Talena Atfield

Assistant Professor


Talena Atfield is an Assistant Professor in History at the University of Waterloo. She is a member of the Kanien'kehá:ka Nation of the Six Nations of the Grand River. Previously, she was Curator of eastern ethnology at the Canadian Museum of History.

Talena’s research is grounded in community-based knowledge sharing and creation. She works with tangible and intangible Indigenous knowledges held in museums, galleries, and community centres, with a special focus on Hodinohso:ni material culture. Employing faces, or seven generations teachings to the study of Indigenous cultures held in collections, Talena critically examines the information shared with past researchers and works with community scholars and knowledge keepers to find ways to reintegrate and reinvigorate this information into community practice. Talena’s past research has applied a Teioháte kaswenta (Two Row Wampum) – Covenant Chain methodological approach to the study of Hodinohso:ni ash baskets, by critically examining the core focus of information shared by basket weavers and community knowledge holders when combined with information published by academics about ash baskets. Talena has also worked in the critical museology of repatriation and traditional/ceremonial care of material and archival collections.

Talena is currently working with a group of Hodinosho:ni scholars on a project called Ga̱̱hsrǫ:nih (To make something): The Frederick W. Waugh Hodinohso:ni Collection. Ga̱̱hsrǫ:nih is a multi-disciplinary project aiming to reintegrate 157 stories, 225 photos, 522 items of material culture and 50 notebooks collected my F.W. Waugh between 1911 and 1924 for the Geological Survey of Canada. Now housed at the Canadian Museum of History and the American Philosophical Society, the Ga̱̱hsrǫ:nih team is working on phase one, with a Canada Council for the Arts Long-Term Projects Grant in Creating, Knowing and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples grant, to translate stories back into the six Hodinohso:ni languages and animate select stories.


  • PhD Anthropology, University of Toronto
  • MSc. Anthropology, University of Toronto
  • BA (Honours), Western University

Research, Teaching, and Supervision Interests

  • Hodinohso:ni history and culture
  • Indigenous tangible and intangible cultures in collections
  • The history of collecting Indigenous cultures on Turtle Island
  • Beadwork, tufting, quillwork, leatherwork, regalia-making
  • Languages of material cultures
  • Teioháte kaswenta (Two Row Wampum) – Covenant Chain methodology

Courses Taught:

  • HIST422 History of Collecting Indigenous Cultures in North America

Recent Collaborations and Presentations

Atfield, T (2021, May). Two-Row Wampum-Covenant Chain methodology applied to the study of Hodinohso:ni Black Ash Baskets. Paper presented at the Canadian Archaeological Association Conference, Virtual 2021.

Gibson, T.; Atfield, T. (2021, March). Sagádǫ, Tell me a Story. Paper presented at the Ontario Museum Association Conference: Mashkawatgong-mamawewiziwin – strengthening our bonds, sharing our practices, Virtual 2021.

Atfield, T (2021, April). Changing Representations in Museum Practice lecture presented to Introduction to visual culture class, Mount Alison University, virtual 2021.

Atfield, T (2021, February). Stories Women Weave.  Paper presented to the Grand River Chapter of the Ontario Archaeological Society, Virtual 2021.

Gibson, T.; Atfield, T. (2019, November). Sagádǫ: ⍺̀kgàiä’ya•ǵ ɛ’̨: The Waugh Collection of Six Nations at the Canadian Museum of History. Paper presented at the Conference on Iroquois Research, Montreal 2019.

University of Waterloo