At the Heart of It All

In the third episode of season 4 of the SAPIENS podcast, an archaeologist and community historian share the difficult stories of identifying and protecting unmarked graves at Indigenous boarding schools and a historic African American cemetery threatened by development.

For its practitioners, archaeology can feel like it is unearthing events deep in the past … until it doesn’t. What is the experience of researchers who discover their life stories are tied to an archaeological site?

Dr. Kisha Supernant and Lenora McQueen share their journeys to the unmarked graves of First Nations and Métis peoples and African American burial grounds, respectively, and how their connections to their ancestors transform their work.


  • Dr. Kisha Supernant is Métis/Papaschase/British and the director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology at the University of Alberta. An award-winning teacher, researcher, and writer, her research interests include the use of digital technologies in archaeology, Indigenous archaeology, and heart-centered archaeological practice. Her research with Indigenous communities in Western Canada explores how archaeologists and communities can build collaborative research relationships. Recently, she has been involved with Indigenous communities to locate the resting places of ancestors and relatives in historic cemeteries and around residential schools. She has published widely and co-edited Archaeologies of the Heart with Jane Eva Baxter, Natasha Lyons, and Sonya Atalay. In 2021, she was named to the Royal Society of Canada College of New Scholars.
  • Lenora McQueen is an educator, researcher, community historian, and advocate for the preservation and interpretation of African American historic sites in Virginia. She is a member of the descendant community of the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground in Richmond.

SAPIENS: A Podcast for Everything Human is produced by House of Pod and supported by the Wenner-Gren Foundation. SAPIENS is also part of the American Anthropological Association Podcast Library. This season was created in collaboration with the Indigenous Archaeology Collective and the Society of Black Archaeologists, with art by Carla Keaton and music from Jobii, _91nova, and Justnormal.

Listen also to SAPIENS Talk Back, a companion series by Cornell University’s RadioCIAMS. In episode 3, we welcome the featured guests of Episode 3 of SAPIENS Season 4: Kisha Supernant, Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta and Director of the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology, and Lenora McQueen, an activist who has worked tirelessly to preserve the Shockoe Hill African Burying Ground in Richmond. This episode was made possible by financial support of the University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology. We want to thank our panelists for leading our conversation today: Elspeth Geiger (University of Michigan), Mariela Declet Pérez (University of California, San Diego), and Dan Plekhov (Brown University). This episode was hosted by CIAMS graduate students Rafael Cruz Gil and Carol Anne Barsody, and the sound engineer was Alex Symons. SAPIENS Talk Back is produced at Cornell University by Adam Smith with Rebecca Gerdes as the production assistant. Our theme music was composed by Charlee Mandy and performed by Maia Dedrick and Russell Dedrick.

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Read a transcript of this episode here.

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