Tag Archives: Wild Archaeology

On location with APTN’s Wild Archaeology

Inside the longhouse at Kayanase, Six Nations

In July of 2017, I caught up with the cast and crew of APTN’s Wild Archaeology while they were shooting Season 2 episodes in Southern Ontario. The day I arrived on set, hosts Dr. Rudy Reimer, Jenifer Brousseau and Jacob Pratt were on location at the Longhouse in Ohsweken, Six Nations. Despite the humidity Southern Ontario summers are known for, inside this structure there was a cool breeze and if I could bottle the scent of sun warmed freshly hewn lumber, I would be the happiest of campers on earth!

I decided to speak with co-host Jacob Pratt first.

How has the show surprised you?
Jacob Pratt: I always thought the show was aimed at an older audience, late teens and older. But from what I have seen, a lot of kids aged 8-10 are really into the show. They have been really engaged by it. I think that is really surprising for me because it is expanding the intended viewership, not just older teens but a very young audience which is really cool to see.

(l-r) Getting furry with Jenifer, Brousseau, Dr. Rudy Reimer and Jacob Pratt

And, how have you surprised yourself?
I think they wanted me on the show because of my cultural understanding, and I have a good understanding of my own culture [Dakota], but I know about the Cree, and the Haudenosawnee because I have lived in the areas. So in general, I feel very competent about knowing other First Nations cultures. But, throughout last season, I was actually surprised with the number of similarities about other nations that I didn’t know about and the absolute ignorance I had in terms of the Inuit or the Inuvialuit and things like the whale blubber. It was really interesting. That was a surprise too: I never thought I would like whale blubber, but I do, especially with HP Sauce. There are things like that. I always thought I was very culturally aware but I keep finding things that are brand new, that surprise me.

For me, this is a journey of adding to my cultural understanding and  actually that is one of my passions, learning about other people’s cultures  because it makes me a more understanding person in my life in general. I really, really liked learning the things that I would never have imagined like here in Ontario. Stories that tell how long ago the Great Lakes were lower and then a beaver dam broke and they filled up very quickly. Now scientists are talking about how the lake levels were much lower and, 60 feet down, there are caribou runs. They talk about when that water did fill up, it filled up very quickly. For me, it was amazing hearing these traditional stories I have always heard, then hearing these stories that unknowingly scientists are backing up these stories. It is really giving weight to our oral history. Because scientists are now telling the stories that we have been telling for thousands of years. That to me is I think what hit me the most during Season 1.

Next, I sat down with show creator, producer, writer, Tracy German, to get a feel for what we can expect this season.

Dr. Rudy, Jenifer, and Jacob (not shown) being graded on their rope-making skills by Kerdo Deer of Kayanase

Your message in Season 1 was very clear: take the oral histories from various nations and verify that history through archaeological discovery. Moving forward into Season 2, how are your expanding upon that theme?
Tracy German: Moving on in Season 2, we are going to continue doing what we do well. So, yes, we still connect the stories to real people and culture. We start with the inspiration from an oral teaching from an elder and then try to find the link to the archaeological record. In Season 2, we plan to incorporate more experimental archaeology. Like we just saw in the Longhouse, Kerdo Deer of Kayanase was demonstrating the traditional rope making. It is another form of reclamation and it is about learning the use of traditional medicines and plants and techniques. I think we will be going further into that in Season 2, and I hope we will be getting a bit more political or edgier as we move forward; pushing into ideas of repatriation and sacredness. Topics like #noDAPL and water; there are so many avenues. Gas and fracking, whatever, there are multiple fronts where we can act as activists for Indigenous people. When opportunities like that arise naturally and organically, and we can contribute to the cause, we will definitely be incorporating that into our storytelling. This season, I am starting with my journey, as a woman and where I am from. This is my home turf – Six Nations and my ancestry on my mother’s side is Haudenosawnee. We are starting in the Longhouse in a matriarchal culture. Already that is starting out political. And our camera operator in there, Jon Elliott, is Tuscarora and his family is from here. There are always multiple reasons why we start where we do but I do like telling the strong matriarchal story and I think that will come out in the grandmothers and the teachings of the strong womenfolk across the country.

I also had an opportunity to speak with Dr. Rudy Reimer, Ph.D., of Simon Fraser University.

Wiring Dr. Rudy for sound before the shoot begins (I LOVED how the sunlight was streaming into the longhouse here)

How has this experience, as a teacher, as a professor, influenced your life in academia?
Dr. Rudy Reimer: That’s a good question. Filming and being on the set of WA is a really interesting experience in terms of personally looking at the archaeology across Canada. When I lecture, some things are a little abstract and having the opportunity to come to places like Six Nations here, and other locations, allows me to put what I have read into context and more appropriately getting to experience the local First Nations first-hand, talking to community members, getting their perspective, and their history as opposed to what you would get in a standard textbook. What that allows me to do is integrate that into how I teach and lecture, but also it has been beneficial at another level. Each episode is pretty much the equivalent to a publication, and it really helps me professionally. Personally interacting with my crew and interacting with my co-hosts, still being in the role of an educator, for each episode makes for a great experience all around.

What are you most looking forward to this season?
This season, we are here in Ontario for two episodes and then we are back on the west coast. I believe we are going to Sechelt, B.C., and then to northern British Columbia. It doesn’t matter where we go, because I look forward to each set and each episode. It is really fun to arrive because I know the archaeologists, I know their research, and what is really exciting for me is, again, to see that first hand, and to interact with my colleagues, fellow academics but also, people in the communities. For example, we are at the lacrosse games yesterday during North American Indigenous Games 2017, and just sitting in the stands talking to the local community. I wore a t-shirt with some Squamish words on it and I got some funny looks but then people come up and talk to you. Everyone is wearing local lacrosse jerseys or t-shirts, so it is a cultural experience and an academic experience at each location.

Finally, I caught up with co-host Jenifer Brousseau and followed up with a theme we touched on last season when I last spoke with her.

Selfie time!

When we last spoke, you discussed your experiences in both the Longhouse in the B.C. interior and the teepee at Head-Smashed-In with Reg Crowshoe. In Season 2 you have spent some time in the Longhouse at the Museum of Archaeology in London, Ont., and now this amazing structure here at Kayanase. How are these experiences in these structures weaving into the fabric of your own personal journey of reclamation?
Jenifer Brousseau: I find coming here really neat because when I come home to Ontario and connect to the land here, it is always so very different. I personally feel that a lot of my reclamation has happened on the West Coast. If you ever go to the West Coast and connect with the people there, you recognize how proud they are as a people to be Indigenous. I experienced a lot less of that growing up in Ontario. Now coming back and having the opportunity to go to the Aanishnawbeg Longhouse in London—which is closer to my own heritage—and learning things [I did not while] growing up is a journey. Going to the big house on the West Coast as opposed to the Longhouse here it is almost like getting to be a part of things here that were initially lost. Having spent time in the west, reclaiming parts of my identity to return home to start Season 2 and learning about all of these things that for me at home were covered as I grew up, I get to uncover them both on the show. That is what is so fabulous about my journey this upcoming season.

My thanks go to Tracy German for allowing me the opportunity to visit your set. And to Jacob, Dr. Rudy and Jenifer, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Miigwetch.

Wild Archaeology returns Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET on APTN.


Wild Archaeology season finale: Inuit of Rigolet, Part 2

On this, the final episode of Season 1 of Wild Archaeology, we return to Double Mer site in Rigolet, Nfld. This last locale is referred to as a historical site as it contains artifacts from only the last few hundred years.

First, we visit the lab situated within The Net Loft town museum. It is here that Dr. Lisa Rankin and her team clean, preserve and catalogue each day’s various finds. Because the lab is located in the museum, anyone from the town is able to wander in and see what the archaeologists have recently unearthed. Lisa explains some of the more interesting artifacts include several that illustrate the meshing of European and Inuit cultures.

Dr. Rudy explains this site, in particular, was ideal for their final adventure because it helps to illustrate how archaeologists interpret artifacts as they view them in concert with other finds. A picture unfolds when viewing the artifacts as a larger canvas rather than separate and isolated items. It is when viewed in this context that we are able to understand how the people at this particular location once lived.

Then we return to the dig site, and Jacob first finds an iron nail used in the construction of the sod-covered homes. Later, he finds exactly what he was hoping to: an iron knife blade that was manufactured in Europe and would have been traded for. Later, Jenifer finds a gun-flint that was also manufactured in Europe.

We also get a flavour for the local  fauna. Jacob and Jenifer have the opportunity to try raw sea urchin. Something tells me that Jacob will not have sea urchin on his “must have again” list.

As a final farewell to Season 1, Jenifer  and Jacob share their bittersweet thoughts about their experiences and all that they have learned throughout their journeys as they explored Indigenous cultures across Canada.

Thank you to Dr. Rudy, Jacob, Jenifer, and all of the crew behind Wild Archaeology. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching and learning from your experiences. Now, all of you go get busy and make Season 2!

You can return and stream season one of Wild Archaeology here at  APTN.

If you are curious to learn more about Double Mer, you can listen to this CBC radio segment from Labrador Morning that aired on August 21, 2014.


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.


Wild Archaeology: Inuit of Rigolet, Part 1

Nope, Jenifer and Jacob are NOT AT ALL COMPETITIVE! We begin the penultimate episode of Wild Archaeology finishing up at the site in Sheshatshui.

SNAP! Jacob a.k.a. “artifact magnet” found a bi-face and then SNAP!, moments later, Jenifer found aher own bi-face in the exact same quadrant. We learn that Jacob’s Groswater and Dorset paleo Eskimo end blade is not native to the area of their dig and therefore  indicates an interaction between Inuit and Innu communities of Labrador happening at this site. Meanwhile, Jenifer’s is a locally crafted little red quartzite knife blade.

Then we head off to Rigolet to meet up with Dr. Lisa Rankin at Double Mer, an 18th-century Inuit site in Labrador demarked with semi-subterranean sod huts. What is unique to this site is it is a location that was a traditional meeting ground in the summer months for various ethnic groups. This site is also our first glimpse at post-European contact artifacts making an appearance with nails ideal for building the superstructure of the sod homes.

And, true to form, Jacob finds the first artifact, a piece of leather that has markings to indicate it had been sewn. Jenifer comes across a couple of decorated beads in her quadrant the likes of which had not been found previously.

We are down to the final episode next week, with Part 2 of Inuit of Rigolet. This has been such a fun adventure, I hate to see it end.

Wild Archaeology airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


Wild Archaeology: The Innu of Sheshatshui

This week on Wild Archaeology, the team headed to the very remote interior of Labrador to visit Northwest River and Sheshatshui to explore the traditional land of the Innu people. This geographic location is unique in that the water has been receding and what are now hills were once shoreline beaches.

The team worked with Scott Neilson, an archaeologist who has spent many years excavating in the area, conducting what is called a pedestrian survey of an area proximal to a previously researched site estimated to be approximately 3,200 years old. The pedestrian survey is a vital first step for an archaeological dig, as it allows the researcher an opportunity to understand the land and distinguish its features. Once the natural features are known, the atypical aspects reveal themselves which oftentimes reveal the artifacts left behind.

Sheshatshui is undergoing construction of new homes for the descendants of those who lived 2,900-3,400 years ago. Prior to each build, Scott and his team excavate the lot for artifacts. Much of the debris found in this area (discarded stone flakes created by tool making and sharpening techniques) are very small and some of the stone is not local to the area, indicating people travelled elsewhere in order to find stone suitable for tool making.

Part 2 of this dig will be seen next week.

Wild Archaeology airs Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.