The Ikaahuk Archaeology Project!

Hello from Sachs Harbour, Northwest Territories, Canada! I am here conducting research as part of the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project, headed by Dr. Lisa Hodgetts. This project aims to use archaeological knowledge and Inuvialuit knowledge to better understand the history of Banks Island. We are currently working towards making this project a community-based project. We are now in our third year and we have a lot on the go!

The fabulous crew for 2014 is made up of Lisa Hodgetts (Associate Professor, UWO), Colleen Haukaas (recent MA grad, UWO! Woot woot!), Jordan Munizzi (PhD student, UWO), Katie Kotar (MA student, UWO), Mariah Lucas (Sachs Harbour resident), Alex Kudlak (Sachs Harbour/Inuvik resident) and me, Laura Kelvin (PhD candidate, UWO). This year I am staying in Sachs Harbour conducting research for my dissertation while the rest of the crew is camping near Emegak Lake (about 30 km SE of town). My work in town involves using an archaeological ethnographic approach to explore how perceptions of the past and archaeological research vary within the community to determine how archaeology can complement Inuvialuit understandings of the past. This mostly involves interviewing community members, getting to know people and what their lives are like in Sachs Harbour, and hanging out in town (I have been playing a lot of volley ball!).

This year the crew is excavating a Thule Inuit whalebone house. In addition to excavation they are also using a magnetometer to help find the location of middens, and using photogrammetry to make 3D models of features and artifacts. I recently received word that they are currently excavating and they are getting close to the architecture of the house. They have found tons of animal bones­ – muskox, seal, fox, caribou, goose, fish. Whoever lived there was eating well! They have also found bone and antler points, a harpoon head, and beads! I am not sure exactly what they are up to today, but I imagine they are cold. It is 2° C (feels like -2°C) and rainy, and I was told that they have ran out of hot chocolate!

Today is a bit of a slower day for me. I put in a food order for the crew this morning (they really need that hot chocolate!) and I am just taking a break from transcribing an interview. The interview I am working on was with two Elders from town, Edith Haogak and Lena Wolki. Last week my supervisor was able to get some time with a helicopter for her research. She went out to a few sites in the southern part of the island to collect water and animal bone samples. Not only was I lucky enough to go sampling with her, one afternoon she let me use the helicopter to take these wonderful ladies and Edith’s son, Charlton, to Haogak Lake to do a place-based interview! This was my first trip in a helicopter and despite feeling a little queasy at times it was really cool! I can’t imagine a more beautiful place to fly over top of than Banks Island.

Edith and Lena were born on Victoria Island, near Ulukhaktok (Holman). They grew up on the land moving between Banks Island and Victoria Island with their mother Susie Tiktalkik. Haogak Lake is named after Edith’s family. She first came to the lake with her mother to hunt caribou and fish. She later established a trap line there with her husband and continued to trap there after he passed away. Her son Charlie also used the trap line. Her family still goes there to fish. Place-based interviews are awesome because they really help to establish and understand peoples’ connections to particular places. I have posted a short clip from my interview with this post. Edith and Lena are extremely charismatic and have done many interviews (check out Inuvialuit Television on youtube!

One thing that really comes across in this interview, as well as most of the interviews I have done with people from Sachs, is their awesome sense of humor! But that afternoon was far from all work. We also got in some fishing! This was my first time fishing and I loved it! With the help of our awesome pilot, Steffan, I caught a fish on my first try, which I can only assume makes me the best fisherman in the world. We’ll just ignore the fact that it was the only one I got. As I am transcribing this interview I just keep thinking how lucky I am that this family was willing to spend the afternoon sharing this wonderful place with me.

Later today I will get my second sewing lesson from Kim. Although my grandmother taught me the basics when I was younger, I did not keep with it and I have never been all that good. Kim is an awesome artist who makes mukluks, mittens, purses… well just about everything! She has shared a slipper pattern with me. I finished beading the uppers and today she is going to show me how to finish sewing them together. For many people in Sachs sewing is a big part of life. They learned how to sew from their mothers, grandmothers and Elders. Sewing is seen by some people as an important way to teach youth about their heritage and about the past. Although it is mostly women who sew to make clothing for their families, for income, or for fun, it is important for both women and men to know how to sew, as it is an essential skill when you go out on the land. Betty Raddi-Haogak explained to me that there are many different styles of Inuvialuit sewing and clothing. She said that this could be important for archaeologists because you can tell what region people are from by their sewing style. I’m looking forward to learning more about sewing and Inuvialuit heritage!

I hope this post has sparked some interest in the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project, my project, and Inuvialuit history! If you want to learn more about my research you can check out my blog Summer Time in the Arctic, and of course follow the Ikaahuk Archaeology Project on Facebook! I hope everyone had an awesome Day of Archaeology!

Report from Indian Harbour, Labrador, Canada

I am Lisa Rankin, an Associate Professor of Archaeology at Memorial University in St. John’s Newfoundland, Canada.  For the last three years I have been running an

Map showing the location of the Huntingdon Island 5 site

Map showing the location of the Huntingdon Island 5 site

excavation at the site of Huntingdon Island 5 (FkBg-3) at Indian Harbour on the south-central coast of Labrador.

It is a pretty remote location.  It takes us two days to get here.  First we have a 10 hour drive across the island of Newfoundland from St. John’s to St. Barbe where we spend the night.  The next morning we get on a ferry to Labrador and then drive another seven hours north on a gravel road to the community of Cartwright.


That is not the end of our journey.  Once in Cartwright, the crew and all of our gear have to be ferried by boat to Indian Harbour about 30 minutes away.  Once here we set up camp for the summer and stay for several weeks until our summer field work is completed.




We have been excavating a series of Inuit winter houses at this site which date between AD 1620 and AD 1740. This research is part of a much bigger project titled “Understanding the Past to Build the Future”.  Ultimately, the purpose of the project is to understand and interpret the development of the contemporary Inuit-Metis society who currently reside on the southern coast of Labrador.

Overview of the Huntingdon Island 5 site

Overview of the Huntingdon Island 5 site

The project is multi-disciplinary in nature and is combining research undertaken by two archaeologists, a religious historian, two anthropologists, a specialist in Aboriginal education, a geneaologist and the Inuit-Metis community organization called the NunatuKavut Community Council.  It is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.  The archaeological focus of the research is attempting to answer questions about the migration of the Inuit into southern Labrador, the permanency of their settlement and their response to interaction with the various European groups that held sway on the southern Labrador coast beginning with Basque whalers in the early 16th century, then the French through much of the 17th and 18th century and ultimately the British who gained control of Labrador in the late 18th century.  The lives of the Inuit were quickly entwined with each of these groups, but none more so than the British whose colonial efforts on the coast encouraged inter-marriage with local Inuit women leading to the development of the Inuit-Metis community here.

This year my crew is made up of 10 people (including me).

Crew members excavating in Inuit sod house, July 29, 2011

Crew members excavating in Inuit sod house, July 29, 2011

Most are my students from the university but there are also three local students from Cartwright.  My crew chief is Robyn Fleming.  Having received her MA at Memorial University two years ago, Robyn has been working as my crew chief in the summer and lab director in the winter since then.  The excavation crew also includes Phoebe Murphy, who has just completed her MA thesis on the development of the Inuit Communal House phase, a response to intensive trading with the French, that occurred on the southern Labrador coast; Laura Kelvin, whose MA thesis combines local oral histories with archaeology in order to help us locate sites associated with various eras and ethnic groups that interacted in the region; Eliza Brandy, a zooarchaeologist and superb photographer who has been keeping our video and photo record; Andrew Collins, an archaeology student who will begin his MA studies this September; and Vicky Allen, an undergraduate archaeology student at Memorial University who also happens to be of local Inuit decent. The lab crew is made up of Brandon and Chelsea Morris a brother and sister from Cartwright, Labrador who are pursuing non-archaeology degrees at University, but who joined the project as high-school students and have returned to help us once again, and Kellie Clark, also from Cartwright who has just finished high school.