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Knowledge Mobilizers: SFU researcher collaborates with Indigenous communities to disrupt traditional archaeology

December 10, 2020
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Knowledge Mobilizers is a story series from the Knowledge Mobilization Hub that highlights knowledge mobilization (KM) projects around the university. At SFU, KM is about collaborating on, and exchanging, research discoveries to create a positive impact in our far-reaching communities.

By Lupin Battersby

For SFU archaeology professor Rudy Reimer, co-hosting “Wild Archaeology,” a science show on APTN that explores archaeology across Canada from coast to coast to coast was a dream come true. In Reimer’s work on the show, and as an SFU professor, he takes a community engaged and culturally responsible approach to archaeology research and knowledge mobilization.

Reimer’s academic career path is built upon his experience as a member of the Squamish Nation, his early work experiences, and a need to disrupt traditional archaeology.  “Archaeology has a dark past, it was extractive and inaccessible,” he says.

Reimer makes archaeology accessible by combining archaeological science with community wisdom and oral histories. He sees knowledge mobilization as integral to all three core areas of academic work: not only his research, but also his teaching and service.

In the classroom, Reimer incorporates knowledge mobilization through experiential learning activities that explore Indigenous perspectives and western academic disciplines. His students engage in walkabouts with reflexive journaling and storytelling.

As an Indigenous faculty member, Reimer took it upon himself to share Coast Salish cultural protocols with the SFU community. In the archaeology department, he has worked tirelessly to support a high standard for repatriating remains. .

Reimer’s approach to research knowledge mobilization is exemplified through his work as a co-host of APTN’s “Wild Archaeology.” All 26 episodes involved collaborating with an Indigenous community to explore archaeological questions of importance to the community, analyzing the archaeological evidence within the context, and stories of the community.

As Reimer explains, “data doesn’t speak for itself. The history, stories and culture explain it. The science is strengthened by oral histories, and the community is strengthened by learning more about the history.”

“Wild Archaeology” makes archaeology accessible to the public, dispels misconceptions of Indigenous communities, and often leads to further research collaborations for Reimer. And, he says it is “one of the funnest career activities I’ve done!”

Reimer has found that if you put yourself out there, opportunities present themselves. “Wild Archaeology” was one such opportunity. He did not set out to develop a television show (even if he had dreamed of it) but rather was approached by a producer about the idea. For Reimer, “it is a long game, to build, grow and benefit from community collaborations. To be successful, you need to do small achievable things, and it will grow into something big.”

Catch up with “Wild Archaeology” Saturday mornings at 8 a.m. Pacific Time on APTN.

Wondering how you might start mobilizing research with your community? Check out the Knowledge Mobilization Hub, attend a knowledge mobilization workshop, and get in touch with Lupin Battersby, the knowledge mobilization officer.

Interested in storytelling? Attend the Knowledge Mobilization and Digital Humanities Innovation Lab’s end-of-year research sharing and networking PechaKucha event on December 10th.