Emily Donaldson has been visiting the Marquesas Islands continuously since 2001, for stays anywhere from two weeks to a year. As an undergraduate she studied social anthropology and archaeology at Harvard University, and came to the islands for the first time as part of an archaeological field school run by University of Hawaii archaeology professor Dr. Barry Rolett. The following year she returned to conduct fieldwork for her undergraduate honors thesis, “‘Vanishing Artifacts of the South Seas:’ Treatment of the Past in a Contemporary Marquesan Community.”
Emily graduated from Harvard in 2003, and for a while she despaired that she might not ever be able to return to the Marquesas. Silly girl. The following year her former professor and mentor, Dr. Rolett, approached her to ask if she might be interested in becoming a teaching assistant for his archaeological field school on the island of Tahuata. Emily jumped at the chance, and returned to the Marquesas with the field school in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2008. In 2009 she was promoted to Assistant Director, and returned to the islands for field schools in 2010, 2012 and 2013. (Read more about the field school, run by the Andover Foundation for Archaeological Research, here.)
Meanwhile, after finishing her Masters degree in the Social Sciences at the University of Chicago, Emily began traveling to the Marquesas as a guest lecturer on board the Aranui III in 2008. Almost every year since then, she has joined them to speak about Marquesan culture, history, heritage and language.
Emily began officially researching her book, “Marquesan Phrasebook,” in 2006. The first edition was published in 2010. The second edition (revised and improved) is forthcoming but may not make it out before 2014. Visit her website to find out more!
In the fall of 2011 Emily began her Ph.D. in anthropology at McGill University. Her research is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a Tomlinson Doctoral Fellowship, and her thesis topic addresses heritage, land use and resource management in the Marquesas. She spent a full year, 2013, living in the islands conducting ethnographic fieldwork. She is currently working on analyzing her field data and writing her doctoral thesis.