Written by: Levi Mymko
June 20th 2023
Working in CRM on Tla’amin Territory, coastal BC – The First Two Months.
Hi, my name is Levi and I’m a fourth-year
archaeology major. I started a career change in 2016 after working in the trades for many years and had been picking away at classes for a while, unsure about what field I was interested in. When covid hit, I left my job and went back to school. It was a great opportunity to be able to take any classes I wanted online, as I live in a small community which doesn’t have much in the way of post-secondary education. When covid started to mellow out a bit, I thought it was a good time to get right into it- I had discovered the arch program at SFU, and I decided to go for it.
One thing about deciding about a career is that you need to think about exactly what you want and need in terms of work. This is a pretty big decision, but one of the great things about university is that you can start on one trajectory and end up on a completely different one. After preparing to be a social worker and then a nurse, I decided to pursue archaeology because it ticked off all the boxes. One of those boxes was that there needed to be a job waiting for me when I was finished school. Currently, I have 5 or 6 courses left of my degree, and I already have a job in Cultural Resource Management or CRM. This is the industry where many archaeology students end up – it’s where most of the arch jobs are in Canada, and there are loads of jobs available.
CRM is a curious animal, and I’m still figuring it all out. I have been working for a company for about two months, and from a job standpoint – it’s pretty good. My coworkers and bosses are great. The learning curve has been steep. I’ve been learning how to do a lot of different things, which is great, but can be overwhelming and frustrating at times. I find there is a good mix of field and office work, although I would like to be in the field more often. I’m a physical, outdoorsy person, and in an ideal world I would like 3 field days and two office days a week, but so far it’s been pretty random and we don’t know our schedule that far in advance. Things seem to be in flux a lot of the time, and fieldwork seems to pop up out of nowhere. We often work for forestry companies, the Tla’amin Nation, private citizens, and the city.
As for other aspects of the job, I find working at a computer all day challenging as I have always worked with my hands. I think some of the benefits of working on a computer are that you can a) work from home b) avoid bad weather c) avoid the field if you are injured d) have flexible work hours and e) physical work isn’t for everybody. At my current job, we learn how to do everything. Various methods of field work, reporting, site forms, and mapping. Learning this myriad of skills makes you a valuable employee, and you don’t get pigeonholed into doing the same thing all the time. If you want to work in CRM, and don’t want to work outside shoveling, you don’t have to.
As for the fieldwork, I LOVE forestry. If I could do forestry every day, or maybe 3 days a week, I would be so happy. You basically travel to a cutblock that is slated to be logged and walk the entire thing, looking for archaeological features. I love hiking and the outdoors, so I’m kind of in heaven doing that work. All the fieldwork has been great so far and I love meeting new people and finding cultural material – it’s exciting. I’m learning on the job about lithics and tools, and because I have more of a background in osteology, I’ve been working with human remains which is such a privilege and I feel so honoured to be able to do it. The computer work is mapping using QGIS, and doing reporting for the field work that we do. That can be tedious, but it needs to get done, and if you have a tummyache or want to leave the country for a month, you can do it remotely. I love knowing that’s an option.
If I have any advice for people who are considering going into this line of work, one thing would be to do a field school. You need to know if you are into doing hard physical work, because there is a good amount of that, and you will be doing it in all kinds of weather. I have a lot of experience with that sort of thing, so I know that I love it. Classes that I would strongly recommend are cultural resource management (obviously), archaeology of the Pacific Northwest, any Indigenous studies courses (like ethnobotany), osteology and forensic anthropology, zooarchaeology, material culture analysis, management of archaeological collections, and although I haven’t done any, some skills in mapping that you can acquire from a geography course would be an asset. So much of the knowledge I acquired in the arch program so far has been utilized.
A handful of us in the ASS and some of the profs at SFU work or have worked in CRM, so if you want to talk to me or others, please don’t hesitate to reach out! If you have any questions or just want to talk, we are happy to support you.