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HSS 101

Alumni Engagement series takes archaeology mainstream

By Heidi Wicks

A chance encounter in 2001 with a small 16th-century Inuit village on the south coast of Labrador led Dr. Lisa Rankin to a career in Inuit archaeology and an understanding of the importance of archaeology to Labrador Inuit.

Dr. Lisa Rankin
Photo: Rich Blenkinsopp

“Along the way, my students, colleagues, Inuit partners and I have transformed the academic understanding of the Labrador Inuit past,” said the faculty member in the Department of Archaeology, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Memorial University Research Chair in Northern Indigenous Community Archaeology.

“We’ve made movies, designed restaurant placemats, corrected primary school textbooks – all while training and being trained by an entire generation of university and Indigenous students in ways archaeologists can better work with communities.”

Dr. Rankin will provide a fun and fascinating introduction to archaeology on Tuesday, Feb. 16, during HSS 101.

The event is the first of a four-part series highlighting the humanities and social sciences and features engaging, passionate faculty members with an unbounded devotion to their respective disciplines. HSS 101 is being hosted by Memorial’s Office of Alumni Engagement.

“Our past is connected to our identity.” — Dr. Lisa Rankin

With Newfoundland and Labrador’s rich archaeological record, Dr. Rankin says she is looking forward to sharing her perspective.

“The heritage and tourism industry here is important, and our past is connected to our identity. Indigenous communities moved here thousands of years ago, we have the earliest English settlements, Basque, French and British people all fished off our shores. There is such diversity, and it can all be explored through archaeology.”

Archaeology and climate change

At most Canadian universities, archaeology is not connected to the surrounding community and industry, which makes Memorial’s program especially unique.

The community of Ferryland is an example of how interconnected archaeology is with the past and future.

“Some of my colleagues are working on Ferryland’s development, and I plan to talk about other work that is being done with communities in this province, as well as the huge impact that climate change is having on the archaeological record here, and what that means to our understanding of the past and (the future of) our heritage and tourism industry,” said Dr. Rankin, adding that she and a team of researchers were awarded a Canadian Foundation for Innovation grant for infrastructure recently that will enable this work to continue.

Honouring Labrador

 When asked about the most rewarding part of her career thus far, Dr. Rankin says “Labrador.”

Dr. Lisa Rankin in the field in Labrador.
Photo: Submitted

She says her time there has been a “wonderful” experience and that it is a beautiful place with the most welcoming communities she has ever encountered.

“It’s fun to introduce students to field archaeology in such lovely setting,” she said. “I would say, too, that people in the province are very interested in their culture and history, and thus very receptive to archaeology. Working with Inuit communities and exploring their rich traditions has been the most exciting and satisfying thing I can imagine.”

HSS 101: Archaeology takes place on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Registration is required.

Future events in this series include Gender Studies (March 23), Folklore (April 20) and Religious Studies (May 18). Please follow the Office of Alumni Engagement on social media and check the website for updates on future events.

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