Squamish Nation hosted conference to take deep dive into Indigenous maritime archeology

By Mina Kerr-Lazenby

 Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Indigenous maritime archeology is set to take centre stage at this year’s Underwater Archaeological Society of British Columbia

(UASBC) conference, for the first time in the event’s history.


The conference, often referred to as `Shipwrecks,’ has been held annually since 1986 but has never before focused on the underwater discoveries of Indigenous people.


“This conference is trying to shift the focus, both for the society and for divers and archeologists, into recognizing that there is no start date to history, and that we need to incorporate Indigenous stories, culture and artefacts into our thoughts about maritime archeology,” said conference chairman Tom Beasley.


Held at the Squamish Nation’s Chief Joe Mathias Centre on April 15, the event will delve into the rich underwater cultural heritage found on the Northwest Coast.


Speakers spanning academics and professionals will take to the podium with talks that will help the audience better understand Indigenous maritime material, culture and oral traditions, and the process of finding and searching marine archeological sites.


Daytime discussions will focus on the Pacific Northwest, touching on its environmental change over time and how that has affected Indigenous cultures, and new perspectives on finding maritime archeological sites.


Come evening, Jessi Halligan, an assistant professor of anthropology at Florida State University, will deliver a keynote Woodward Lecture on submerged landscape research, and the importance of it in regards to better understanding North American Pleistocene peoples.


Also on the bill are a number of university representatives, including speakers from the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, and the University of Northern British Columbia, alongside archeologists from Parks Canada and other professional archeologists who work closely with local First Nations.


Beasley said the conference is open to all, from those who dedicate their work to the field to those who simply have a curiosity about history, Indigenous culture and undersea excursions.


“I hope the event will bridge the gap between the academic community and professional community and the general public, including Indigenous peoples,” he said. “How are people going to come away from the event feeling? Intrigued, excited and enriched.

It’s for anyone who is interested in maritime archeology and history in general, in British Columbia and beyond.”


What: Indigenous Maritime Archaeology Conference


Where: Squamish Nation’s Chief Joe Mathias Centre


When: The all-day affair on April 15 will kick off at 9 a.m. with daytime sessions, while the Woodward Lecture and dinner begins at 6 p.m. Both are available to be viewed via Zoom.


Tickets: $50 for the day session ($35 for students) in person and by Zoom, $60 for the Woodward Lecture and dinner. Available to purchase at the UASBC website.


Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News’ Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.



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