Project Description


This field school is located in northern Alberta, a terrain that is stunningly beautiful. Here students will be investigating Fort Vermilion (1798 – 1830) and other settlements. These studies will examine the establishment of the Canadian based North West Company (NWC), which created trade posts from Lake Athabasca up the Peace River to today’s Fort St. John, British Columbia. Fort Vermilion is an ideal site to investigate the geopolitical, social, and cultural dynamics of the fur trade. The site still promises much to be uncovered, as minimal research campaigns have been carried out at the site since its discovery in 1998. These excavations revealed stratified layers of occupation, making it one of the first stratified fur trade sites ever identified in Alberta. By applying insights gained through archaeological, anthropological, and historical research, the current expedition is shedding new light on the people that lived and traded there.

Download Syllabus

Course Details

  • Course Dates: June 3-June 30, 2018
  • Enrollment Status: OPEN
  • Total Cost: $3,985
  • Course Type: Field Archaeology
  • Payment Deadline: April 20, 2018
  • Instructors: Dr. Shawn Bubel, Dr. Heinz Pyszczyk, Bob Dawe
  • Online Orientation: April 22, 2018 2:30 PM PST
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The directors welcome emails and inquiries about the research elements of this project. More general information (tuition, health insurance, and payment schedule) can be found under the ‘Students’ tab above. Any further questions may be addressed to IFR staff. Additional details about research, course schedule, travel, accommodation, and safety can be found on the syllabus. Contacting the directors or the IFR office is encouraged and appreciated. It may help you determine if this field school is a good fit for you.

Dr. Shawn Bubel
Dr. Shawn Bubel
Dr. Bubel is an Associate Professor of Archaeology at the University of Lethbridge (Canada).
Dr. Heinz Pyszczyk
Dr. Heinz Pyszczyk
Dr. Pyszczyk is a Curator at the Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).
Bob Dawe
Bob Dawe
Bob Dawe is the assistant archaeologist at the Royal Alberta Museum, Edmonton, Alberta (Canada).


The Ft. Vermilion field school was a fantastic educational experience, even for someone like me who has already had some field experience. I love that we got to learn how to survey and shovel test, which are necessary skills that aren’t always taught in other field schools. Heinz, Shawn, and the other supervisors and volunteers were super helpful and the site itself is fascinatingly different from other historical sites I’ve volunteered on. Even though I wasn’t attending the field school for credit, I still feel like I was challenged to learn everything I could. I would suggest this field school to anyone who really wants an intensive – and fun – learning experience.
Katie Guttman (2016)
Fort Vermilion was the hardest and most rewarding thing I’d ever done. I’d never been so far from home and it was a bit terrifying, but soon I felt right at home. Everyone was really supportive and helpful, and it was a privilege to get to know them. It was hard work but it was exciting. There was always something happening, some new find to check out. Honestly, I never cared much for fur trade archaeology before this field school, but it showed me a side of it that elementary school never did. Just being there, where these people once lived, learning their story piece by piece was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Cailynn Riches (2016)
I went from comfortable city living to living out in bear country for the first time! I was scared as this was completely new to me. Until this point I had only known archaeology through my textbook. Stepping out of my comfort zone to go to field school was the best thing I have ever done! I would have never known what it was actually like to be an archaeologist if it weren’t for Fort Vermilion. The non-judgmental, positive environment made me eager to learn! For me, finding artifacts and feeling the amount of excitement that went with it was an experience of a lifetime!

MJ Vergara (2016)
My experience at the Fort Vermillion Field School is one that I still talk about to this day. Being in such a beautiful area made waking up very easy when you were able to take in the breathtaking sights every day in Northern Alberta. The staff were extremely caring towards students and shared their knowledge whether out in the field or back in camp sitting around the campfire. Regardless of whether or not you are interested in Fur Trade archaeology, this is a fun field school to be a part of that will make you want to learn more about what you are excavating!

Tara Collett (2014)
I would recommend this field school to anybody who has an interest in historical archaeology or working in cultural resource management. You learn how hard it is to find sites in a forested environment, and equally how difficult it may be to excavate there. The trip out from the campsite to the dig site every day is worth it though, as are the nights that you may see the northern lights. Natural beauty aside, working with the dig directors is an enjoyable experience, and every find is another part of the story of the fur trade in northern Alberta.
Holly Krause (2014)

Tuition Includes:

  • Costs of instruction
  • Cost of Academic Credits
  • Room & board
  • All local transportation
  • Health Insurance

Student Fees

A nonrefundable deposit of $500 is required to secure a seat in this program.  This program requires an application (no application fee is requested). Only accepted students should pay the deposit fee. Deposit fee is part of the program Tuition. The remaining tuition, minus the $500 deposit, must be paid prior to the tuition deadline (see above under “Course Details”).

Important Note: If you were accepted to this program but did not cancel your participation by the tuition payment deadline, you are legally responsible for the full tuition regardless of attendance in this program. Please read the IFR Cancellation Policy for further clarification.

  • A 2.5% Processing Fee is automatically assessed for all credit/debit card payments
  • A $100 Late Fee will be assessed if full tuition payment is not completed by the deadline.
  • Look at the field school syllabus above for room & board details.


During the field school the students and staff live at the campsite about 3 km south of the field site, on the opposite side the Peace River. Students must bring their own sleeping bag, air mattress, towels, and other personal items (shampoo, soap, etc.), and a tent. Shared tents are available for students that do not have a tent. A shower facility, kitchen, lecture room, a lab building, and outhouses will be constructed at the campsite. Lights and electricity are run through a generator that is turned on at 6:00 am and shut down at 11:00 pm. There is no internet or cell phone reception at basecamp. Students are able to access these resources a few miles down the road. Students and staff will take turns cleaning and caring for the campsite. Coin laundry is available in the town of La Crete and a nearby gas station.

The field school team prepares well-balanced, nutritious meals twice a day (breakfast and dinner) in the kitchen building. Since these are group meals, individual dietary needs cannot be accommodated, although there are a number of meat or dairy, vegetable, and starch (rice, potatoes, bread, etc.) choices. Lunches are packed in the morning and are taken to the site along with water containers.

Canada - Fort Vermillion
Canada - Fort Vermillion

Travel Info

The Fort Vermilion site is located in Northern Alberta, Canada. It is about 50 km south of High Level. The closest international airport is Edmonton, Alberta (YEG), which is an 8 hour drive from basecamp. Students arriving by air will be met at the airport in Edmonton by project staff members in the afternoon of June 3rd. Please wait at the Tim Horton’s in the arrival hall.

If your flight is delayed or you miss the group’s designated meeting time, please call, text, or email the project director immediately. A local emergency cell phone number will be provided to all enrolled students.


US citizens need to apply for an Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA), have a valid passport, a return flight ticket, and proof of sufficient funds for entry to Canada. Although the Canadian government does not require that a passport be valid for three months from the date of entry, airlines routinely do so and may decline boarding if a traveler has less than three months validity on his or her passport.

Applying for an eTA is a simple online process ( Most applicants get their eTA approval (via an email) within minutes. However, some requests can take several days to process if you are asked to submit supporting documents. It is best to get an eTA before you book your flight to Canada.

Citizens of other countries are asked to check the Canadian Embassy website page at their home country for specific visa requirements.

Student Safety

Student safety is paramount for the IFR. Unlike many universities who are self-insured, the IFR purchases a range of high end insurance policies from some of the largest insurers in the world. Students in all our international programs have a comprehensive health insurance policy. It covers sickness, and chronic and mental health conditions at 100% of the cost. We have a strong evacuation and extraction policy. We can remove students from any location anywhere in the world with one phone call – whether medical evacuation, political or natural disaster extraction and anything in between. We purchase intelligence services from a global private provider and monitor the world 24/7. We automatically enroll our students to the US State Department STEP program. All of our students receive safety orientations both before and on the first day of each program. Our faculty have all been working in the areas where we operate field schools for years. They are intimately familiar with local customs and traditions, know the landscape well and have deep relationships with local communities.

All our domestic programs are coordinated with local authorities which are informed of our operations. Students in domestic programs are covered by their own health insurance and evacuations are managed by local emergency services, as appropriate.

The IFR has strong, explicit and robust policy towards discrimination and harassment in the field (click here for a shortcut). If students feel they cannot discuss personal safety issues with the field school staff, the IFR operates an emergency hotline where students can contact IFR personnel directly.

Travel does involve risk, but we try to minimize this risk as much as possible. Call us at 877-839-4374 or email us at if you have questions about the safety of particular programs.