Building a collaborative future: SFU archaeologist named Royal Society of Canada fellow for multi-disciplinary and cross-community approaches to understanding past human-environment relationships

September 06, 2022

Deeply rooted in collaboration, Dana Lepofsky, a professor in the Department of Archaeology, works to advance our understanding and appreciation of the intertwined social and ecological relationships among Indigenous Peoples and their environments. She provides insight into the lives of past generations and unearths age-old management practices that can help address current socio-ecological issues, while protecting and honoring Indigenous culture.

This year, Lepofsky is one of six SFU faculty members to be named a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). RSC fellows are distinguished Canadians from diverse learning backgrounds who have made remarkable contributions in the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and Canadian public life. Induction to the RSC fellowship is considered Canada’s highest academic honour.

Lepofsky integrates diverse kinds of knowledge in her research, including First Nations teachings, language, ethnobotany, ecology, and archaeology.  Working alongside other knowledge holders who share the same curiosity for the past and commitment to the lives of coastal First Nations today greatly strengthens the collaborative research.

Many of her projects focus on working with Indigenous communities to document the multi-dimensional relationships embedded in cultural keystone species and places.  A goal is to share that knowledge broadly with First Nations and settler communities through accessible education tools (e.g.,;;  Bringing together this knowledge in powerful and compelling ways encourages cross-community conversations and a deeper respect for Indigenous heritage.

Lepofsky works to better understand how Indigenous communities have sustainably managed their food resources for millennia.  She is motived by how understanding ancient resource management practices can inform present-day issues of food security and sovereignty.  Lepofsky is committed to working with Indigenous communities to use a deep understanding of Indigenous cultural heritage as a way to celebrate, honour, and protect that heritage.  From documenting the ancient management practices of West Coast clam gardens to understanding the diverse social and ecological connections across cultural landscapes, by integrating western science with traditional knowledge, Lepofsky’s research helps to cement the importance of valuing different knowledge systems.