Posted by: Tad McIlwraith | June 5, 2011

A Small but Significant Project Leads to Understanding

By Kyle Jung

A month on paper doesn’t seem like a lot, but when you experience it the sense of time becomes something different entirely. I’m Kyle Jung, a student at Douglas College, and just about to complete my first year at Douglas. As week three of our field school ends I can safely say that this is nothing like I’ve ever done before; community meets, hiking, archival work, and more than I can even think of at the moment, I’ve done all of this in the short period of time I’ve been up here. Even with a week left I still don’t want this experience to end even though it will in a few days.

My project in the community has had an interesting evolution since I started in week one. At first I really didn’t know what I was going to do so I did everything I could that was available. During the second week of our stay I went down to the daycare and assisted them with establishing their fence line. Walking the fence line was the single hardest thing I’ve done while I’ve been up here; I had to walk through dense forest, in the rain, while getting eaten by mosquitoes, with nothing but my GPS and trusty field note book to jot down flags. The legwork for this certainly paid off though as I finally got down to what my real project was. The Splatsin daycare recently cleared out a portion of land in the back of their property and there was an interest in building a kakuli, a traditional underground winter home, there. This is where my project started as I offered to help build one. The actual time it would take to build a kakuli though would extend beyond the time we were up here so my project evolved into helping to establish a document on kakuli construction itself. My whole week three was spent doing this as I organized meetings with some local kakuli builders, reviewed archival materials such as Teit’s work, and visited locations of already existing kakulis. My little back pocket notebook has become stuffed with all the info on both traditional and modern kakuli construction.

One of the highlights that has come from my research is upcoming for the last week of our stay. While doing research at the Kingfisher Interpretive Center on the pit house they have on their grounds I, and through me the everyone else in the field school, was offered the opportunity to use the voyageur canoe and visit sites on Mabel lake. Most of my research on this project has been done alone so an opportunity like this is a great way to research more traditional pit houses and give a day out for the other students.

As the final week of our field school begins I can’t help but feel humbled about everything I’ve seen and done. Everything that I have been allowed to do and the knowledge that has been shared with me is something I will never forget and will hopefully take to heart. It has been a pleasure to be a part of the community for the short time that I have and it is my hope that I will be able to give something back for the glimpse the community has given me.



  1. Kyle: Your project sounds pretty interesting to me. I’ve recorded and excavated many kekules (pithouses) in BC. I hope you get a chance to spend some time in it once it is built. (I recall spending some time in one on another reserve some years ago. It was quite warm inside without a fire, even though it was well below freezing outside). Bob

  2. Hi there Kyle.

    if you want more of the same you can always come to the Yukon. I run a very similarly orientated field school up here with the White River First Nation (and for the record, I’ve been it much longer than Tad, but he’s a quick learner). My students will be working in the community garden, assembling several new cabins, and processing fish and moose kills for smoking and eating. This is the face of community orientated anthropology – engagement with the community on their terms, real time reciprocity for the opportunity to poke around into the remains of their ancestors. It sounds like you are getting it there. Keep up the good work; some of those folks will be friends with you until the end. What’s bad about that?

    Norm Easton

  3. it is great that you are involving yourself with everything available to you. helping work on the fenceline project will work for you in spades! when you go beyond what is required of you doors will open up in ways you would not expect. the extra help is always appreciated. there never seems to be enough time, so make hay while the sunshines!

  4. What you are doing sounds brilliant. I am glad that you didn’t give up, as cliche as that sounds, what you are doing is strong. It isn’t easy to help lead in a project that not all information is available, but even harder when you may not be able to see the final product; however, people remember those that help.

  5. Kyle, I am so glad that you are having such a wonderful and fulfilling experience. Although I have not spent time in a pithouse, I have excavated ancient ones and I have spent time in a teepee in northern BC. Getting the right balance between warmth, cool, smoke and mosquitoes took a good part of the night but then it was magic!

    Also wanted to comment on how time changed for you during the course of the program. Time is a really interesting cultural construct and each of us has experienced changes in how our bodies or minds measure time in one form or another. I love how time seems to pass so slowly when you are anticipating something and then speeds up when you are in something enjoyable and when you are face to face with that big bear in the woods – well time does indeed seem to stand still.

    All the best in your future studies and application of that which you are learning.

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