George Nicholas

Distinguished SFU Professor

Areas of interest

Early postglacial North American archaeology; human ecology; archaeology of wetland landscapes; hunter-gatherer land use; archaeology and Indigenous Peoples; cultural resource management; intellectual property issues in archaeology; archaeology in service of human rights and social justice.


  • BA (Franklin Pierce College)
  • MA (University of Missouri)
  • PhD (University of Massachusetts, Amherst)


My interests are broad ranging in terms of research questions, temporal and geographic focus, and theoretical orientation.

One major research theme has been the archaeology and human ecology of wetlands worldwide, particularly the archaeological record of hunter-gatherer societies, often atypical, associated with them. This extends to more general studies of early postglacial land use in both the northeastern United States and the Interior Plateau of western Canada.

At the same time, much of my research and writing focuses on the evolving relationship between archaeology and Indigenous peoples worldwide. as expressed in differential power relations, theoretical discourse, and actual practice. From 1991–2005, I developed and directed SFU’s Indigenous Archaeology Program on the Kamloops Indian Reserve. This community-based archaeology program was directed to (a) pre-5000 BP archaeological landscape, (b) investigating patterns of long-term land use; (c) the history of plant resource utilization in the Interior Plateau; and (d) Secwepemc heritage management needs.

What links these two research themes has been my concern with (a) landscape, both cultural and archaeological and (b) the quest for representativeness in both the archaeological record and our approach to, and interpretation, of it.

The IPinCH Project

From 2008-2016 I directed the major international research initiative "Intellectual Property Issues in Cultural Heritage: Theory, Practice, Policy" co-developed with Dr. Julie Hollowell (Indiana University) and Dr. Kelly Bannister (University of Victoria) and funded by SSHRCs MCRI program. Our team of 50 scholars and 25 partnering organizations worked to explore and facilitate fair and equitable exchanges of knowledge relating to archaeology. The project was concerned with the theoretical, ethical, and practical implications of commodification, appropriation, and other flows of knowledge about the past, and with how these may affect communities, researchers, and other stakeholders. In 2013, the IPinCH project was awarded the inaugural “Partnership Award” by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Please visit our web site to learn more the project and opportunities for student fellowships and training.

IPinCH Project

Current Research Projects

2019–2021 Co-Principal Investigator, “The Ethics of Studying Indigenous North American Ancient DNA: Moving from Theories to Practices.” (Chip Colwell, PI). National Science Foundation.

2018–2022 Co-Applicant and head of North American team, “International Research Network for Indigenous Studies and Cultural Diversity” (Hirofumi Kato, PI). Core-to-Core Program Advanced Research Network funded by Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.


Advisory Boards: Heritage and SocietyJournal of the Archaeological Society of South Australia; Indigenous Archaeologies book series (Routledge); American Antiquity (2012-2015)

Editorships: Co-editor, Research Handbooks in Archaeology series (2004-2012, World Archaeological Congress); Editor, Canadian Journal of Archaeology (2001-2007)


This instructor is currently not teaching any courses.