Letter from the Past

As far as memory goes, both sides of my family have lived in the state of South Dakota. So when, as a newly graduated and married couple my parents decided to move to Seattle, they were traveling as far from family as anyone remembered. Even so, I was able to know most of my extended family– all except my maternal grandfather, pictured to the right. All I knew was from stories or from newspaper clippings. He served in the Second World War, and like many vets, he didn’t tell many stories of his time in the Pacific Theater.

Recently, my mother’s cousin rediscovered letters that he had written to his sister during the war. It was incredible to read what he told her– of feeling homesick while based in Hawaii, and how training was going in Bremerton, Washington. My mother never realized that he had been stationed in the area until we were reading those letters together. Suddenly, my family history did not feel quite so far away. Even though I never met him, it seems my grandfather and I have overlapped in even the smallest of ways.

Listen to my story here!


Collaborative Storytelling Through Archaeology

Collaboration during archaeological projects have not always been valued, but today archaeology students, like us, learn that we not only can learn more from communities we study, but we can help bring knowledge back into that community. Valuing the assets that community members means taking time to meet with them, take into account the emotions brought up by these projects, and learning how to compensate them. Although there are challenges faced on both the community and the archaeologist’s part of collaboration, the transfer of knowledge makes the stories told by the project at the outcome that much more valuable.

I thought it was particularly important how Professor Gonzalez talked about not only compensating communities with a return of traditional knowledge, but also financial recompense. Sharing histories and personal stories is a form of labor that should be respected and treated as such, as is the time that community members take to meet with archaeologists and any other academic studying their culture or history.

Museums, too, play a major role in the collaboration between indigenous people and academia. This quarter, I have been able to see how the Burke Museum collaborates with the communities from which collections objects originate. One of my classmates, for example, is part of a Oceanian student research group that conducts research on objects in the Burke’s collections. The meaning and understanding that they gain is often through stories that the students are able to tell. The Burke Museum also collaborates with the public so that objects that members of the public are culturally associated with can come and view the objects in person. The open relationship between academia and the public also extends to museums and other institutions, and I think our very own Burke Museum is a good example of such a relationship.