Aktis Island houses and households : an ethno-archaeological study of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h home-base

by Melinda Anne Ogden

Institution: University of British Columbia
Department: Anthropology
Degree: MA- MA
Year: 2015
Record ID: 2058100
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/52679


This community-based project combined ethnography, history and archaeology to chronicle the life history of the houses and households at Aktis village, the historical home-base of the Ka:'yu:'k't'h (Kyuquot) confederacy on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island. Though there are connections between the material house and the social household, they are not synonymous. Despite changes in architecture at Aktis village, there is continuity in social form. A diachronic perspective extending from the deep past to the present-day was used to examine this transformation. Archaeological mapping and percussion-coring were used to explore the distant past of the site. This revealed deep house depressions, suggesting that the locations of house sites at Aktis village were preserved through time. Core samples indicated shell midden deposits as deep as 3.5 metres, and almost uninterrupted occupation since 1686±126 BP (calibrated radiocarbon years before present), with a possible break between 1627±118 BP and 1384±107 BP. Interviews and historical documents suggest that the big houses and the lineage properties on which they stood acted as powerful symbols for extended family households. Though nuclear families moved out of the big houses, they continued to live in family groups, building smaller homes on their lineage properties. The centrepiece of the lineage properties were the externally-ornate dance houses, which, though vacant, represented family prestige and solidarity. The dance houses were torn down around 1930. However, lineage properties (and the family ties they represented) were maintained. The move away from Aktis village in the 1970s eliminated the community’s daily encounter with the lineage properties, a tangible symbol of household groups. Even so, the traditional ideology of kinship that bound together members of a house persists: Ka:'yu:'k't'h extended families continue to exhibit considerable social solidarity at key moments in the lives of their members.