The pit-house is being constructed by Dave Gooding; The camp hopes to open it up by end of July. (Priyanka Ketkar photo)

An indigenous, traditional pit-house to bring the community together

Talon Point Camp plans to preserve and share indigenous history

Talon Point Camp is putting together pieces of history and culture at their campsite, for locals and visitors alike, to enjoy and learn about the indigenous traditions.

Last week, the camp owners organized a meet-and-greet event for the community to unveil their most covetted project — the pit-house. A pit-house is a type of a house that is partly built into the ground. It is considered to be one of the oldest types of dwellings in the Northern America and many indigenous people lived in such houses during winter times.

The camp will be building this pit house as a way for the first nations people to connect with the land and stay rooted in the heritage while at the same time, they hope that others in the community will also come and learn and enjoy the pit-house. Robert Charlie, who is a Burns Lake Band member as well as the brains and heart behind the project, told the gathered crowd that this project was about more than just constructing a traditional indigenous outfit. He said it was about “leaning in the land”, a basic belief of the first nations people to get people back to the land, to experience it, and to reconnect with the land.

Pauline Goertzen, the operations manager for the camp expanded on this and said, “Both of us believe strongly that people need to be connected to the land to understand what it is that we are. Land-based living was the traditional way of indigenous people and their whole existence was designed around that. The pit house project provides insights, builds knowledge, pride in the history and resilience that First Nations have, inherently providing a place for re-connection and healing.”

To introduce the project, Charlie’s family did a smudging, followed by a couple of healing songs and then took the group to the pit. The group was then sat down in a circle around a fire — a sort of a symbolic start to the vision of community building and gathering.

“The pit-house project is a community project. It is always about the community. The impression you get of Burns Lake will totally shift when you get here. We are looking forward to when we can open this up for the public but today is all about sharing what we are doing and what we are going to do,” said Charlie.

The pit house has been funded by the Western Diversification’s Community Experiences Fund, Burns Lake Band and Talon Point Camp. The Burns Lake Community Forest is donating logs for building the pit house. The camp is also seeking volunteers who want to help build this project, while learning about the pit-house and the culture of the indigenous people. Goertzen said that they believed such participation would encourage community-sharing and people outside of the indigenous community would also gain first-hand knowledge of the culture and practices of their people.

Goertzen also informed Lakes District News that the pit-house will be free and available to the public to use, however it will need to be booked and perhaps be charged a refundable deposit for any garbage left on site or damages. She however said that the process was still being determined.

Talon Point Camp teepee site and venue itself will have fees for use. “Those are separate and will be found on our website,” said Goertzen adding that the teepees were not traditional to the place however, the pit-house was traditional to the indigenous home.

Goertzen informed Lakes District News that since both, the teepee site and the pit-house were separate, they won’t be ready at the same time. However, they would be hosting a soft-launch in July and were hoping to do a grand opening in mid-to late August.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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