Kitkooli-1998-First Nation’s Outdoor Classroom-Double Iron Farm-Salmon Arm, BC
built 15 years ago with birch bark ties.
so many of these structures include this tunnel which traps cold air when covered on both ends by animal hide
though when we built another one in kelowna illegally on college grounds, the archeology department was called in
they were asked to asses whether the structure was traditional in origin, because they wanted to demolish it.
the professor i met with said that the procolonial design had only the entrance from the roof,
down a long notched pole, but then some white folks said it was improper for women to enter this way, with the skirts they were then forced to wear
and a women and children’s entrance was adapted.
i question the simplicity of this story, that the design of structures was imposed, especially as this cold air tunnel, as in an igloo, seems to have other practical value.
regardless the structure we built without permission at okanagan university college, on grounds that have now become new dorms, was slated to be destroyed, but they could not remove the poles with an excavator, because it would fall into the pit
so this skeleton of our structure remained, and i have scoured the grounds trying to find its footprint
as i also try and visit this first example of a kitkooli that i built with 8 first nations youth when i was 15 years old,
and see how time tells on this structure which i have seen reflected in structures and programs i have built in toronto
finding each tie of birch bark, which we soaked for a week tied down in a pond
are still in place and holding after a decade and a half
and represent, after the structures i built today in the urban landscape lasting for one or two years before being demolished, a culture which builds learning that lasts and honors the product of that learning.
Glen Jollymore and John Sayers facilitated the building of these traditional structures, integrated with teachings and tasks associated with creating this First Nation’s 12 outdoor classroom-integrating place based learning, an interpretive center into the high school curriculum in salmon arm senior secondary. i was privileged to be able to be apprenticed to these amazing mentors, and invited as the only non-native youth in the first year of creating the interpretive center. lately i’ve been put in a similar position, to teach natural crafts and techniques to draw youth into connection with the urban wilds of toronto. as i try and frame what behavior and cuture was so subtly taught to me when i was 15, in order to pass on the benefit of this knowledge, i have an expanded sense of respect and gratitude for glen and john, and the center they created on the property of double iron ranch, near Salmon Arm, b.c.
huh, i just remembered that Glen passed on a film of russian teens hearing songs and stories with first nations youth at the interpretive center (i will edit and upload the film next month). The project has grown to include these kinds of healthy cross cultural sharing ceremonies, and it feels very much like a spiritual center, or pilgrimage site, for my work in toronto, running strong in an oddly normal small town in bc.