This Archeologist Is Clapping Back After B.C. Wrote First Nations Out Of Its History

“I want the government to rethink how they’re doing this."

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An archeologist is using some crafty editing and a passion for First Nations rights to challenge the colonial history lining B.C.'s highways.

Joanne Hammond

It was late last year when Joanne Hammond first heard that B.C.'s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MoTI) was asking for public input into a campaign to revamp the province’s point-of-interest signs. She hoped the government would use this opportunity to acknowledge the vital role played by B.C.’s First Nations.

But then she saw the first refurbished sign, which happened to be located in her hometown of Kamloops, and realized the only changes were cosmetic.

So, with the help of a photo editing program and an image taken from B.C.’s online point-of-interest signs directory, she made some copy updates.

Joanne Hammond

Hammond first the first edited image in November as part of a Twitter essay aimed at the MoTI. When its minister Todd Stone, who also happens to be Hammond’s MLA, told local media that he saw nothing wrong with the lack of edits to the original plaque, Hammond knew she had a new project on her hands.

Since then, she’s gone on to revamp the copy of almost a dozen other signs, sharing her creations on Twitter using the hashtag #rewriteBC and on her website.

“I want the government to rethink how they’re doing this,” said Hammond. “They need to do better on this and they’re not, they’re just tidying up this existing colonial history.”

Joanne Hammond

The original signs have a “spectacularly 1950’s” tone and outlook on history, said Hammond. Her versions are very different.

In “Loss of the Grassland,” she pointed out how the gold prospectors-turned-ranchers who are praised on the original sign destroyed the local ecosystem and forever changed Indigenous land use for the worse.

In “Architect Of Dispossession,” she called the province’s first Lieutenant-governor "a deeply racist colonialist" and explained how his policies led to injustices that are still being felt by today’s First Nations.

Joanne Hammond

Her edits are intended to reverse the “erasure” that happens all too often to the contributions of First Nations people in Canada.

The original versions of Hammond’s signs are located in and around Kamloops and B.C.’s south interior, where she has been working for the past 20 years with a focus on Indigenous heritage management.

Joanne Hammond

“I chose places where I really know the story of what happened there,” she said.

“Salmon, Copper, and Elk,” her first reworked sign, is her favourite because of its direct connection to the local First Nations she works for.

Joanne Hammond

It points out how “For a millennia before European arrival,” Kamloops was home “...to a stable and diverse regional economy."

“I know what an uphill struggle it is for them to get basically any historical acknowledgement,” she said.

“People don’t have any understanding of how deep and long their history is in this area.”

While reaction to her updated signs has been “total silence” from government officials, Hammond has received a tremendous amount of feedback from the public of which, “99% has been supportive and positive,” she said.

@KamloopsArchaeo This is a CRUCIAL INTERVENTION. Nya:wen, it's brilliantly disruptive.

@KamloopsArchaeo This is brilliant. *This* is the "Canadian" history that needs to be taught in schools and beyond.

In addition to being contacted by people across Canada, some of whom have even sent her points-of-interest signs from their provinces that are in need of a makeover, she’s also been contacted by First Nations people who live in the communities where the signs are found.

“(They’re) saying thank you, saying that was actually my family, that’s my ancestry.”

Joanne Hammond

While the public input period into B.C.’s sign refurbishment campaign wrapped up a little over a month ago, Hammond plans on re-writing more signs.

“There are some that are just perfect examples of one-side, colonial narrative that they really need to be pointed out.” Hammond explained.

“I love this country,” Hammond said, “and I’m appalled at how we’ve left this problem to linger. I think it’s the one thing that’s really, really getting in the way of Canada being what it could be. “

Contact Lindsay Kneteman at lauren.strapagiel+LindsayKneteman@buzzfeed.com.

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