Anthropology Graduate Student Highlight Series: Benjamin Kucher

! In this series, we will showcase our current graduate students' incredible work and research as they navigate their unique academic journeys. Today we highlight Benjamin Kucher

Anthropology - 18 June 2024

Welcome to the Anthropology Graduate Student Highlight Series! In this series, we will showcase our current graduate students' incredible work and research as they navigate their unique academic journeys. Each student is on their own path, progressing at their own pace, and we celebrate the diversity of experiences and achievements within our department. Through these highlights, we aim to inspire and motivate our community by sharing our students' stories, challenges, and successes. Join us in celebrating their dedication and contributions to the field of anthropology.

Advancing Indigenous Archaeology through Trade Bead Research: Benjamin Kucher, Master’s Student in Anthropology

Benjamin Kucher is making waves in the field of Anthropology with his cutting-edge research and active community engagement. As a Master's student at the University of Alberta, Benjamin's academic journey is distinguished by a deep commitment to Indigenous archaeology, social justice, and community-based research.

Current Research Project 

Benjamin's current research project centers on the typological classification methods of trade beads in North America from an archaeological perspective. He is meticulously analyzing various attributes of these beads, such as their material, manufacturing techniques, shapes, sizes, colors, and decorative elements. This comprehensive study involves historical sources and compositional analyses to elucidate the cultural and trade dynamics influencing bead production and distribution. His work seeks to refine classification methods and provide insights into broader archaeological questions about trade networks and cultural interactions. By integrating typological analysis with advanced compositional studies, Benjamin hopes to contribute significantly to understanding North American Indigenous archaeology.

Passion for Archaeology

Benjamin is particularly passionate about Archaeological Theory, Community-Based Research, Legal Anthropology, and Indigenous Archaeology. His work emphasizes integrating community involvement, legal precedents, and Indigenous perspectives within archaeological practice and theory, reflecting a holistic approach to his studies. 

Pivotal Academic Experience 

A defining moment in Benjamin's academic path was his involvement as a research assistant with the Institute of Prairie and Indigenous Archaeology. Working on the EMITA project (Exploring Métis Identity Through Archaeology) with Dr. Kisha Supernant deeply resonated with him as a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta. This experience allowed him to connect directly with his heritage and underscored the importance of preserving Indigenous histories. His work in the project and meaningful interactions with Indigenous communities solidified his commitment to Indigenous archaeology and motivated his pursuit of a Master’s degree in Anthropology. His leadership roles, such as Vice President (Student Life) of the Graduate Students' Association and Co-President of the Indigenous Graduate Students’ Association, have furthered his advocacy for Indigenous representation and reconciliation.

Conferences and Presentations

Benjamin has participated in numerous conferences focusing on Indigenous issues and archaeological research. Notably, he attended the National Gatherings on Unmarked Burials in Iqaluit in January 2024. His past engagements include the 55th Annual Meeting of the Canadian Archaeological Association and Indigenous Awareness Week at the Canadian Forces Base in Edmonton. His presentations, such as "The Lay of the Land; Approaches to Landscape Archaeology" and "The Application of an Emic Lens to The Use and Practice of Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology," have been well-received, earning him an Honorable Mention at the 54th Annual Meeting. Benjamin will share at the Edmonton Public Library’s “On the Edge: Emerging Scholars - Archaeology as a Tool of Social Justice” on Tuesday, June 25, 2024. Register for this online session here.

Awards and Recognitions

Benjamin's academic excellence and dedication to advancing Indigenous archaeological perspectives have earned him numerous awards. In 2023, he was awarded the Alberta Graduate Excellence Scholarship and several other scholarships from the University of Alberta, including the Opportunities Award and the Indigenous Careers Award. His achievements include the Jason Lang Scholarship from Alberta Education in 2020 and 2022, the Indigenous Student in Arts Award, and the Power Corporation of Canada Indigenous Student Award. These accolades underscore his commitment to his field and his outstanding academic performance.

Future Plans and Goals

Looking ahead, Benjamin aims to complete his Master’s thesis and continue his involvement in community-based research with Métis and other Indigenous communities. He plans to publish his findings, present them at conferences, and further develop his methodological and analytical skills. His long-term aspirations include pursuing a Ph.D. in Anthropology, focusing on Indigenous archaeology and establishing a research program centred on Indigenous methodologies, cultural disappearance, and social justice. He also aims to secure a faculty position, mentor future scholars, and engage in policy advocacy to promote Indigenous rights and representation.

Impact and Vision

Benjamin's research contributes significantly to the field of anthropology by refining trade bead classification methods and uncovering historical trade networks. His work promotes the use of diverse methodologies and interdisciplinary approaches, enhancing our understanding of cultural exchange and technological development. His commitment to ethical research and community involvement ensures that his work honours and benefits the communities he studies.

Personal Insights

 Outside of his academic pursuits, Benjamin enjoys hobbies such as beading, soapstone carving, drawing, playing video games, and gardening. He is also dedicated to spending time with his two dogs and experimenting with new recipes. Benjamin Kucher is a shining example of how anthropology can drive social change, promote cultural awareness, and foster community engagement. His work advances academic knowledge and makes a meaningful impact on local and global communities, embodying the values and mission of the University of Alberta's Department of Anthropology.