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Athabasca University

Theresa A. Ferguson




Serendipity seems to have characterized much of ‘my brilliant career’ in anthropology. It was the world of Southwest Asian archaeology that enticed me into anthropology at University of Toronto in 1970, but I soon realized that the political situation excluded access to fieldwork.  I abandoned the delights of Classical Hebrew and Biblical archaeology for fieldwork in Wisconsin, New Mexico, Ontario and Japan and undertook lab contracts ranging from cataloguing artefacts to the analysis of cord-marked impressions on Woodland pottery.

The coincidence of my move to University of Alberta and the failure of a grant proposal to pursue further research on the Middle Jomon led to my undertaking an MA project offered to me by Dr. Hank Lewis on the use of prescribed burning as an environmental management technique by the Dene of northwestern Alberta.  Although combined with palynological analysis intended to generate data on prescribed burning in prehistory, this was essentially an oral history project and marked a shift in my research towards ethnohistory.

Ethnohistorical research plays a significant role in Aboriginal land claims and since 1980, I’ve been able to apply these skills on behalf of the Metis Association of Alberta, First Nations, the Province of Alberta and the federal government.  Most of these contracts were for Treaty land entitlement claims in Treaty Eight. The Metis Association of Alberta contract resulted in the once obscure, but now oft-cited Metis Land Rights in Alberta: a Political History by Joe Sawchuk, Patricia Sawchuk and Theresa Ferguson.

In addition, starting in the 1980s, I taught in anthropology and later native/indigenous studies at UofA and AU, supporting a burgeoning household.  My courses included introductory social & cultural anthropology, introductory prehistory, world prehistory, historical & contemporary issues for Canadian Aboriginal Peoples, Aboriginal cultures of North America, community-based research, traditional environmental knowledge/management, archaeological method and theory; and medical anthropology.

Thirty-five years on, I’ve retired from contract work and now teach [tutor] only at AU.  My semi-retirement projects include studying piano and publishing more on the Treaty Eight area. My first 2016 article was “Chipewyan Hunting Groups on the Hay River, 1800-1845” in Vol. 64, #1 of Alberta History.

Updated March 10 2016 by Student & Academic Services

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