Unexpected Consequences: How a Good Idea Changed Worlds

This session explores the impacts on individuals, Indigenous communities and the wider academy stemming from the Ethnohistory Field School with the Stó:lõ. This ongoing graduate course is a unique example of both community-engaged research and community-engaged learning that has transformed the worlds of students, faculty and Stó:lõ community members. Delicately merging social science methodologies with humanities approaches, the Field School started in 1998 and brings 10-12 students to spend a month living in Stó:lõ territory. While there, students live with Stó:lõ families, and work on research projects identified by the Stó:lõ elders and staff in partnership with faculty. In this panel, “teachers” in the broadest sense, and students (Stó:lõ and non-Stó:lõ) reflect on the unexpected consequences on careers, on research, and on the wider academy of the good idea that started this field school eighteen years ago. 

Hackenberg 1.jpgCHAIR: LUTZ, John (UVIC)

CARLSON, Keith Thor (U Sask) Stó:lõ Ethnohistory Field School: A Humanities Makeover for a Social Science Methodology

PENNIER, Grand Chief Clarence (Stó:lõ Tribal Council) Sto:lo Leadership Expectations for the Ethnohistory Field School

Naxaxahts’i (MCHALSIE, Sonny) (Sto:lo Rsch & Resource Mgmt Ctr) Collaboration and Partnership between Community, Faculty, and Students in the Ethnohistory Field School

ENNS, Shannon (Terra Archaeology Ltd) Ethnohistory Field School ‘Homestay’ Relations: Building Friendships and Inspiring Youth

OSMOND, Colin (U Sask) From the Archives to the Field: A Student Experiences in Ethnohistory

SCHAEPE, David M. (Stó:lõ Rsch & Resource Mgmt Ctr) Knowledge Creation: A Fabric of Relations

HAGGARTY, Liam (Mt Royal U) Xexá:ls Comes to Calgary: Legacies of the Ethnohistory Field School

LUTZ, John (UVIC) Trying to Gather a Little Knowledge: The Long Term Implications of Community-University Collaboration

Unexpected Consequences: The Ethnohistory Field School with the Stó:lõ 

When, in 1997, a young historian employed by the Stó:lõ Nation, proposed something unheard of to the staid historians at the University of Victoria – an “Ethnohistory Field School” -- it seemed unlikely that such an enterprise would ever get off the ground. Almost twenty years later it’s still thriving.

At that time, Keith Carlson had a recently minted History MA from the University of Victoria (on American decolonization in the Philippines), and the Stó:lō Nation was a consortium of 19 Indigenous Communities in the Fraser Valley west of Vancouver. The proposal piqued the interest of John Lutz, who had only just been hired at UVic a few months prior. It was a simpler time, university bureaucracies were small, so Lutz and Carlson only needed to persuade the Department Chair -- which they did -- with difficulty. The two co-taught the course with the help of Stó:lõ Cultural advisor Naxaxahts’i (Sonny McHalsie), Stó:lõ archivists (first David Smith and then Tia Halstead) and other Stó:lõ Nation staff, such as archaeologist Dave Schaepe and cultural advisor Herb Joe. 

Hackenberg 2.jpgThe principle was simple. Students and faculty would assist Stó:lō communities and conduct ethnohistorical research and analysis on community-identified projects. Archaeology and anthropology field schools had been operating in their territory but the Stó:lõ also had historical questions they wanted answered. The different Stó:lõ communities were asked to come up with research questions, and the students would chose topics from that list. Students would be trained by the faculty and mentored by Stó:lō staff as they conducted interviews and scoured archival records. Grand Chief Lester Ned of Sumas told us, “Don’t tell us what we want to know. Tell us what we need to know.” 

The first Ethnohistory Field Schools got off to a rocky start in the springs of 1998 and 2000. Graduate students spent the damp month of May living in a smoky, leaky, long-house working on their projects. The Stó:lõ did not quite know what to do with them; Lutz was new to the Stó:lõ and not able to be present 100% of the time. We learned a lot of lessons.

Hackenberg 3.jpgBy 2003 Carlson had his PhD from UBC and a tenure-track job at the University of Saskatchewan and he and Lutz returned to the Field School with 10 students (5 from each of the two universities) and an idea that revolutionized the course: for the first week, students would board with Stó:lõ families. 

The home-stay component transformed the field school. The intimacy of the experience acquainted students with the lives of contemporary Stó:lõ while it introduced Stó:lõ families to bright, young university students eager to learn about their history and culture. In so many instances, friendships were made in that week, which grew over the following month, and many persist to this day. As more families got involved, the field school started to become an institution that was widely known, and even eagerly anticipated in many Stó:lõ communities.

The successful pattern involved starting the field school on a Friday afternoon with a brief introduction to the faculty and staff and then sending them in pairs to spend the weekend with their homestay families. The next week they meet every morning for a three-hour seminar and spend the afternoons reading, planning their projects. Evenings they are back with their home stay hosts. By the end of the second week, students have had a rigorous training in research methodologies and participated in intensive cultural orientation sessions on foot, by car, and on boats on the Fraser River with Naxaxahts’i. 

Naxaxahts’i still leads these cultural orientations, bringing faculty and students to sites to learn the Stó:lõ place names and legendary stories that are tied to them. He shows us the hunting, berrying and fishing grounds, and takes us to ancient village sites. Senior Archeologist, and now director of the Stó:lõ Research and Resource Management Center, Dave Schaepe, similarly brings us to visit burial mounds, pit houses, and ancient settlements. 

Hackenberg 4.jpgBy the fourth iteration in 2005, communities were regularly inviting students to their cultural events including First Salmon Ceremonies, canoe races, weddings, powwows, funerals, burnings, and spiritual healings, and offering students’ workshops in the Halkomelum Language, drum making, native food plants and working with cedar. The Field School is timed to co-ordinate with the Stó:lõ’s own bi-annual “People of the River” conference where they invite researchers working in their territory to present back to the community, so many alumni from previous field schools present their work, which is also placed in the Stó:lõ Archives and, since 2005, put on-line.

As we plan the 2017 Field School we can look back with satisfaction at the seventy-five research papers that students have produced in partnership with the Stó:lō. Thirteen graduate theses or papers have additionally been produced, along with atlas plates, a special issue of a journal, and a selection of scholarly articles. A special collection of essays highlighting the best of the field school research papers is now working its way towards publication with a scholarly press. The seventy-five Field School alumni are scatted around the globe working in many fields for Indigenous People and governments, including as lawyers, researchers, and at least six as university professors, two of which have started their own field schools. Now that was unexpected!