This is the first in a series of blog posts we're running in the lead-up to this year's Ontario Archaeological Symposium. The theme of this year’s symposium is “Connections and Pathways through the Past”. We're going to be asking OAS members from all walks of life some questions around that theme to showcase the pathways they've taken and how they connect to Ontario's past. We’ve even found a fun way to connect each interview to the one that came before...
Our first guest is Jonathan Micon, a graduate student at the University of Georgia in the US.We're looking for OAS members with all backgrounds and kinds of experience to participate, so if you'd be willing to be interviewed for a future post, please contact Megan Anne Conger at firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you!
First, thank you so much for participating in this! Please tell us your name, who you are, and how you’re involved in Ontario archaeology.
My name is Jonathan Micon. I am a graduate student at the University of Georgia entering my third year of study. My research deals with themes related to polity formation, mobility, and identity among Iroquoian-speaking groups. Specifically, I study sixteenth century dynamics in the upper St. Lawrence valley, located in southeastern Ontario. Though I have done archaeology in the U.S. for a few years now, I did not explicitly focus on Ontario archaeology until I started graduate school two years ago. Last summer was my first experience conducting fieldwork in Ontario.
Describe your own pathway to becoming involved in Ontario archaeology. How or why do you feel connected with Ontario’s past?
My interest in Ontario archaeology developed not in Ontario, but rather near my childhood home in North-Central Indiana. During a visit to an eighteenth century French trading post, I was confronted by a display of artifacts – namely Jesuit rings, English flintlocks, and Iroquoian-styled pottery - that demonstrated the close relationship between the “Pays d’en Haute” (i.e. Midwestern United States) and the region of present-day Ontario. I became fascinated by the entangled history of these two regions and continually sought out more information. My interest in Lower Great Lakes history was further fueled by my family’s annual visits to relatives in Niagara Falls, New York where I would venture to nearby historic sites, such as Fort Niagara and Lundy’s Lane Battlefield. The history of the Great Lakes region is the history of where I grew up and the friends and family that I have made over the course of my life. It is this connection that makes me so passionate about Ontario archaeology and motivates me to share it with others.
The theme of this year’s OAS symposium is “Connections and Pathways through the Past”. The organizers have highlighted a number of interesting connections that warrant exploration— “between the past and present, regional centers, archaeologists and the public, archaeology and history, Canada and the United States”. Are any of these connections especially important to you? How?
In the previous question I touched on my interest in connecting Ontario and Midwestern archaeology, however another connection that I feel warrants attention is the relationship between archaeologists and the public. Archaeology demonstrates that many contemporary issues are not recent isolated phenomena, but rather a modern variation to recurring themes in society. It is for this reason that archaeologists can provide a unique perspective to important issues, such as migration, climate change, and inequality among others. Providing the public with more opportunities to access peer-reviewed archaeological knowledge and combating instances of pseudo-archaeology is an issue that I feel is crucial to archaeology today. A topic that goes along with this is ensuring that archaeology reaches younger audiences. I personally did not learn about archaeology (as a career at least… thank you Indiana Jones) until my second year of university. Exposing children to archaeology at a younger age is a crucial part of connecting archaeologists with the public and in my opinion should be pursued incessantly by archaeologists.
We’ve invited a lot of reflection on the past, but it’s hard not to consider the future of Ontario archaeology as well. Is there any one question about Ontario’s past you’d love to have answered in the future? Or any one theme you think needs more exploration?
Ontario archaeology has come a long way in working to collaborate with descendant communities and to confirm that our interpretations and claims are beneficial to all groups involved. Still, this relationship is far from perfect and there is much work that needs to be done. Ontario archaeologists need to continue to incorporate Indigenous perspectives and knowledge into all aspects of research in an on-going attempt to decolonize archaeology and recognize its utility in the efforts of descendant communities attempting to reclaim their own histories. Collaboration between descendant communities and archaeologists is not always easy and can be complicated by competing views and perspectives on the proper role of archaeology in today’s world. However, the only way forward is to continue to discuss these issues and to keep all avenues of communication open. I think that a greater focus on developing the relationship between archaeologists and descendant communities will ultimately prove beneficial for both groups.
Okay, so, I'm going to end every interview by asking the interviewee to come up with one interesting question, which the next person I interview will have to answer. It doesn’t have to be related to the theme of connections and pathways, but should be related to Ontario archaeology in some way. So, what one question would you like to ask the next person?
Who in Ontario archaeology has been a role model in your life and made a major contribution to the field and/or your own work?
Finally, to be fair, I’m going to ask you a question to get things started. What was the first archaeological dig you ever participated in in Ontario?
My first excavation in Ontario was last summer at a duel-component Wendat site located in Simcoe County, Ontario. This excavation was part of an archaeological field school put on by Dr. Alicia Hawkins at Laurentian University. I volunteered to acquire hands-on experience working in Ontario as well as to better familiarize myself with material culture from the region; I was not disappointed. This experience was challenging, informative, and just plain fun. During the excavation, I learned about various aspects of Ontario archaeology through regular museum visits and talks by various speakers representing CRM companies, academic institutions, and descendant communities. As with any field excavation, however, it was the friends and fellow archaeologists excavating alongside me that made the experience truly memorable. I look forward to excavating in Ontario more in the future and building the relationships and knowledge established during this experience.
Great! Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. If any readers are interested in being featured in a post like this, please email Megan Anne Conger at megan.conger25@uga.