Job title: Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Alberta.
Why she’s a 2019 Top 40 Under 40: She’s a modern influence on discussions about reconciliation.
Using advanced equipment, teams led by Kisha Supernant have worked to find Indigenous burial grounds in Alberta and Saskatchewan, without needing to do massive excavations.
Finding these unmarked graves is a way of bringing closure. Supernant, whose father survived the Sixties Scoop, worked to identify burial grounds near a former residential school in Saskatchewan, where the bodies of children were basically hidden away.
“At the residential schools, it is difficult. I am a mother, myself,” she says. “There is a lot of gravity to the work. You feel the weight of history. It is difficult. I find it to be emotionally very challenging. And, it can be triggering sometimes.”
While many of us think of exotic Mayan ruins or Egyptian pyramids when we think of archaeology, Supernant, a Métis educator and researcher who came to the U of A from Vancouver in 2010, works to uncover artifacts from Indigenous settlements throughout Western Canada. From uncovering fire pits to eating utensils, we learn more and more about the pre-colonial lives of the people who lived here.
And, by learning more about the past, we break the historical stereotypes that the Indigenous people were “primitive.” As Supernant says, we learn more about deep family ties, community bonds, organization and trade between people.
Understanding the history of the people is a major building block towards reconciliation.
“I want to do this work to matter to contemporary communities,” she says. “I want to do this work to support Indigenous rights.”
Supernant admits she is a “nerd.” Her daughter’s name is Leia, for the famed Star Wars princess and general. But, with the passion her mom shows in her work, Leia doesn’t have to look too far to find her hero.