Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 21, 2011

Admitting One’s Ignorance is a Good Place to Start

By Patrick Lemoine

Perhaps being at ease with being ignorant is a fundamental part of being an anthropologist. If so, then allow me to share my success story in anthropology.  Tasked with retrieving cedar for an evening sweat, Jake [another field school student –ed.] and I take to the woods, axe in hand. As instructed, we make a small offering of sage and tobacco, and make a small prayer.

“Hi. We’re kind of new to this. Thank you Cedar tree.”

*Chop* *Chop*

We return to the camp with our axe and cedar branch. Our host greets us laughing:

“Oh you found a fir bough!”


Now I may be a city boy, but I’m not sure that’s a suitable excuse for my tree-ignorance: Cedar grows all around Vancouver. Worse, I work in the woods back home. Now that I think about it, there’s a cedar tree less than ten feet from where I ate lunch every day. Still, somehow, I couldn’t differentiate a fir from a cedar. Last week, a cedar was simply a thing in the background. This week, I find myself either pointing them out whenever possible, or being teased whenever we come across either a fir or a cedar.

Take two things from my story:

  1. We, the Douglas Field School students, are terribly excited by the obvious or things that are “in the background.”
  2. You can (and should) laugh with us about how little we know sometimes. Yes, Ignorance can be pretty embarrassing. However when that embarrassment leads to being educated by the community, it is a great thing.  Furthermore, and oddly enough, being at ease with our ignorance and embarrassment seems to be an important part of our training as blooming anthropologists.
Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 21, 2011

Field School Begins – and the Time Flies

By Hailey McWilliam

First and foremost, I would like to say thank you to all of the people who have warmly welcomed us into the area and the Lodge. For being such a large motley crew, all of the people who’ve encountered us have been wonderfully welcoming and supportive of the research we will be doing. Some of us have already made significant friends within the community and many more of us are on the way to solidifying other friendships.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had multiple opportunities to hike the nearby trails with fellow students, as well as one of our main contacts, Randy. Because I have my border collie here with me, I’ve been getting up early to take her for walks and feel that I’m definitely learning the lay of the land thanks to my dog. (She’s also my peace of mind, she lets me know if there’s anyone or anything nearby!)

So far, we are all learning the basics of the community and the history of the area through visits to the Museums, Archives, Libraries and other centers in Enderby, Armstrong and Vernon. Each student has a primary focus and while we work in tandem with Ray and the Band Council in certain areas such as in the archives, some of us are finding smaller more personal projects to work on such as plant uses, drum-making and music, mid-wifery, archival information and data collection of land borders and other relevant cultural use sites.

My primary focus for example is the relationship between people and animals. I’m looking for the dynamics of domesticated animals vs. wild animals, and the stories and legends associated with horses and dogs as well as Coyote and Wolf. Animals have always played a large role in my life and I’ve always felt a close connection to canines specifically. I feel that they can answer a lot of questions in regards to the structure of societies and the means by which culture is developed and maintained. If anyone sees a girl and a three-legged dog in town, please feel free to come say hello. Both Maya and myself would enjoy your company.

While we are only in week one of four, it feels like our time at the Lodge is both passing too quickly and too slowly all in the same breath. One month here is definitely too short of a time!

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 12, 2011

Another News Story (New West Leader)

The New Westminster Leader has picked up the story of our field school.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 12, 2011

Fieldschool on Douglas College Webpage

A story about the Anthropology Field School has been posted on the Douglas College Home Page.

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 12, 2011

What We’ll Be Doing at Field School

As we have explained in our previous group post, we are a group of anthropology students studying at Douglas College. Our college was invited by the Splatsin Title and Rights Office to set up and anthropology field school to help your community gather information about the Splatsin history, traditions, customs, and ways of life. We will be living among you for four weeks, producing a tangible record of our time in your community through such activities (conducted in a respectful way) as interviews, casual conversations, audio and visual recordings, and photos. These materials are intended to be a resource for your community and will be left as part of your band office archives. Because this is a community effort between you and us we invite you to come and chat with us when you see us around the town, at the gas station, the health centre, in a store, etc. We will look forward to working with you on this collaborative project and ask that you spread the word among your family and friends. We intend to keep this blog updated regularly for you, to keep you engaged and interested in the work done in your community. Our work can be only as good as the people involved in it, so please don’t be shy!


Veronika Polanska, Peter Kaulfuss, and Marie-Elise Laforest

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 12, 2011

Guidelines for Photography, Blogging, and Social Media

Anthropology Field School
Guidelines for Photography, Social Media, and Blogging
May, 2011

  • General rule: ask first and be respectful.
  • People (in community and student participants) must consent to have photos used by field school or published
  • If people do not want to be photographed, do not pressure them
  • In group settings and larger events, seek permission to take general pictures and ensure that protocols are followed.  Permission must be gained to photograph people AND events and places.
  • Make it clear to people what the pictures are for.
  • Photographs of kids must have parental consent.
  • If permission in advance is not possible, seek permission afterwards
  • Credit people who have taken pictures and identify people only with their permission.

Social Media

  • Pictures: posting pictures of field work in any form of social media is not ok without consent.
  • Status updates: be respectful, don’t post about research or community.
  • The overriding concern is for privacy of people, places, and relationships.
  • Be respectful and always consider the relationships you have formed.


  • Above points regarding photography and social media apply
  • Speak about the field school and its work; no tangents!
  • Be aware that you are writing about other people
  • It is Ok to personalize and express your feelings, but don’t rant and vent
  • Stay relevant
  • Include information about yourself
  • Use appropriate language and make it readable
  • Consider posing a question to encourage feedback, comments, and participation in the blog
  • Format of blog posts include comments about who you are, what you’ve been doing, how you felt, what you learned, what you plan to do.  Pose a question if possible.
These guidelines apply equally to members of the community and to field school participants.
Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 12, 2011

Field School Group 2011

Hey everyone! As you may have heard, there will soon be a few new faces in your community.  We are students from Douglas College in New Westminster, in the Vancouver area.  We are participating in an anthropology field school, during which we will be living on the reserve.  We’re all interested in anthropology because it offers different challenges and opportunities for

each of us.  Anthropology is the study of people and involves sub areas including language, social and cultural anthropology, archaeology and biological anthropology.  Our main focus will be social and cultural anthropology.  Basically we are here to learn from you.  Everyone participating in the field school is very outgoing and is eager to learn.  You will often see us around the town.  We will probably be asking many questions, but feel free to approach us with any questions that you may have.  We are open to interact

ion and appreciative of any help that you might be able to give us.  We look forward to contributing to the Splatsin community and if we get the opportunity would love to meet everyone.  Our studies will last for approximately twenty five days.  Our goal is to be able to assist in documenting your culture and history.
Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 3, 2011

Digital Tools for Research (A Post in Progress)

I’m tracking the digital tools I use for fieldwork, or want to try to use during field work.


  • Google Docs (for sharing documents)
  • Prezi (for organizing notes, ideas)
  • WordPress
  • Dropbox
  • Flickr

Apps (iPhone, iPad)

  • Good Reader (pdf annotation)
  • DocsToGo (edit MS Office)
  • JotNot (scanner)
  • Dan Bricklin’s NoteTaker
  • Dragon Dictation
  • HT Recorder (audio recorder)
  • Dropbox
  • WordPress
  • Evernote; for scratch notes
  • Topographical Maps of Canada; complete set of 1:50,000 NTS topographic maps

Via, see also:

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | May 3, 2011

Digital Tethering of Students at Field School

As field school classes begin, I am thinking about a number of things that I can do digitally to keep students informed, productive, and collaborating – both in the classroom and in the field. I have:

I want students to be able to access many of these things – and to keep in touch with me and other students electronically – when we are spread out doing different projects in different places. I think the tools exist.


  • Students need smart phones (or do they?)
  • Too many tools, too many platforms? Can this constant contact be done entirely with google products, for example?

What other tools should we be  considering?

Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | July 1, 2010

Splatsin-Douglas College Field School

Splatsin Band Office, December 2008

Since I lasted posted about the field school I am putting together, I’ve made two trips out to the indigenous host community. Last week, I participated in a information meeting in which community members were introduced to the idea of having students living on their reserve next summer. The assembled group – small but supportive – asked several questions about the benefits of a field school. They then contributed to a growing list of topics they would like to see researched by field school students.

Because of the public meeting, and my current goal of making information about the field school available (particularly to community members), I am able to identify the Splatsin community at Enderby, British Columbia as the hosts of the Splatsin-Douglas College Field School.

The Splatsin are Sewepemc (Shuswap) speaking people. They are an interior Salish community in the north Okanagan, north of Vernon. Topics of research interest to them, as identified last week, include broad categories like culture, language, and identity. But, more specifically, there’s a push for research on topics related to ethnohistory and land use.

I am working with the members of the Splatsin Rights and Title Department to bring the field school together. We are aiming at May and June, 2011 for the first field school session. The program for students will include two weeks in the classroom at Douglas College, four weeks on the reserve at Enderby, and two more weeks at Douglas College.

Next steps for me: 1) ethics review for the field school course and 2) setting up a field school website that will be of interest and use to both students and community members.

(Note: This was first published at FieldNotes on June 30, 2010.)

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