Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn (Otahkotskina) is an Indigenous engagement leader in archaeology and academia whose trailblazing efforts have paved the way for subsequent generations of Indigenous scholars and students to thrive in these fields. Eldon joined Simon Fraser University (SFU) faculty in 2002 and helped establish the Department of Indigenous Studies in 2012, serving as its inaugural Chair until 2017. As a speaker of the Blackfoot language, Eldon is dedicated to its preservation. He has contributed his voice to narrate animated videos that incorporate Blackfoot for teaching mathematics. Eldon is now exploring the potential of artificial intelligence to create language learning instruments that allow citizen linguists to participate actively in preserving it. His research explores the potential of machine learning to revitalize Blackfoot and ensure that his generation is not the last to speak it.
Eldon grew up on a farm on the Peigan Indian Reserve, part of the Piikani Nation. His upbringing nurtured his passion for earth sciences while shaping his professional path. His pursuit of knowledge led him on a learning journey culminating in graduate studies at SFU where he became the first Indigenous student to earn a Master of Arts degree in Archaeology in 1993. He completed his Ph.D. in 2002 at McGill University.
Beyond his role as an educator at SFU, Eldon served as President of the Canadian Archaeological Association (CAA) from 2010 to 2012 as the first Indigenous person to hold this position. His contributions to the Missing Children Project and the Brandon IRS Cemeteries Project have been invaluable in restoring the dignity and reclaiming the identities of Indigenous children who died at residential schools. Eldon’s commitment to promoting reconciliation principles resonates in his involvement with initiatives such as SFU’s First Peoples’ Gathering House planning committee. His advisory role and close collaboration with SFU’s senior executives help shape the university’s reconciliation efforts. Eldon’s ability and willingness to bridge different worlds inspires others to join forces in creating inclusive and welcoming societies and organizations.