC) who are advancing research excellence in the natural sciences, health sciences, social sciences and more while training the next generation of researchers.

Focusing mainly on his home territory and the surrounding Salish Sea area, Reimer uses scientific methods like carbon dating and X-ray fluorescence, alongside traditional knowledge from oral history, ancestry and more to explore topics like the cultural importance of volcanic peaks, and the geochemical analysis of rock paintings throughout B.C.

“As a trained scientist I can run my own samples, in my own labs, with my own equipment. With my inherited Indigenous knowledge, I can view and interpret materials and data sets in ways that others cannot,” says Reimer. “My approach to the investigations of the past place western science and Indigenous knowledge as equally valid sources of data to enhance my interpretations.”

By combining knowledge systems and providing findings back to communities, Reimer helps Indigenous peoples reconnect with their cultural heritage and identity and better understand the connection between land, water and people. This also helps to make his research relevant to academic and First Nations communities.

Reimer is also a co-host on Wild Archaeology, a television series currently in its second season on the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network. Through the series, the Wild Archaeology team explore Canada’s ancient archaeological record to give insight on the untold story of North American Indigenous communities and help dispel misconceptions surrounding their culture and history.

“Wild Archaeology provides an avenue for me and other academics to be of service to Indigenous communities, to enable and empower them to share their histories and to tell their version of ancient history while allowing me to tap into a national and international array of colleagues to collaborate with,” says Reimer.

This CRC appointment will assist Reimer in expanding his research and community impact and addressing goals of Indigenous and community archaeology. In partnership with the Skwxwú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish Nation) community, Reimer’s community-based archaeology research program will investigate archaeological sites in Átl’ḵa7tsem (Howe Sound), British Columbia, to understand ancient human-environmental interactions. This project will support the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Átl’ḵa7tsem Biosphere Initiative, where researchers, community members and decision makers are looking for climate solutions that benefit people and the environment.

“Soon, important decisions will be made about how this region will be managed. My contribution to this is to bring to the table what modern and historical data lack,” says Reimer.

Reimer will also establish an Indigenous archaeology space at SFU’s Department of Archaeology, where researchers and community members can connect over material culture and document cultural interpretations.

“Through my CRC appointment and the existing capabilities with SFU Archaeology, the Squamish Nation and other Coast Salish communities will be able to share their knowledge in a safe space where they can be involved from the beginning of research projects to their end,” says Reimer.