Interview with an Expert: Dr. Latonia Hartery

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Latonia in L’Anse-aux-Meadows, NL. Photo by Dennis Minty

Archeologist and filmmaker Dr. Latonia Hartery celebrated her thirtieth trip with Adventure Canada this past season. Beginning in 2005 with a tour of Newfoundland, Labrador, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Latonia has worked with Adventure Canada every year since, doing several expedition voyages each season. One of Adventure Canada’s most experienced and respected resource team members, Latonia’s work aboard the ship (and ashore) includes interpretation of archeological sites, screening and interpreting films, and presenting her research.

Behind the scenes, Latonia manages Adventure Canada’s archeological sites’ permitting process, and is frequently consulted on best practices and new potential landing sites. She works alongside the Adventure Canada team to develop and implement approaches to sustainable expedition travel in sensitive environments.


 

Looking back, what were your first impressions of Adventure Canada?

My first impression was the natural camaraderie of the company as a family, which spilled over into how the passengers responded to staff and to each other. I was the youngest resource staff member at the time, and I noticed that people could have a lot of fun and adventure in a warm, safe environment.

What I also noticed was the easy access—getting to all these places that, even as a travelling archeologist, I had only seen on maps. All this coastline, all these places that you never in your wildest dreams think you’re going to reach.

What do you love about sharing your home province, Newfoundland & Labrador, with visitors?

I love showing people how fortunate I am to have grown up in this environment, surrounded by a rich culture that has afforded me the opportunity to follow my dreams about archeology and history.

I was born in a place where people have a very secure sense of identity, and they take care of each other. Not to say that living in Newfoundland doesn’t have its challenges, but there are many great things about this magical place that makes living here worthwhile—and this inspires me to do my best and to work toward helping Newfoundland be the best place it can be, as well.

What does it mean to share the archeology of this region?

Sharing archeology and history isn’t just interpreting—it’s helping people understand why we are the way we are. That is where the passion and love that many Newfoundlanders feel about their home probably comes from. There’s a bit of a misconception that people have been living here for only five hundred years, because of the fishery. That’s incomplete and inaccurate. You can’t understand the full history of Newfoundland and Labrador by starting around 1500AD.

It’s my job to illuminate the nine thousand years of life in the province, which began with the arrival of Indigenous people. And when you start there, it becomes apparent that every group that has been here interacted with the environment in similar ways—and within all of those different cultures, you find a through line that brings us to today. My own research at Bird Cove has helped reconstruct five thousand years of culture-history, both Indigenous and European. Some of our discoveries on the Great Northern Peninsula provided a flip side of how we saw past life in Newfoundland. It filled some gaps in the archaeological record, and shed light on how people dealt with changes in climate thousands of years ago.

What’s special about visiting Newfoundland & Labrador aboard an Adventure Canada trip?

Adventure Canada trips allow me to help people understand complex history and to reconstruct it. Whether through interpreting out on the landscape, or in a presentation, or even when having dinner together, I’m grateful for the opportunity to talk about the diverse nature of NL livelihoods.

People have a general perception about what Newfoundlanders are supposed to be like and the critical thing that Adventure Canada does is to hire locally, so that the passengers get to interact with Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, who interpret their own culture and heritage.

I also feel like my job is, generally, to interpret the province with as much enthusiasm as I can.

L’Anse-aux-Meadows is one of the highlights of Adventure Canada’s Newfoundland Circumnavigation. What makes it so special?

The site has both fascinating European and Indigenous history. L’Anse-aux-Meadows is probably one of the most affecting stops that we have, in terms of understanding just how early Europeans—Norse—were here.

Vikings in general are fascinating. It’s a wonderful exercise for people to try to imagine how the site would have been working a thousand years ago. Plus, a female archeologist – Anne Stine Ingstad, excavated this famous archeological site; with the help of locals and professionals, and it became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites.

What about Miawpukek First Nation?

Miawpukek is in the Bay D’Espoir region. I grew up in Milltown which is also part of the Bay D’Espoir area. That’s always one of the best days because I interact with friends I’ve grown up with, and my family. Smallwood once said that at the time of Confederation that there were no Indigenous people in Newfoundland, which of course, is not true. But unless people come to visit, it’s difficult to truly know Miawpukek and understand the Mi’kmaq history there.

I encourage travelers to come with us to Miawpukek and meet everyone there—they are thriving and living in one of the most beautiful, fastest-growing, and successful First Nations in Canada. Miawpukek is really showing a way forward— that’s a source of pride. It’s a very special experience for anyone who goes there.

You also travel in the High Arctic. What’s different about the Newfoundland & Labrador trips?

Arctic trips are incredibly adventurous, and can feature extreme hikes. But the Newfoundland & Labrador trips, while having some hikes and trips to isolated areas, is heavily community-visitation based. People come away feeling very nurtured, well taken care of, like they’ve had a lot of warmth run through their bodies. It is also very music focused, and feels lively and uplifting in that way.

You are a filmmaker with a focus on women’s stories. How does that dovetail with Adventure Canada trips?

I love getting more women’s stories out there, having a more equal playing field for women is something I strive for and AC is also taking a lead on this — they employ people myself, Holly Hogan, who’s one of the foremost seabird researchers, musicians like Geraldine Hollett of The Once—a lot of very competent female resource staff are on these trips, plus Cedar and Alana at the company. Exceptional women are met on land too during these trips, one being Cindy Gibbons, in Red Bay— who manages that National Park/UNESCO site.

In Newfoundland & Labrador, whether a woman had a career in the workforce, or worked at home, she was a strong pillar of her community. We learn to grab the world by its tail from our mothers and our grandmothers. They were, and are, very active. My grandmother had thirteen children. I watched her do anything and everything. When you come to Newfoundland & Labrador you will meet a lot of strong women!


Dr. Latonia Hartery runs a nonprofit called Amina Anthropological Resources Association Incorporated (AARA Inc.), specializing in researching and promoting Newfoundland & Labrador. Her own research station, Bird Cove in northern Newfoundland, is having its twentieth anniversary in 2018. She has received the JCI Outstanding Young Person Award, and a Cruise Vision award for her role in bringing Adventure Canada trips to select locations in Newfoundland & Labrador. She was named a Newfoundland & Labrador Emerging Artist in 2016. Her film production company, LJH Film supports stories about women, women writers & directors, and has a focus on the East Coast. She is currently working on a female feature film anthology featuring six different women directors.

Join Latonia in 2018 aboard our Newfoundland Circumnavigation, where she will explore the culture and history of Canada’s youngest province! Until April 15, save 15% on the berth cost of this one-of-a-kind expedition!

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