Seminar Details

Knowledge Series: Archaeoastronomy, Blackfoot Narratives, and Antiquity on the Northern Plains with Eldon Yellowhorn

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Knowledge Series: Archaeoastronomy, Blackfoot Narratives, and Antiquity on the Northern Plains with Eldon Yellowhorn

When: May 19, 2020 3:00-4:00 PM

Duration: 1 hour

Certification: None


Pricing

Individual Registration: Free to SAA members; not available to non-members

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Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn (Otahkotskina) is from the Piikani (Peigan) Nation. At home, he developed an interest in astronomy because the prairie sky is a canopy of stars. He heard old stories of the sky country in the Blackfoot language, and at university, he studied them as an anthropology student. Dr. Yellowhorn got his first job in archaeology in 1980, and subsequently he worked at many sites while studying at the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. He received a MA degree in 1993 from the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University. Although contract archaeology was where he found employment, his interest in the origins of large-scale communal bison hunting has motivated by his studies. He received his PhD from the Department of Anthropology at McGill University in 2002, the same year he was appointed an assistant professor in the Department of Archaeology at Simon Fraser University. He was a faculty member there until he established the Department of Indigenous Studies in 2012, where he now teaches. In his research program he studies the ancient and recent history of Indigenous people through archaeological fieldwork.

When John Wesley Powell wrote, “Mythology is primitive philosophy” in the first volume of the Bureau of American Ethnology in 1881, he crystalized a notion that dismissed myths as hearsay and unworthy of study. Boasian anthropologists collected oral narratives in their ethnographic work but they considered myths as psychological devices that people used to put their mind in balance with the world, exempted from any chronological context. Archaeologists have not ventured far from Powell’s original position that there is no truth to be found in old stories that emanated from oral traditions. Native Americans see narratives as real sources of information that chronicle the lived experiences of ancestors. Old stories and the archaeological record are the only archives of their ancient presence. Therefore, I triangulate data from Blackfoot oral narratives, material culture studies, and archaeoastronomy to create explanations for the cultural manifestations in the archaeological record of the northern plains. I use insights gained from astronomical studies to interpret the structural metaphors that ancient Peigans devised to organize their astronomical knowledge. Archaeoastronomy also offers methods that help to determine the antiquity of some old stories.

The Knowledge Series seminars are opportunities to learn from prominent archaeologists as they share their experiences and expertise.