An interview with Jenifer Brousseau of Wild Archaeology

I recently caught up with Jenifer Brousseau, co-host of APTN’s Wild Archaeology, and we had a quick chat about her time on the show. Jenifer shared some funny behind-the-scenes stories and also talked about how this remarkable experience continues to shape her life today.

What was the most challenging aspect of this show for you, and what was the reward?
Jenifer Brousseau: Everything from a technical aspect was challenging because we visited remote areas from coast to coast to coast. Every terrain we trekked on was always a challenge. From climbing mountains up the Squamish, B.C., in the very first episode to trekking on the tundra at Richards Island, NWT. The tundra was really difficult because you cannot go fast. It is bumpy like moguls on a ski hill so you have to walk carefully or you will break your ankle. But each of those challenges was a part of the beauty in it; being able to do these physical challenges. But at the end, it was like Christmas because you would go somewhere and you find these amazing artifacts and you think that trek was just so worth it.

Can you tell me one of your funniest memories that viewers did not get to see?
That would have to be the time a bottle washed up on shore when we were at Calvert Island, B.C. It was the mystery of the finger in the bottle, or what was rumoured to be a finger. The freaked out the archaeology students who found it while having a fire on a beach.  Rumours spread quickly throughout camp and we thought this might be one wild episode gone sideways. Everyone discussing the story behind this finger. Dr. Farid Rahemtulla of the Hakai Institute was finally found, and examined the finger only to discover that the finger was actually just a parsnip.

Now that some time has passed since filming ended more than a year ago, what for you is the most memorable experience?
Going to the Pacific West Coast and experiencing the beauty that we saw there was incredible, and then going to the old long house and being on sacred ground there was a highlight. But one thing that really stood out for me was the day we went to Head-Smashed-In, AB, and we sat in the teepee with Reg Crowshoe. You only see a portion of it in the show, but we sat in that teepee with him for most of the day. I remember at the end of the day, going out for dinner and not feeling hungry because I had sat listening to Reg Crowshoe all day long and I was full. I think when you sit with an elder and you hear the richness of these stories it is like being fed a big steak dinner, but for your soul.

Having had this opportunity to participate in Wild Archaeology, what are you personally taking forward?
I have worked in our communities for many years with youth and young people doing workshops, but I have always been on my own journey of my own reclamation. I grew up with a sense of identity crisis, not knowing who I am, not feeling comfortable in my own skin. I didn’t understand our history and growing up I didn’t feel that I knew much.  And while I have been on this journey on Wild Archaeology, I still had my work in my communities. So this has been a journey of my own reclamation.

One of the major things outside of Wild Archaeology, I am also artistic director of Imagi’Nation Collective, which offers youth mentoring, suicide prevention and life promotion workshops. And I think a lot of what this show has done for me has been really magical for me  because I can use this reclamation that I have had in going on this journey and learning all that I have learned about my history. The history of First Nations people, the history of my ancestors has been this beautiful tapestry that has unfolded before me.

Just recognizing the beauty of where I come from  and the strength that I come from, the resilience that I come from, the creativity that I come from  are all amazing things. As I share in the work that I do promoting life and suicide prevention, these are things that I can impart. I toured with a production of a play that I wrote seven years ago called ‘Beneath the Surface,’ and I think that there is a real irony in that what I do as a host on Wild Archaeology because as I dig beneath the surface but in this play, I talk about our stories and traumas and our healing. Now on Wild Archaeology I talk about our resilience and our strength and my own personal reclamation. It is a really beautiful tie-in for who I am what I do and what I can share with Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canada.

Any closing thoughts for young viewers out there?
I think in doing this project I had to have my eyes wide open and I think I would recommend: have your eyes wide open to learn our stories because that is where our foundation is. Knowledge is power and I have said this on the show: ‘When  you know the truth of who you are and where you have come from then you know the truth of where you are going and you can walk in that strength and understanding that you are the the result of the love of thousands and that is what our ancestors say to us.’

My thanks go out to Jenifer for taking the time to share her story with us at TV, Eh? I personally learned a lot as I listened to her story and her remarkable adventures on Wild Archaeology.

The final episode of Wild Archaeology can be seen Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.