UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Saving and naming the garbage : Charles E. Borden and the making of B.C. prehistory, 1945-1960 West, Robert Gerard


Professional archaeologists firmly control the prehistory of British Columbia (more commonly referred to today as "pre-contact" history). This has been the case since Dr. Charles E. Borden, a German professor at the University of British Columbia, professionalized the archaeological discipline between 1945 and 1960. The purpose of this paper is to critically examine and explain the process by which this monopolization occurred, and to suggest the massive ramifications that have followed. Relevant approaches to the history of archaeology are reviewed, and a "contextual" strategy is adopted as the best way to unravel, but preserve, the richness of the local history of archaeology in B.C. A mixture of narrative and analytical style is employed in explaining the rise Borden and professional archaeology in the 1950s. It is argued that Borden produced knowledge by drawing on an existing network of North American archaeology to create, and substantiate, his authoritative position. In the context of archaeological site destruction, during the 1950s, Borden was able to pull unrelated members of the B.C. populous to his cause, including provincial officials, through the passing of the "Archaeological and Historic Sites Protection Act," in 1960. Amateur archaeologists and Aboriginal people lacked the means to amass the powerful alliances that Borden did, and therefore amateurs and Natives were unable to offer a persuasive alternative to Borden's authority. It is concluded that because of the professional encapsulation of B.C. archaeology, we, as non-specialists, have to put our faith in archaeologists, and assume that the knowledge they produce is truthful and valid It is suggested that professional archaeologists have joined other human scientists in a rapidly spiralling scientification of humanity. This is significant because specialists inform the State about who we are as citizens, and impose identities on us which partly dicate how the State regulates our access to resources. The example of Natives in B.C., who have recently appropriated professional archaeology to their own cause of settling land-claim disputes, is offered to show how alienated components of our identities can be returned to us through political action.

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