Métis Nation of Alberta-University of Alberta

How can the compilation and management of geospatial and geophysical archaeology data demonstrate the Métis presence throughout the Métis homeland?

The Rupertsland Centre for Métis Research and the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology are partnering on a research project called Exploring Métis Identity Through Archaeology (EMITA), which asks how archaeological data can support contemporary Métis rights. As part of this project, we are working on building a community database that centers Métis ways of knowing and brings the belongings of Métis ancestors back into relation with Métis people.

The EMITA project, led by Métis archaeologist Kisha Supernant, explores how Métis material culture can be seen in the past, and asks questions about the connections between people's identities and patterns within the material traces they leave behind. Thus far, our research has focused on a particular type of 19th century site, known as "overwintering" or hivernant sites, which were locations where Métis families would have built cabins and spent the winter hunting bison. By combining new archaeological data from Métis overwintering settlements with ongoing historical, geographic and archival research at the University of Alberta, we examine the archaeological record to explore patterns within Métis materiality, and highlight the importance of geographic and kinship-based mobility during the fur trade as a defining characteristic of a Métis kinscape. Over the past several summers, we have used non-destructive techniques, including site mapping, GIS analysis and remote sensing, as well as targeted excavations of site locations, to collect data on these important Métis places and develop innovative approaches to using the scientific method to do Métis archaeology

The land rights of the Métis in Canada remain an unresolved issue in the early part of the 21st century. Our collaborative approach and emerging partnership mean our research is informed by issues of relevance to contemporary Métis community members and is designed to provide data that will help communities connect to their history in new ways. We are currently working on combining archaeological data with digitally stored archival and historical information to explore where, when, and how the Métis Nation created a Métis kinscape that connected different geographic realms of the western Canadian interior. We are also investigating how the recognition of these geographies could impact modern legal contexts.


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