Document of Learning #3: Conscription and Kantian Philosophy

Upon hearing the British declaration to participate in the Great War, many Canadians volunteered to enlist in the army and help the British cause. It was a time of great hopes, hopes that Canada would finally be politically and participate independently on the international stage to support Mother Country. In a sense, there were almost romantic hopes about the war: A new national identity, Canada adored and used by the British Empire, Canadians returning with glory and pride on Canada’s contributions.

What was unpredicted by so many was the impact of the Industrial Revolution that insidiously crept on before the war began, changing warfare forever.  Soldiers were fighting a different war from the glorified classical warfares of the past. They were fighting a warfare of industrialization, of machine guns and muddy trenches, of mustard gas and barbed wires.  It was no longer a game of glory and heroism. There was nothing in the world that could be less romantic.

What a bloodbath… Hell cannot be this dreadful.

-Albert Verdun, a French soldier at Verdun, 1916

Soon, the Canadians realized the brutality of this war and volunteer enlistment plummetted to as low as 3882 per month. Meanwhile, Canada’s large participation at the battles of Vimy Ridge, Ypres, Somme, (and later Passchendaele), resulted in the deaths of over 130,000 Canadians. In order to continue Canada’s involvement in the war to the end, the Canadian Expeditionary Force needed more reinforcements.

Prime Minister Robert Borden, who had just returned from Europe, faced three options:

  1. Reduce the size of each division (four Canadian divisions in total)
  2. Dismiss one (or more) of the bands and redistribute men to strengthen the remaining division.
  3. Introduce conscription

After witnessing soldiers’ conditions in Europe, Borden concluded that conscription must be necessary, and pushed through with enormous difficulty the Military Service Act which conscripted eligible men between 20 -45  to war. On August  29, 1917, the Military Service Act passed Parliament and became law.

https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-aCKYJLfy9bw/TnT9bSf3McI/AAAAAAAAA4Q/-QVIU6MHn80/s640/1917Oct4militaryserviceact.jpg

I believe the time has come when the authority of the state should be invoked to provide reinforcements necessary to sustain the gallant men at the front who have held the line for months, who have proved themselves more than a match for the best troops that the enemy could send against them, and who are fighting in France and Belgium that Canada may live in the future[…] I bring back to the people of Canada from these men a message that they need our help, that they need to be supported, that they need to be sustained, that reinforcements must be sent to them.

-Robert Borden speech before House of Commons, May 18, 1917

Immediately, the Military Service Act received strong oppositions from many parts of Canada. Of all the men between twenty to twenty-four who were called up, 94% applied for an exemption. Canadians possessed strongly different historical perspectives at the time, and these divisions in 1917 continue to haunt Canada today. The majority of English-speaking Canada supported the idea, while some Anglophones and almost all Francophones opposed the idea of conscription. Most English- Canadians supported conscription because they treated it as a way to support their serving relatives overseas. English Canadians were still heavily under the influences of Britain, and most wanted to show their support for Mother Country. They also felt that conscription would finally force Quebec to do its share. As early as 1916, complaints in English-speaking Canada were raised against Quebec’s lack of participation in the war. Farmers, however, opposed this Act, for their sons would be conscripted overseas instead of helping at farms.

Image credit to www.warmuseum.ca

As predicted, the province of Quebec was outrage by this Act and hosted many riots throughout the province. Laurier, who initially encouraged Canadian involvement in the war, was also angered by Borden’s movement. One-quarter of eligible men lived in Quebec, yet only 11% of the population applied to enlist(and we don’t know how many were actually French-speaking). The general French-Canadian perspective of the era lacked allegiance to England and believed that Canada was already too involved in the war. They also didn’t want to fight under the imperialistic ideals that Britain was fighting under. To an extent, the French-Canadians have far stronger social autonomy compared to the English, who still maintained cultural connections to Britain.

It has often been wondered why the people of Quebec have not volunteered in large numbers. I am sure that not one man in the province of Quebec has any relatives native of France… I think it maybe truthfully said on the other hand that there is not an English-speaking family in Canada which cannot claim relatives in Great Britain

-Wilfrid Laurier to the House of Commons, 1917

English- Canadians were also surprised that French-Canadians did not want to fight under the name of France. Why?

Let’ s review the settlement of New France and its defeat at the Battles of Plains fo Abraham 200 years. In the previous Document of Learning, which can be read here, we learned that New France (which colonized Canada before the English) was conquered by James Wolfe in 1759. From here, it’s safe to infer that Canada no longer attracted many French immigrants. Whereas French-Canadians were most likely descended from the New France colonies 200 years ago, many English- Canadians were recent immigrants from Britain thanks to the open-policies during the Laurier Era. French Canadians have long abandoned their allegiance under the French flag, but their cultural difference also prevented them to demonstrate strong feelings towards the English Crown.

With the general election looming near, Borden was concerned that his government would lose popularity (which they certainly did in Quebec), and that conscription would be cancelled if Laurier’s Liberals won the election. Robert Borden employed many strategies in order to manipulate the election, such as forming the Union government and establishing the Wartime Elections Act, which you can read more about on Sid’s Document of Learning. The tension between Laurier’s liberals and Borden’s Union government grew quickly, and soon enough Borden’s government launched a campaign condemning those who did not want conscription (slackers).

warmuseum.ca

thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

In this event, Robert Borden was attempting to achieve international and political autonomy for Canada on the world stage, demonstrating our powers for the first time as an independent force. The decisions of Borden’s government to control Acts without thorough processes of democratic negotiation is also a significant step towards political autonomy (representational democracy? It’s more likely than you think). However, the government’s decision to conscript the citizens to warfare is not only morally controversial but also detrimental to individual Canadian autonomy. Although conscription was proposed to support the Canadian cause and to strengthen national pride, the sad truth is that neither of the two goals was achieved.

After Borden’s sweeping victory in the elections, around 400,000 men registered. Of these men, only 100,000 were drafted, and within THIS number, only 24,132 were actually sent to the front lines before the war ended on November 11, 1918. This number is only 9% of all of the 250,000 Canadians who fought overseas, proving the bitter price of French-English division to be a rather futile one.

As discussed before, Canada’s national unity was heavily injured during the First World War. For most nations at the time, conscription inspired strong nationalism amongst the population and strengthened unity. War helped clearly define what was “them” and what was “us”.  For Canada, however, the issue of conscription brought long-lasting scars of division between English and French Canada. French-Canadians increasingly distrusted the English and believed that they treated unfairly by the mass English majority. The English Canadians thought that the French- Canadians were selfish and demanding. These feelings would never heal after the war.

warmuseum.ca

The First World War was the first great test for this young nation to prove its internal and external resilience on such a world scale. It was also a time when Canada experienced scarring brutalities of warfare and drastic outcomes of industrialization. Such events sparked dilemmas of citizen autonomy in Canada and its value under national crisis. With the employment of the War Measures Act (established in 1914) and the Military Service Act, Canadians faced challenges to their liberty from their own government. Conscription meant that the nation’s values behind warfare were being imposed on the citizens, stripping away their right to choose whether this value was worth the risk of their lives. However, conscription also meant more support and higher chances of survival for those who did fight in the war. Without conscription, those who volunteered are essentially abandoned by the rest of Canada to fight with its shrinking divisions.

But when is it appropriate for the government to decide for its citizens the benefits of warfare?  If the government performs such actions under the name of nationalism, why would citizens of the nation object? Why are there deviations between individual Canadian’s autonomy and the Government’s autonomy? And to what extent is the government stray from national interest justifiable? Who defines nationalism? The government or the people?

The Enlightenment philosopher Immanuel Kant believed that “A free will and a will under moral laws are one and the same”. Therefore, individual”freedom” and consequently, “autonomy”, in Kantian terms is equal to the autonomy of a moral government. The dispute seen during conscription crisis can be treated as an imbalance of these Kantian ideals; the conscription crisis either lacked morality in the government’s decision, or freedom on the individual’s part.

Through the Federal Election and Conscription, Canadians learned the fragility of autonomy, especially the ease in which disagreements between state (political) and individual (social) autonomy can cause significant damages to national unity.

archives.gov.on.ca

 

 

Sources:

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/politics-government/prime-ministers/pmportrait/Pages/item.aspx?PersonId=8

http://www.canadahistoryproject.ca/1914/1914-04-war-measures-act.html

http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPISCONTENTSE1EP12CH2PA3LE.html

https://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/primeministers/h4-4072-e.html

 

http://www.elections.ca/content.aspx?section=res&dir=his&document=chap2&lang=e#a26

https://encyclopedia.1914-1918-online.net/article/recruitment_and_conscription_canada

Hart-Davis, Adam. History. 3rd ed. New York: DK Publishing, 2015. Print.

Hoogeveen, Margaret, Sarah Murdoch, and Ellen Quejada. Creating Canada. 2nd ed. Toronto, ON.: McGraw-Hill Ryerson, 2014. Print.

http://learning.royalbcmuseum.bc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/War-Measures-Act.pdf

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/election-of-1917/

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/military-service-act/

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/union-government/

https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/first-world-war-wwi/

https://www.warmuseum.ca/firstworldwar/history/life-at-home-during-the-war/recruitment-and-conscription /conscription-1917/

https://www.warmuseum.ca/learn/dispatches/french-canada-and-recruitment-during-the-first-world-war/#tabs

 

 

The overlap between Laurier and Trudeau: Academic Controversy

Due to my full WordPress gallery storage, I have no choice but to screenshot my Venn Diagram and insert it into a Google Doc. I apologize for the inconvenience.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1whHEIm0Ra5QtMlTU8atckT7c_PP2E2Pi5eLORaoDZVQ/edit?usp=sharing

By the way, I found this really nice Flickr account by LibraryArchives Canada that has a lot of cool albums of Canadian history. I encourage you to take a look!

https://www.flickr.com/photos/lac-bac/albums/with/72157675154507805

Citations:

An Open Letter to George Brown: The Necessities of Confederation

My Dear Brown,

Once again, I ask you to consider the possibility of Confederation as a new vision of the so-called “Reform” you have so often advocated for. It seems apparent to me that if we wish to retain a great nationality capable of defending our own land against outward danger, to create a united land of British North American Subjects under a successful government, and  to commence freed trade amongst the colonies, then we must unite the colonies into a union of some sort.

As civil war lingers in America, it is to my utmost concern, and I hope certainly yours too, that the probabilities of war are becoming more unpredictable. Though I wish the two governments will act sensibly in times of crisis, as we have so often almost encountered, once commenced the war will bring great despair to our land. It has been brought to my attention that British holds very strong intentions of withdrawing their troops from British North America should there be war across the border. Once Mother Country abandons their interest in protecting this land for us, it becomes an immediate urgency for the Americans to take over Canada and its “abandoned” subjects. We must show the Americans that we are not scattered colonies meant to be manifested by their destiny, but a united nation under one flag that will fight for our own survival at all costs. Why should Britain defend us if we don’t have a single mean of defending ourselves? Why should Britain send their honourable troops to a band of small, scattered and weak colonies? For the sake of Mother Country—to relieve them of their burden and to defend Her Majesty’s Rule over this land—, and most importantly, for the sake of preserving our interests as British North America, we must unite the colonies to hold ourselves against all opponents. For the sake of securing peace to ourselves and our posterity, we must make ourselves powerful. The great security for peace is to convince the world of our strength by being united.

The Government will not relax its exertions to effect a Confederation of the North American Provinces.  We must, however, endeavour to take warning by the defects in the Constitution of the United States, which are now so painfully made manifest, and to form (if we succeed in a Federation) an efficient, central government. You and I are both well-aware of the incapability of this Parliament to move any motion forward. Election after election our ministry has failed to reconcile the violent disagreement between parties; the vote of a single loose fish may change the fate of an entire legislation for years. George, I ask you to put your strong feelings against the French aside, and think of the great potential of a united nation. This is not a party problem. The French will be our anchor to Confederation. Diversity will be our strength in the central system. The thoughts of Responsible Government for each individual colony is a dangerous one, as we have so often observed below the border. Provincial sovereignty will only grant internal separation within Confederation and invitations of invasions from the American army.

I also do you the compliment that, unlike some scoundrels in the Maritimes or Prince Edward Island, you are aware of the great economic possibilities behind Confederation. Those who fail to see the long economic benefits of Confederation must be blind to see the goods in which a transcontinental railway will grant every colony. With the Reciprocity Treaty ending shortly and the repeal of Corn Laws, the humble citizens of British North America must realize that a stable economy should not be dependent on foreign interests. With the formation of the Dominion of Canada, economic policies will be in favour of British North America: intercolonial trade, the transcontinental railway, and protection of local businesses… Though I am quite aware of your disagreement towards some of my opinions, I am certain that you agree with the potential of Confederation, unlimited by boundaries between colonies and pressure placed on us by other nations.

Everybody admits that the union must take place some time. I say now is the time. If we allow so favourable an opportunity to pass, it may never come again. 

I Am, Dear Sir, Yours Very Truly,

Bibliography

“ARCHIVED – Papers – Sir John A. Macdonald: Canada’s Patriot Statesman – Library And Archives Canada.” Collectionscanada.gc.ca. N.p., 2008. Web. 7 May 2018.

Cornwall, Claudia. “A Letter From John A. Macdonald.” The Globe and Mail. N.p., 2010. Web. 7 May 2018.

Gwyn, Richard J. John A.. [Toronto]: Random House Canada, 2007. Print.

Parliamentary Debates On The Subject Of The Confederation Of The British North American Provinces, 3Rd Session, 8Th Provincial Parliament Of Canada. Quebec: Hunter, Rose, 1865. Print.

Sir John A. Macdonald, Speech In The Confederation Debates. Ottawa: Macdonald-Laurier Institute, 2017. Web. 7 May 2018.

In-Depth Post #6: The End

Since the last In-Depth Post, I have been to SFU multiple times to work with both Daria and Dr. Jamieson.  It was a little challenging to analyze the fish bones this time, because I was analyzing bones from a different house pit, and boy did they eat a lot of salmon in this house. The vertebrate segments per square were as high as 50+, which is at least 3 or 4 fish. Though my task is getting more difficult with more broken pieces of bones per bag, with time I was slowly adapting to this challenge. It’s actually really fun! In addition to that, I also talked with Dr. Jamieson on his project at the Galapagos, and collecting photos for In-Depth Night.

I also took a lot of footage of the archaeology department, as well as some videos of me working on bone-analyzation that I plan on putting in my final presentation.

Speaking of which, I plan on presenting my learning as a stage “performance”: showing a video of all of the type of work I’ve been doing at the archaeology department. Unfortunately, getting all the artifacts and tools outside of the department is very difficult, and some information is restricted to staff at the department only. Therefore, I plan on making a montage of all of my progress. Similarly, in archaeology, there are times when artifacts excavated at certain locations are not allowed to be transported back to university labs, so the archaeologists would need to take a lot of photos of said artifacts in order to analyze them back home. In fact, that’s what I just did with Dr. Jamieson yesterday at his office. Using a photo-organizing software called Tropy, I entered artifact numbers for the artifact photos he excavated at the Galapagos Island to correspond with the Microsoft Access Datasheet. Since there’s a lot of pictures of the same artifact, the artifact number will help him find all the pictures related to that one single number. Based on the materials found in the midden (pretty much a garbage dump), he is attempting to recreate the material culture of the people who lived on San Cristobal Island. Based on what I’ve seen so far, the majority of the garbage consisted of glass alcohol bottles of various shapes (I guess the villagers were really living it up). There really is no way to “leave no trace”. So much of the unnoticed details in life reveal so much about the lifestyle of one person. It’s slightly lamentable that in the future, archaeologists will likely be looking at our plastic waste, because that’s most of the physical objects we seem to be leaving behind now. I think archaeology will look very different in the future. We’ll see.

I still plan on going to the Archaeology Department regularly in the future, if possible. Dr. Jamieson actually gave me a folder with some information on studying Archaeology at SFU. Who knows what the future has in store? Perhaps sometime in the far future, some archaeologist will be analyzing my bones, attempting to understand the unspoken stories of my life. If they look at “me”, what will they say? I wonder.

Image Credit to Ted.com

We’re not makers of history. We are made by history.

-Martin Luther King Jr.

Nation-Maker and Comic-Strip Biographies: A Check- In

Macdonald  expressed this  view most explicitly in another letter to Rose, on March 5, 1872: “I  am, as you may fancy, exceedingly desirous of carrying the election again; not with any personal object, because I  am weary of the whole thing, but Confederation is only yet in the gristle, and it will require five years more before it hardens into bone” (191).

The statement that Sir John A. Macdonald made here makes me question why he believed that he is the one entitled to be the right force to grow Confederation. Though he himself is tired of nation- building, it seems as if JAM feels a moral obligation to run as Prime Minister. On many different levels, I relate to this statement with great resemblances. Why do I go to school? When I am too tired to wake up, what is keeping me away from skipping class? In the silence of night when my parents are not watching, what is keeping me from eating the Halloween candies?Once again, we end up at the debate between Hobbes and Locke. Is it societal pressure that drove Macdonald into running again, or is responsibility naturally inherited?

With respect to Canadian identity,  it becomes rather apparent that the future of Canada depended much of its destiny on the shoulders of one leader. JAM may very well be fed-up with founding Canada, but from this quote one infers that perhaps too large a portion of the country’s fate relied on the talent of a single man. Today, however, the survival of Canada is no longer as fragile as it was 150 years before, and thus the reliance on the leader decreased quite significantly.

Image credit to thecanadianencyclopedia.ca

“He never exercised beyond walking the short distance to work, but his energy remained exceptional” ( 7-8)

Okay. I cannot express how much I resonate with John A. Macdonald in this sentence. The Venn diagram between me and this sentence is precisely a circle. There is no other quote that I relate to more than this singular sentence in the near 400 pages I’ve read in Nation Maker. Aside from walking to different classrooms and bus stops, I have never moved another inch unless required (Goodness, how I shiver at the mobs about to charge into my household and yell at me to exercise upon making that statement). However! John A. Macdonald and I clearly demonstrate that temporary muscular training is in no way a necessary ingredient exceptional energy of mind. Combining this statement with my other knowledge of this man, I believe it safe for me to conclude that both Sir John A. Macdonald and I believe that it is far better to spend one’s time and effort in legacies that will outlive us than to train the fleeting mortal existence of the human body.

The value of a privileged ability to choose one’s lifestyle is clearly not a priority of Canada during the times of its creation. The concept of exercise and healthy living is a rather modern value since it was never really necessary yet in a country that mostly consisted of agricultural farmers and industrial workers. John A. Macdonald, being one of the few men who worked at jobs that didn’t require physical labour, balanced this by exercising his extraordinary fitness of mind to survive in the political arena. Perhaps once extended, the quote actually reveals something beyond musings on fitness. Perhaps being a citizen of this unlikely country naturally requires exercises beyond one’s rest, whether physically or mentally, in order to struggle to survive.

“XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX”

<He hasn’t stopped.>

<I can hear him.>

Page 66-67 of Louis Riel: A comic-strip biography by Chester Brown 

On first glance, the two panels at the bottom of the right page may seem like a mundane shot, yet to me, it is one of the best panels in the entire book. Using visual composition, Brown artfully speculates the unanswered question regarding Riel’s true interest in organizing the Red River Rebellion. Until the capture of Thomas Scott, Riel had been shown as a confident leader in the rebellion. On this page, however, the strong opinions of the Métis people against Thomas Scott’s racial slurs are affecting Riel’s equilibrium. His image in the Métis is being affected by the insults of Scott, facing the choice between his reputation and his bloodless rebellion until this moment. It might well be under the social pressure incentive that Riel allowed the execution. Gosh, I just love the endless interpretations that could stem from two panels.

In regards to contemporary Canadian values at the time of Louis Riel, the clear sectarian fights between religion and race were quite prominent. Both Louis Riel and Thoms Scott presumably believed that their individual race held dignity that the opposing does not possess. However, while distinctive individuality inflicted many problems in the new and centralized Dominion of Canada, such pride in one’s culture is very much promoted and encouraged in present-day Canada 150 years after.

I ‘ave acted in self-defence, while t’e government, being irresponsible and insane, cannot but ‘ave acted wrong, and if treason t’ere is, it must be on its side and not on my part” (229).

This quote is a dialogue of Louis Riel from Chester Brown’s Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography. First of all, I would just like to note that Chester Brown has replaced all the “h” sounds with an apostrophe to highlight the French accent of the usually unpronounced”h”. I find this little detail super intriguing and thoughtful of the author to do, and further adds to the authenticity of the characters in the book. I can hear the French accent in my head. As for the actual quote itself, the good old defence of a revolutionary justifying his actions as righteous against an insane government. Fighting authorities that have power over you due to pre-determined social hierarchies is a difficult, and often losing battle, as revolutionaries and rebelutionaries around the world would know. Though I have never organized a revolution or rebellion (yet), the feeling of feeble justice against too strong an authority is far too relatable, especially when that authority is one’s  Always- Justified- Parental- Unit-Whom-Thou-Shalt-Hast-No-Argument-Against. There are definitely times when I disagreed with those who are older than me on certain social issues, but was put down due to a simple factor of age and “experience”.

Back then, the value of individuals, no matter how right they were, may very well be a difficult case to defend because the Canadian value was largely centralist. The unique actions of one individual that demonstrates any threat to dismantle the Canadian centralist value was, no doubt, a warning sign to the newly united Dominion of Canada. Macdonald and the Canadian government as a whole being paralyzed of annexation, the promotion of a united Canada may have overlooked the individuality of the different cultures, fearing that their independence may lead to the annexation with the powerful United States of America. Back then, the Canadian value was very cautious of any indication of threats of separation or independence to the pre-mature and fragile Canadian government. Now, with Canada being one of the most multi-cultural countries in the world, the fear of governmental failure due to various sectarianism no longer lingers.

If the argument advanced in these two volumes is correct— that no Macdonald would have meant no Canada— it is true equally that had there been no Canada, there could have been no Macdonald of renown, instead perhaps just a likeable small-town lawyer who drank too much (316).

While it may be true that Sir John A. Macdonald can be considered as a major drive for the foundation of Canada, Gwyn argues here that Canada also provided the platform for Macdonald to be successful. This quote intrigues me in the possibilities of alternate universes that history offers. Perhaps everybody possesses the ability for greatness, but the alignment of events and causes consequently affect the creation of a person. The idea of nature vs. nurture continuously appears in my life, especially in regards to the concept of giftedness. So often, I wonder whether eminence is a pre-determined inherited trait unchanged by the environment, or a result of special combinations of causes and experiences. If the latter is true, how plausible is it to construct an artificial environment that can manufacture eminent people? If Macdonald was born in the United States, would he have been equally renowned for the same traits that contributed to building Canada but in different disciplines? That’s a question I don’t have an answer to, but am thoroughly enjoying the search for in my readings.

As a newly formed country with little tradition or cultural stigma to inherit, Canada provided many opportunities for individuals to exercise their potential on this undefined land. While Macdonald had to paint the image of a nation on a completely blank canvas, the whiteness granted him an unequivocal freedom to unleash his brilliance; while the struggle of Canada had always been a difficult one, the challenge provided generations with countless opportunities to demonstrate their talent. Even today, although Canada doesn’t have defined national identities, the lack of thereof provides many Canadians with the chance to define the term themselves.

Theme:

The pursuit of a definitive self- identity often obstructs us from reviewing our actions critically and sympathizing with others.

Since I’m reading about both Macdonald and Riel, there has been a lot of themes in my readings. So far, I think this is the theme that reoccurs most often on both sides. Whereas John A. committed multiple misdeeds of genocide and scandal for the sake of creating a transcontinental Dominion of Canada, Riel’s stubborn stance on Métis rights and his amnesty also led disastrous outcomes of executing Thoms Scott and eventually his own death. By trying to confine themselves into a singular frame of character, both had failed to see the argument from opposing sides and seek alternative and far less destructive routes. Perhaps this will be my basis for my synthesis argument, but who knows what knowledge is to be unveiled in the next 200 pages.

 

Sir John A. Macdonald: A National Legacy That Will Not Be Erased

Mr. Morris

Humanities

April 18, 2018

For most people, the likeness of another person serves no more than an identification tool. Yet throughout history, the faces and names of historical celebrities often represent grand concepts of philosophy or politics; their entities shift from a mere identification factor to an embodiment of important ideals in society. Similarly, the first Prime Minister of Canada Sir John A. Macdonald also suffers from the current ethical judgement of the principles that his figure has come to represent. Whereas some argue that Sir John A. Macdonald stands as one of the most important figures in Canadian history, other critics encourage the complete removal of his existence in the public sphere, as his derogatory policies resurface in recent years of reconciliation. However, when one closely examines Macdonald’s prevention of Canada’s annexation into the United States and his promotion of French-Canadian equality, his position in the public sphere becomes rightly justified to remain.

Despite the high probability that Canada annexes with the United States during its first few years, John A. Macdonald’s exceptional political aptitude allowed the nation to exist independently unlike any other British colonies. Although Canada had low chances of surviving as an individual country, “by his timely efforts and success in creating Canada, Macdonald achieved his goal of preserving the larger half of North America as a country of its own, which was not part of its powerful neighbours, the United States” (Symons). As stated by historian Richard Gwyn in his article “Canada’s Father Figure”, Canada’s existence as a separate country from the United States allowed John A. Macdonald to “gain for the fragile, unformed nation enough time ‘to harden from gristle to bone’” (31). Therefore, by avoiding Canada’s amalgamation with the United States, Macdonald preserved the distinctive nations found on this land. Without his determination to stop the annexation, the rich and diverse cultures of Canada would exist very differently in a diluted continental State of America. In stopping Canada’s expected annexation with its neighbours, the first prime minister deserves to stay within the country in the form of monuments and public institutions.

Conversely, the opposition often claims that the existence of his name and figure in the public sphere inflicts an uncomfortable if not threatening environment for the indigenous groups affected by his unprogressive policies. However, the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s likeness in reasons of policies that no longer exist in Canada directly overlooks the rights of those who are still positively affected by him today. Not only did Macdonald “constructed his cabinets so that they represented regions as well as religions and ethnic groups,” he also “spoke out fiercely against movements in English-speaking Canada intended to restrict or eliminate altogether the use of the French tongue” (Gwyn; Symons). Unlike the Indian Act that has been amended many times since its initial establishment in 1876, Macdonald’s contributions towards Canada’s bilingualism and a diverse cabinet are still largely in effect today as defining factors of Canadian identity. Current Canadians continue to enjoy Macdonald’s foundation of French language equality as well the presence of a multicultural cabinet, both of which prominently outlive his unprogressive consequences, further securing his status to remain in the public.

Though recent debates sparked critics interest in the removal of Sir John A. Macdonald’s likeness from monuments and institutions, many maintain the position that Macdonald withstands as Canada’s eminent founding father. Nevertheless, in reasons of the prevention of Canada’s annexation and the lasting effects of his bilingual policies, Macdonald is clearly defended to stay in the public sphere. The influence in Sir John A. Macdonald’s figure underscores our responsibility to appreciate the complexity of Canada’s creation, to hold historical judgement away from the growing seed of ignorance threatening to remove our own first Prime Minister from our own country. It is important to recognize that every single human being does not escape the wrath of mistakes in their life, no matter who they are. But more importantly, one should realize that like John A. Macdonald, occasional blunders in our judgement do not detract from our overall value as valid humans. In spite of unavoidable errors, no legacy as great as founding Canada deserves to be erased from the recognition of Canadians themselves.

Addition Works Cited

Gwyn, R. (2011). Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: his life, our times. Toronto: Random House Canada.

In-Depth Post #5: Difference between archaeology and grave robbing?

How long does someone have to be dead before it’s considered archaeology and not grave robbing?

After giving it some thought, you might guess that the answer is around the amount of time needed for flesh to be decomposed, right? Well, not exactly.

I’ll have to announce that the question was a trick question because the difference between archaeology and grave robbing is behind the question of intent, rather than time. Archaeology is done with a scholarly purpose to achieve a better understanding of human history, while grave robbing is done strictly for monetary reasons. In order to conduct an archaeological excavation, archaeologists would have to acquire permission from those who live on the land and other processes before the field work can begin, while grave robbing is… robbing.

Anyways! Over the spring break, I had the lucky chance of volunteering at the Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology at SFU, thanks to Dr. Jamieson’s hard work asking around the Department for opportunities for me. During my time at the museum, I was mainly labelling and replacing photo slides.  Not digitally printed photos, but those real photo slides that are black unless there is light under it. Most excitingly for me, they were “primary resources” of human osteology (human bones) found at sites! I got to wear one of those white cliche museum gloves and spent a rather long time sorting through batches of them, but it was really fun! After that, I had the opportunity to use a photo slide scanner which properly digitizes photo slides. In case if you were wondering, it is not a regular scanner.


 

After that, I just did miscellaneous things around the museum such as locating documents (this sounds boring but there are SO MANY numbers and categories) and transporting them (with a cart because they were so heavy). There was also a great variety of cool artifacts at the back of the museum from all over the world. And I got a chance to see what other people were working around in the museum, which was super cool as well. Everything was just so cool!

I won’t put too many pictures here, partially because my WordPress gallery is almost full, but also because I have to save some things for In-Depth Night. I brought my camera and tripod with me, so I filmed some videos of me working on the slides that I will likely be showing on In-Depth Night.

1. What kinds of learning opportunities does the mentor provide to expose you to new learning?

I am very fortunate to say that Dr. Jamieson has exposed me to so many different opportunities to work with different people around the Archaeology Department. Thanks to him, I was involved in projects of undergraduate and graduate students, lectures, and volunteering at the museum. The different people I’ve worked with allowed me to an In-Depth look into the different aspects within archaeology, such as osteoarchaeology, historical archaeology, and museum work, etc. I got tours of pretty much the entire Archaeology Department at SFU, including the zooarchaeology lab, the botanical archaeology lab, the isotope lab, the dirt sampling room, the archives, and the museum.

2. What kinds of learning opportunities exist to reinforce new learning?

Obviously, there’s more than just two students in the Archaeology Department at SFU, so I could technically explore other projects. While working with other university students is great, perhaps there are more In-Depth things that I can talk my current mentor(s) about. There are always new things to learn about so I don’t really believe this to be a concern. I do really want to have some future opportunity to work in the zooarchaeology lab, so I will try to ask one of my mentors about that in the future.

3. What kinds of opportunities exist that might accelerate learning?

I should definitely be taking more notes during the meeting about the new vocabulary I learn, and if possible I plan on videotaping future sessions as well. This is not only to collect raw footage for my In-Depth Night Presentation, but also to review topics since it’s difficult to put into words an activity as hands-on as archaeology. I believe videos will help me visually activate some memories during the meetings that I couldn’t capture with my notes.

4. When you get together what do you talk about?

Clearly, we mostly talk about archaeology when we get together, but I also ask a lot of questions about other things to my mentors.  So far, one of the questions that I’ve been asking to all of my mentors is how they got interested in archaeology. While some responses included the fact that they were always interested in the subject ever since they were little, other people claimed that they took a course about it in undergraduate and fell in love with it thus switching majors. While society seems to have this pressure my decisions now will significantly affect my entire future, I’m starting to think otherwise. Ever since I was in grade one I was tremendously concerned about my future because I was always so uncertain of what I want to be when I grow up (having existential crisis in grade one? Yes). I felt that I had to know what I wanted to do in the future even though I was definitely at an age that is not nearly mature enough to decide my entire career. And I think it’s unfair for children who, unlike those who knew their passions from the moment they were born, simply don’t know what they’re good at. After talking to all these amazing people, those who did not know what they were going to be are equally wonderful as those who did. So not only is In-Depth teaching me a lot about archaeology, it’s also been incredibly humbling to learn about universities and careers from my mentors.

5. What is going particularly well in your mentoring relationship right now?

My mentoring relationship is going very well thus far. Again, every time I meet at SFU, I just learn so much every single time. I am very lucky to announce that my In-Depth meetings are incredibly productive and effective this year, in that I’m not only learning so much about my subject, but that most of my learning has been guided and directed by my mentors in this hands-on experience. One of the reasons why my mentorship relationship is so successful might be because of the location of the meetings. Archaeology is a very technical subject, so the facilities provided at SFU grant me a great deal of knowledge just from visiting the department.

6. What are you learning about one another?

Dr. Jamieson overall is a very cool person. He’s super easy to talk to and kind and friendly. I found out that he likes to watch the Office because he was wearing an Office T-shirt during one of the meetings and I asked him about that.  When I get together with Alessandria, we talked a lot the impact of archaeology on the First Nations, and vice versa; it seems like a subject she is super interested in. When I’m with Daria, I would sometimes ask her about her university experiences and how she enjoys her archaeology classes. As I’m becoming more familiar with the people, what I used to dread grows to something I greatly look forward to.

Although archaeology is about dead things, it’s been teaching me a lot about how to “life”.

Document of Learning #2: Hark! It’s James Wolfe!

Image result for hark a vagrant

 For this Document of Learning, I made a little historical comic.  Why? Why not?! Well, over the spring break someone clearly had too much time on their hands. I spent most of my time reading historical comics rather than doing homework, among other things. In the end, I decided to make a little tribute to the great historical comic, Hark!  A Vagrantby Kate Beaton. The art style, the humour, the history, everything is just so good my friend you have to check it out, but I do have to say there is some *ahem*—stuff— depending on the ones you read.

Anyways, here goes a little intro to famous Major-General Wolfe who gained his fame precisely because he died. (I apologize beforehand for the terrible colour balancing in my pictures).

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Dialogue from Parkman, 1885 (see References).

James Wolfe was an English general famous for his victory at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham that allowed the British to take over New France. Thanks to Wolfe’s daring idea of climbing the cliff to Montcalm’s camp, the British was able to win the battle in less than 30 minutes on September 13, 1759. Unfortunately, Wolfe was shot three times the battle and died on the battlefield soon after the news of his victory was delivered, making him one of the greatest English martyrs in history for the of British colonies in North America. However! after watching Canada: This is Us I really wonder how much does Wolfe actually live up to his famous reputation. So often in history, we deify or demonize a person so much and they no longer seem human to us,  but it is precisely the mortality of historical figures that teach us how to lead better lives ourselves. So through this DOL, I hope to reveal some parts of James Wolfe under his glorious martyred skin.

Inquiry Question: How did the British Victory during the Battle of the Plains of Abraham alter the perception of Major-General James Wolfe?

the-legacy

Yes, it’s true. Crayola did in fact have a colour called have a colour called Wolfe Brown in honour of James Wolfe, which was unfortunately discontinued after one year. Ever since his death in 1759, Wolfe has been perceived as a war hero by many both in Canada and England, spreading his legacy in various formats. Oh, poor Montcalm!

fandom-picsPerhaps one of the most famous images of Wolfe, and certainly the most dramatic one, is Benjamin West’s historical painting made “just” eleven years after the battle. Photographs being not yet existent, the artist’s rendition of the scene directly influences the perception of the content through formal qualities and techniques. West, a historical painter, decided to paint a relatively recent event in contrast to the common Biblical scenes or Classical Greek Mythology. Many were in fact against his idea of putting the figures in the contemporary clothing in the fear of disrespecting the event, yet West decided to remain “truthful” in this painting and put his figures in the respective clothing of the era. However, as one observes closely there is little accuracy in this painting.

Image credit to Wikipedia.org

I had the fortunate chance of seeing this painting when I visited the Royal Ontario Museum during the spring break. As an art history hobbyist, I’ll walk you through some quick analysis:
The first thing that the audience may notice is that the painting is very huge, spanning around two metres in width. James Wolfe is featured in the centre of the composition. He is likely the first thing the audience will look at upon examining this painting. All of the other figures in the painting direct their eyes to the dying figure of Wolfe, who wears a bright red British coat. However, only one of the figures depicted was documented to be actually present during the moment. The indigenous North American sitting to the right of Wolfe accentuates the exoticness of the New World to his British audience, Perhaps most importantly, Wolfe is deliberately depicted with the visual allusion to the Lamentation of Christ, a resemblance that many 18th century audiences would’ve picked up on. The theatrical clouds, combined with the dramatic lighting, continues to add on to the dramatic atmosphere of the painting. Through the manipulation of visual properties, West depicts Wolfe as a remarkably noble hero who died fighting for the English cause.

Meanwhile…..

fandom-pics

Who is this man creating these not-so-glorious caricatures of General Wolfe? George Townshend, of course! George Townshend, a talented caricaturist, was brigadier under the command of Major-General Wolfe whom he had a terrible relationship with. Townshend took delight in creating hideous caricatures of James Wolfe, teasing the various terrible qualities of his general and passing them around to other officers at camp. These are actually the oldest North American caricatures ever! Don’t you just love it when creativity is driven by spite?

Continuity and Change:

Similar to modern internet memes, Townshend’s cartoons seek to degrade Wolfe’s reputation through exaggerated imagery. After almost two hundred years, the manipulation of another human being’s perception in the public still contains tremendous power. To this day, politicians and school bullies alike flatten their opponent’s reputation into a single story through a series of name-calling techniques and propaganda. However, with the internet today, thousands of resources are readily available at the click of one button. Unlike the past, a sceptic individual today is able to take advantage of the research privilege and inform themselves to a variety of information before settling to a conclusion.

While the modern perception of James Wolfe is great and noble, it really seems like the historical actors were not so impressed with Wolfe. There exists a gigantic gap between Townshend’s caricatures created while Wolfe was alive compared to Benjamin West’s painting eleven years after Wolfe’s death. Here’s one on Wolfe complaining about how a 25-feet latrine isn’t deep enough (more on this later).

Image Credit to McCord Museum

Wolfe, what have you done to make Montcalm hate you so much? How terrible were you as a general?

scary-wolfe

 

 

Historical Perspective:

Wolfe was remembered by his fellow officers to be a rather egotistical and stubborn person, often unwilling to accept his mistakes, such as the time when he left

camp unprotected. Poor Townshend did him the favour of setting up the entrenchments around camp, but Wolfe responded to Townshend’s help with considerable violence. Other officers, such as James Murray and Robert Mockton held similar views with Townshend in their general’s horrible leadership. Wolfe was also said to lack good humour, so even he saw Townshend’s masterpieces he likely wouldn’t have appreciated them very much.  Though I have no right to express what Townshend’s values and standards were, I speculate that he valued strong leadership and responsibility in his major-general, rather than Wolfe who was constantly ill. Being three years older than Wolfe, perhaps he was jealous and frustrated that Wolfe was named Major-General instead of him. Indeed, Wolfe’s military tactics were quite unusual, to say the least, and his victory at the Plains of Abraham definitely had a factor of luck to it.

manifesto

First two dialogues from Wright, 1864

On June 28 of 1759, James Wolfe drafted the Manifesto Addressed to Canadians as a psychological intimidation, lovingly stating things like “to deprive the French of their most valuable settlement in North America” and that any French Canadians resisting to his army will have “their habitations destroyed, their sacred temples exposed to an exasperated soldiery, their harvest utterly ruined, and the only passage for relief stopped up by a most formidable fleet” ( Wright, 1864). Wolfe showed little mercy to the French civilians, burning and robbing their huts in hopes that they would abandon Montcalm and side with him. This was counter-productive, however, since neutral inhabitants became actively resistant against Wolfe’s campaign. Montcalm’s defense militia grew to as many as 10,000 men who joined likely out of hatred.

manifesto

Dying as a young martyr, James Wolfe definitely benefitted from the statement “You have no control who lives, who dies, who tells your story”, with both Britain and Canada telling the story of his greatness. These stories often cover Wolfe’s poor health conditions, who harboured rheumatism, tuberculosis, and dysentery during his lifetime (providing Townshend with plenty of laughing material I daresay).

After the British victory at the Battle of Plains of Abraham, Wolfe was perceived more of noble, and immortal British hero rather than the sick and bad-tempered general. The story of James Wolfe is one of the countless lessons of history that makes us recognize the gullibility of our feeble minds. It is much more difficult to understand a person as both a hero and a villain than to simply choose a single side of their life; it is much easier to convince someone about a single side of a person than to provide an entire account of their character. James Wolfe is, after all, just another man, equally prone to becoming the victims of single-stories as we are. But unlike James Wolfe and his era, we have the access to countless resources on the internet that we can use to defend ourselves against these flattening tales.  Once again, investigating in history provides us with the humbling opportunity to perceive historical actors as rounded humans just as we are, to recognize the continuity of universal human traits, and to appreciate the positive changes in technology.

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Wolfe’s design from my sketchbook

 

References

Adair, E. (1936). The Military Reputation of Major-General James Wolfe. Retrieved from http://www.cha-shc.ca/download.php?id=1617

Battle for a ContinentCbc.ca/history/. Retrieved 1 April 2018, from http://www.cbc.ca/history/EPCONTENTSE1EP4CH6LE.html

Colby, C. (1920). Selections from the sources of English history (p. 294). London: Longmans, Green.

Gordon, S. (2018). George Townshend, 1st Marquess TownshendThe Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 29 March 2018, from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/george-townshend-1st-marquess-townshend/

James WolfeEn.wikipedia.org. Retrieved 30 March 2018, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Wolfe

James Wolfe facts, information, pictures | Encyclopedia.com articles about James Wolfe. (2004). Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved 29 March 2018, from https://www.encyclopedia.com/people/history/canadian-history-biographies/james-wolfe

James Wolfe: The heroic martyr | National Army MuseumNam.ac.uk. Retrieved 29 March 2018, from https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/James-Wolfe

Parkman, F. (1885). Montcalm and Wolfe (pp. 296-297). MacMillian and Co.

Townshend, G. (1759). General James Wolfe, at Quebec. Montreal: McCord Museum.

Wilson, B. (1909). The life and letters of James Wolfe (p. 396). Toronto: London: William Heineman.

WRIGHT, R. (1864). The Life of Major-General James Wolfe, founded on original documents and illustrated by his correspondence, etc (pp. 517-518). London: Chapman & Hall.

 

Document of Learning #1: Nationally Mistaken Identity and Wheel of Revolution Upgrade

To most people, Canada’s identity remains as fluid as a coursing river, though ironically lacking a single cohesive mainstream with its multiculturalism and diversity. Yet despite the criticism and musings we receive from other countries on our lack of core identity,  there still exists boundaries to Canada’s liberty and freedom. Such limitations are especially prominent during times of crisis, as perfectly encaptured by the October Crisis in 1970. This uprising led by the extremist Québécois organization Front de Libération du Quebec directly challenged Canada’s idea of civilian rights. Inspired by foreign revolutions such as the decolonization of Algeria and Cuban revolution lead by Che Guevera, the FLQ promoted separation of Quebec as an independent state from Canada (Laurendeau). FLQ committed many violent actions of kidnapping, robbing, and detonation of bombs in mailboxes bearing the Royal Arm. Eventually, in the October of 1970, the organization kidnapped the Minister of Immigration and Labour Pierre Laporte, and British Diplomat James Cross in demand for the release of FLQ convicts, a $500,000 ransom, and broadcasts of the FLQ Manifesto on the radio (Smith, October Crisis). Under this circumstance, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau issued the only use of the War Measures Act during peacetime in Canadian history which allows “broad powers to the Canadian government to maintain security and order during war or insurrection” (Smith, War Measures Act).

As a nostalgic person,  I hereby present another wheel of revolution to better explain this event. Mind you, I personally think now that it should be referred to as a spiral, not a wheel, for history is only a resemblance, not a clone, of past events. In this manner, the entire history of humans is theoretically traceable by a single gigantic recursive spiral staircase. Should an event be significant enough, the society should be in a different shape than when the wheel began. Another MS Paint Masterpiece

Another MS Paint Masterpiece

The October Crisis inspires change from all four social, economic, environmental, and political quadrants. From the economic perspective, the conflict begins in the formation of the FLQ, “Fed by nationalist discontent and rising unemployment, and by the example of colonial states rising against foreign imperialism” (Smith, October Crisis). Not to mention the ransom demanded by the FLQ and the cost of employing the War Measures Act. The organization initially received great support from students and workers influenced by revolutionary atmospheres from other countries, but later became increasingly violent, creating a terrorist environment for all Canadian citizens. The crisis peaked when members of the FLQ kidnapped Pierre Laporte and James Cross, with Pierre Laporte murdered soon after and found dead in a car trunk. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau controversially invokes the only usage of the War Measures Act during peacetime. 18 years after the crisis in 1988, the more moderate Emergency Act was created in replacement of the War Measures Act due to the controversy created by Pierre Trudeau’s reaction to the crisis. While the October Crisis impacts all Canadians from border to border, it is perhaps most significant for its revelation of Canadian identity previously unnoticed to the world and ourselves.

As La crise d’octobre spins a whole turn of the wheel in Canadian history, the Canadian identity renders itself transparent, taking form in the shape a coherent, Canadian value. During an interview with Pierre Trudeau, CBC reporter Tim Ralfe states that ” [his] choice is to live in a society that is free and democratic which means you don’t have people with guns running around in it. And one of the things I have to give up for that choice is the fact that people like [Pierre Trudeau], may be kidnapped”. While Ralfe’s statement very well supports current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement of Canada as a post-national, democratic and free society, Pierre Trudeau’s response ironically disagrees with his son’s claims. Pierre Trudeau undermines the liberty so well represented by Canadians, saying that “it’s more important to keep law and order in this society than to be worried about weak-kneed people who don’t like the looks of helmets” (Trudeau).  The activation of the War Measures Act, along with Pierre Trudeau’s response to Ralfe, demonstrates that there still remains central values of Canada that weighs more than a lack of it. While democracy and civil rights are factors of Canada’s infamous post-nationalism, it appears that ordered and unified resolutions to crises are more vital in Canada’s approach to danger. The October Crisis shows that there is still a core foundation of safety, protection, and law that is placed above our liberty.

In my opinion, the definition of a specific nationalist idea is meaningful in pushing a country in unified directions and approaches to problems. It is evidently easier to organize a society sharing coherent values than a country of scattered identities. Every country in the world undergoes many crucial decisions, but under different national goals and values, each of these decisions is approached differently. With a post-national country, however, it is hard to move in any direction without receiving backlash from all the diverse perspectives. Indeed, an open idea of nationhood may serve as a new step to globalization, but organized responses to threats and crisis will be nearly impossible to rally with the huge population and huge diversity of demands. National beliefs emerged during past events remind the current society of a world without these ideals. Nationalism recalls the reason why the nation fought to establish these values, and prevents future generations from degrading to a world without.

References

Laurendeau, Marc. “Front De Libération Du Québec”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2013, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/front-de-liberation-du-quebec/. Accessed 5 Mar 2018.

Smith, Denis. “October Crisis”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2013, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/october-crisis/. Accessed 3 Mar 2018.

Smith, Denis. “War Measures Act”. The Canadian Encyclopedia, 2013, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/war-measures-act/. Accessed 5 Mar 2018.

The Globe and Mail. Newsboy Holds Up A Newspaper With A Banner Headline Reporting The Invoking Of The War Measures Act On Oct 16, 1970, Following The Kidnapping Of British Diplomat James Cross And Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte By The FLQ. CP. 1970, https://www.theglobeandmail.com/resizer/0i2Ymrp7_DzalbsS4VULl4uGf9M=/1200×0/filters:quality(80)/arc-anglerfish-tgam-prod-tgam.s3.amazonaws.com/public/JXCNYE4T75EI7MZUZIR65LQ6ZU. Accessed 5 Mar 2018.

Trudeau, Pierre. “CBC Archives: Just Watch Me, 1970|CBC”. 1970.

 

 

 

In- Depth Post #4: Shell Dust and Toe Bones

After much time has elapsed, it is time for another In-Depth post!

This time, I met with the graduate student Alessandria at SFU. Thanks to the generosity of Ms. Mulder and Mr. Salisbury I was able to leave class a little earlier in order to meet at a time that is convenient at SFU.

During the meeting, we mainly analyzed bones and shells from a backfill pit. Which is pretty much a “mistake” pit, but since the mistake has already been made and contents were already dug out, artefacts were excavated nevertheless. Alessandria (my third mentor so far!) taught me how to set up a new catalogue sheet in Excel based on a previous template.

As you may see, the catalogue is organized based on bag number, excavation site, and perhaps most importantly, the classifications of the animal bone. In order to achieve this, archaeologists will have to be able to identify the type of animal just based on fragmented examinations of animal bones, which I thought was… incredible. This branch of archaeology is referred to as zooarchaeology, which my mentor described as the study of animal artefacts at human sites. It is important to emphasis on the word “human”, since archaeology is overall the study of past societies. If the study was purely based on fossiled animals and plants, that would be called palaeontology. So be careful with your word choice! I will be watching…

After setting that up, she taught me how to identify shells found in the area. In fact, because she does a lot of zooarchaeology, her knowledge of biology is rather exceptional. With her marine biology book, she showed me some common bi-valves in the area: butter clam, horse clam, cockle, and mussel.

During our examination of shells found at the site, we encountered one with a funny hole in it like this:

Image Credit to friendsofibsp.org

Perhaps some of you have bumped into this observation at the beach too. Upon first examination, it may seem logical to infer that a human pierced the shell for accessories, right? At least that’s what I thought. Well, it turns out that the perfectly round, pierced hole is not a human’s creation. It’s the masterpiece of a moon snail!

Image Credit to Wikipedia.org

This tiny, soft, and insignificant snail has a mouth powerful enough to drill a perfectly round hole through the brittle shell of clams in order to slurp up the meat inside for food. Isn’t nature so wonderful?

That was just a neat fact I thought I’d share with all of you. For some of my fellow TALONS, I hope this sort of thing rings a bell about a field trip we did last year during spring break: Bamfield! Yes, I did mention this to Alessandria, and apparently, she’s been there too! She said she loved her experience at Bamfield and I was really glad that we share this connection!

Anyways, after she taught me some basic identifications we went ahead to sift the contents in a catch-screen. It’s actually really helpful in separating the tiny shards of shell and bone that were still relevant to the collection. However, after screening that we still had to pick out the shells and bones apart from rocks, which required great skills dealing with tweezers. I can tell you with confidence that my mentor’s chopstick skills must be excellent from her practice at picking fish bones smaller than the size of my pinkie nail.

For the shells that were still intact, I just wore a glove and sorted them out based on the distinctive traits. Then I weighed the collection, labelled some bags, and they are now officially in a catalogue! I did the same things with the salmon bones, but unfortunately didn’t get to finish the whole collection before the meeting ended. Alas, maybe next time!

I won’t go on to say everything I’ve learned, because there’s just so much that I can talk about. I could talk about the dead wasp I found amongst the bones; I could talk about the bear toe bone in the collection; I could talk about archaeology consulting… There’s just simply too much.  For certain reasons, I will not be posting the pictures of the bone artifacts I organized on this public site. If you are curious, feel free to ask me and I’ll show it to you privately.

1. What has been my most difficult mentoring challenge so far?  Why?

The most difficult challenge is to balance my busy schedule, my mentor’s busy schedule, and my parent’s busy schedule together to a time that works for all of us. I do not want to make leaving class for in-depth meetings a norm either because I don’t want to fall behind on school work. I guess I’m still at the stage where I’m trying to fit In-Depth into part of my normal schedule, but that would mean a commitment from my mom and my mentor as well.

2. What is working well? Why?

At every single meeting I’ve had so far, I just learn so much every time. There is no shortage of things to know in my subject this year. Every meeting is an exciting chance for me to learn something that I am grateful for. It’s only a subject at university for a good reason. The recurring theme here is that there’s so many topics you can explore in archaeology because there’s so many disciplines involved with it. In other words, archaeology can tell us a little about EVERYTHING that humans have done, ranging from their material culture to their impact on the ecosystem.

3. What could be working better?  How can you make sure this happens?

Right now because there are so many things that I can explore, it’s a little difficult for my mentor to know the direction I want to go with this project. We could just go off all kinds of tangents on a little bit of everything, which has worked well thus far, but I’m also curious to dig a little deeper about one subject and ask more questions. This can happen simply by me preparing specific questions ahead of the meeting to point to a cohesive theme for the project. Of course, I’m happy to learn anything archaeology-related, but talking about topics I’m passionate about is not only more interesting for me but also makes a better and more genuine conversation.

Well, I’m running out of archaeology puns to conclude my posts. Let’s end with a thoughtful question for the audience. I actually asked this question to Alessandria, but I like to leave my readers in suspense and answer it in the next In-Depth Post. So I’ll only pose the question here:

How long does someone have to dead before it’s considered archaeology and not grave robbing?