Dr. Rudy Reimer of Simon Fraser University provides the context of APTN’s Wild Archaeology in the cold open. He is establishing a bridge of understanding between settler nation knowledge and traditional Indigenous knowledge.
Settlers, or mainstream society, demands scientific or documented proof in order for knowledge to have any value or basis. However, knowledge in Indigenous culture is passed through oral history and storytelling.
Dr. Reimer immediately states, after he introduces himself in the traditional way, “Early on it struck me, what my grandfather and grandma told me in the stories they told me, that were passed down to them, they were actually true, because I saw the physical evidence through the artifacts, in the very locations in the mountains they were pointing to when they told me their stories.” He is taking the traditional knowledge and using it to find the scientific proof! And, we get to go along!
In the premiere episode, hosts Jacob Pratt and Jenifer Brousseau—along with Dr. Reimer—travel into the high country of Squamish Nation, B.C., 2,000 metres above sea level and far above the tree line. Dr. Reimer has learned from local Squamish Elders of a site he had yet to explore for ancient artifacts.
We follow their hike and experience the stunning scenery of Squamish Nation in their quest to find their physical proof and discover the pictograph of a Thunderbird drawn on the side of a mountain. With the aid of animation, Dr. Reimer shares the story of the Thunderbird as told to him by his grandparents. We learn, through the shared discussions, of the similarities between traditional stories despite vast geographical distances.
Their quest continues in search of the obsidian artifacts in connection to the stories of the Thunderbird. Dr. Reimer demonstrates a few archaeological techniques in their pursuit, and eventually Jenifer finds a significant artifact. The obsidian samples found date back more than 6,000 years.
I have to be honest, I was really surprised by Wild Archaeology. This was not at all what I was expecting in a docu-series. If every episode is as strong as this introductory one, this will be a fantastic mechanism to drive home the power Indigenous knowledge keepers have. The message is clear: there is a real need to engage young people today with the knowledge contained in oral histories. Wild Archaeology explores those connections, between traditional knowledge and science, something that is key to reconciliation between cultures.
As a teacher, I urge parents to sit down with your children and watch! You will learn about the rich history and geography Canada has to offer and all of you will be entertained!
Wild Archaeology airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.