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Professor and Undergraduate Chair
Dr. Yellowhorn grew up on a farm on the Peigan Indian Reserve (Piikani Nation), which fueled his interest in earth sciences and inspired his professional development. He earned his undergraduate degrees in physical geography (BS 1983) and archaeology (BA 1986) from the University of Calgary. His enthusiasm for archaeological field work led to several digs, a curator internship at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary (1986–88) and a fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution (1988). He began graduate studies at Simon Fraser University in archaeology (MA 1993) and he completed his student career at McGill University (PhD 2002).
Dr. Yellowhorn is Piikani and has family and cultural ties to the Peigan Indian Reserve. His Piikani name, Otahkotskina, which translates as Yellow Horn, has been in the family for generations. His early career in archaeology began in southern Alberta where he studied the ancient cultures of the plains. He is especially interested in the mythology and folklore of his Piikani ancestors in both ancient and recent times.
He was appointed to faculty at Simon Fraser University in 2002 and established the Department of First Nations Studies in 2012. He served as Chair from 2012–17 and he teaches courses dedicated to chronicling the experience of Aboriginal people across Canada. He is the past president of the Canadian Archaeological Association (2010–2012) and the first Aboriginal person to hold this title. He continues his involvement in the CAA and is now the co-chair of the Ethics Committee. He is also working on the Ethics Task Force with the Society for American Archaeology as it reviews its statement of ethics for its membership.
Throughout his career, Dr. Yellowhorn has been an advocate of the right of Aboriginal people to be active participants in examining the past through their internal dialogue on the nature of antiquity. He developed his internalist approach to bring a self-reflexive quality to field research that enhances this perspective by appropriating the methods of archaeology to pursue internally defined objectives.
Dr. Yellowhorn is a writer whose compositions have appeared in scholarly and popular journals. His published works included encyclopedic treatments of Indigenous people and educational books for young readers.
Dr. Yellowhorn’s research work in archaeology began with his studies about the ancient history of his Piikani ancestors. He studied plains archaeology in academic and public settings before participating in the heritage consulting industry. He augmented his experience in contract archaeology, conducting impact assessments in advance of terrain altering activities, with historical archaeology research. Since then he has contributed his skills as an archaeologist to the Missing Children Project initiated by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to search for children who died at residential schools.
Dr. Yellowhorn is a native speaker of the Blackfoot language and is working to preserve it and ensure it has a future. He has employed the written version to translate texts of English to Blackfoot and has narrated animated videos that use Blackfoot to teach mathematics. He is now exploring the potential of artificial intelligence to the goal of recruiting citizen linguists to take Blackfoot off the endangered language list and turn it into a boutique language.
Future courses may be subject to change.