When people start to look at the Saskatchewan landscape, when they look beyond the preconceived notions of a flat province that you wave at as you fly to Vancouver, they can find many items and places of interest. From an archaeological perspective, one of the first things they might find once they dive in and start learning is an arrow head—also known as a projectile point. Now, thanks to funding from Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Grant, the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society (SAS) has published a book, entitled Points of View: A Guide on Saskatchewan Projectile Points with Indigenous Perspectives, that archives and shares this knowledge.
Tomasin Playford, the organization’s Executive Director, says that right from the project’s early stages it was clear that Indigenous voices needed to be included.
“We also know, in this time of reconciliation and recognition of Indigenous culture, that we couldn’t do something like that about Indigenous artefacts without including Indigenous voices in the book. And so, right from the start, we knew it couldn’t just be an identification guide like you can get with birds, or fossils or plants. There had to be those voices.”
The SAS isn’t new to publishing work, they regularly produce a newsletter and have a digital storefront called the Den of Antiquity. Still, Playford says that Creative Saskatchewan’s funding allowed them to bring in more Indigenous writers and artists throughout the process of creating the book as well as broadening out the organization’s skillset when it came to content creation.
“We wanted to do something that was really a higher caliber, really professional, we wanted a product that people would be attracted to that they would, they would, that it would get out there. And I think that’s really why we look to creative Saskatchewan is because they have the funding, but they also have the expertise. And so going through that funding process helped us think about things that we don’t normally think about as a small organization.”
Those new areas of exploration included thinking more about promotion as well as about the book’s market. Because the SAS is usually catering to academics and archeological science-minded people, this book was a new and exciting way for the organization to help tell the province’s history through the lens of Indigenous knowledge and traditions. While there were broader lessons to be learned, it was foundational steps—like creating contract-based resources that can be reused—that Playford says were especially helpful to her team.
“It’s a tiny little bit of a learning curve, but now that we have contracts, and we learned that process, we don’t have to relearn it, we can just adapt what we already have for anything new going forward…And especially with the marketing and promotion, we also have a better idea of different promotional tools.”
Playford’s advice to other organizations looking to replicate their success? Learn as you go and work with an “open heart, open mind”.
“We weren’t successful in our first application, so we did go back and redo it and took their [Creative Saskatchewan’s] advice and that helped… so don’t get discouraged.”
The SAS has used the momentum from the project to build relationship and to do a series of book launches through their newfound connections. While creating the guidebook they were able to hire a videographer, an editor, and grow closer to their membership by holding a fundraising campaign. According to Playford all these additional aspects of the project helped solidify the main goal of the book.
“It was in response to a need that we identified. It wasn’t just ‘Oh, we want to write a book, and we want to put a product out there.’ This was something that we didn’t have in our province.”
Sales of the book have been strong, and it has won two awards recently; the 2023 Canadian Archaeological Association Award for Public Communication and the 2023 Museums Association of Saskatchewan – Certificate of Excellence.
By John Loeppky
If you’re interested in purchasing Points of View: A Guide on Saskatchewan Projectile Points with Indigenous Perspectives you can do so on the Saskatchewan Archaeological Society’s website. While there, you will also find more information about the organization’s programs and services. You can also find them on Facebook.