Monday, 19 October 2015

The Prairie Paladin Medieval Market and Faire Spotlgiht: The Saskatchewan Archaeological Society

Our fourth interview was done with the Executive Director of the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society Dr. Tomasin Playford.

Q: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions Tomasin, we were very happy that you could join our event this year. Could you tell me a little bit about the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society and what it does?

A: Well it’s a membership based society, and what we do is we bring together people interested in archaeology and we have been around for over 50 years. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2013 and the society grew out of collectors that were going out on the landscape that came together wanting to learn more about the artifacts that they were finding. We offer about 20 different programs and services. So we have things that we do for our members and the general public: we publish a quarterly and occasional papers, we do an annual gathering and general meeting every year, bus tours, workshops, and we also have a library. One of our most popular activities in a public field school which we offer every summer. The SAS also does conservation work, which includes the identification and recording of archaeological sites, and providing educational programs as well, such as guidelines for visiting archaeological sites. We have a core group of volunteers that are part of the SAS but we are always looking for volunteers to help with individual projects.

Q: Well that’s really cool! Does the society operate year round?

A: Yes, our office hours are generally Monday to Thursday 9:00am to 4:00pm or Friday by appointment so there is often someone in the office. We might be out in the field doing work or running errands, so I always recommend that people call first just to make sure we’re there.  

Q: That’s great! It is definitely important for the public to have the opportunity to get involved and learn about archaeology. How long have you been involved in the society and what inspired you to pursue the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society?

A: I have been the Executive Director for just over 2 years but I have been a member for about a dozen years now. I was a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan but I didn’t really get connected with my provincial organization until I moved away unfortunately. So my motivation when I was a student was to learn more about Saskatchewan archaeology. When I moved away it was a bit more to support the Society, so I think that if I could speak to other people’s motivations, they are all different. Students connect because they wanted to network, we give out bursaries, there are teachers that join because they want to use our resources, and we have members that have been involved as collectors, so there are many different motivating factors that attract different people.

Q: That’s fantastic that there is such a wide variety of people involved with the society. Do you find that you gain insight into the groups that lived, and in fact still live, in Saskatchewan through Plains Archaeology?

A: Oh yes, about 90% of the archaeology that we do in Saskatchewan is First Nations Pre-Contact Archaeology, so we are increasing our connections with First Nations and Metis peoples in terms of their archaeology. There is a vast amount of information held by the First Nations and Metis, but we must keep in mind that we need to be respectful and understand that it doesn’t always have to be shared with the general public.

Q: That is a great point and something I definitely think that everyone needs to remember! My next question for you is what is your favorite thing about being a part of the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society?

A: My favorite part it is that it is my dream job, and is one of the best archaeological jobs that I could have asked for. I get to go talk to people about archaeology, and it’s different every day. It’s definitely about the people, we have a great membership, but we also get to bring archaeology to people who don’t know about it or understand it. We also get access to unique artifacts that not everybody necessarily gets to see in Saskatchewan. It’s also about learning for me, that we get the chance to learn about all aspects that archaeology encompasses in Saskatchewan. One of our most popular programs is the field school. It’s not actually that common in Canada for there to be public archaeology, Wanuskewin is actually the longest running public archaeological program in Canada.

Q: That is awesome! What you have described is something that has always been attractive to me about archaeology. It’s not only about the chance to learn from archaeology but to share that knowledge with others. Is there anything in the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society’s future that you are excited about?

A: Well actually, as a provincial group we are organized into chapters, and the Saskatoon Archaeological Society is celebrating their 80th anniversary this year the same weekend as Culture Days. Most of what we do for archaeology is in the summer. We also published our third occasional papers in archaeology on the Cypress Hills Massacre at the Fort Walsh area, so you should look for that in your local bookstore.

Q: I definitely will! That would be an interesting read. Now for my last question, what motivated you to approach the Museum of Antiquities to become part of our festival?

A: I approached the Museum because I had attended it the year before with my nieces and nephews. I was really excited because we had did our Culture Days event on the Friday so that we could have a chance to attend the other events throughout the weekend. I was really excited for this event because of the diversity of activities that were made available, which is something that attracted me to attend the event as a participant and that they were so kid friendly. I thought it would be a great opportunity for the kids, both boys and girls which ranged in age from 5 to 12 years old, and there was something for everyone. I also thought it would be neat to make that relationship between the New World and Old World here in Saskatchewan. We were also interested in coming to this event because of the exposure. There were so many people that participated last year and we saw a better opportunity to showcase what the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society has to offer to the public than what we could have done on our own.
Q: Yes we are very excited that we can make that connection between New World and Old World this year. Part of our mandate for the event is to offer exposure to different cultures that still affect the present day Saskatoon community and helping them understand them equally. I want to thank for taking the time to answer these questions. We know the SAS has a lot to offer the Prairie Paladin Medieval Market and Faire and that it will be a hit with the community!

For more information about the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society, check out their webpage at:

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