Working at the Culture Camp for Perryville Village Residents
Written by: Madeline Jennings
One of the biggest things that I was looking forward to in this internship, and a large reason that I chose to apply to the position was an opportunity to work on a Culture Camp for a group of Perryville residents. The Culture Camp was designed not only as a way to give back to the indigenous community that has such a large role in the park’s history, but also to give them an inside look into the work that we are doing with their ancestral sites, and get more of their insight into the history and interpretations of the sites.
We set up several different activities for the participants to join us in, including many presentations on our work, a visit to the Bristol Bay Historical Museum, obsidian knapping, a visit to Brooks Camp, boat rides with some of our Law Enforcement officers, a barbecue with the Katmai Park superintendent, site visits, and interacting with our teaching collection! It was a very busy week, but everyone had a good time. All of these activities were working towards the goal of the Perryville community’s continued presence and input into Katmai National Park operations.
The role that I played during all of this was support and a bit of everything. I helped pick up the Culture Camp folks and get them settled in, as well as helping to present the teaching collections, especially the faunal elements. It was extremely rewarding to get to work with this group and see them become more curious about archaeology as they got further into what we do and the things that we have found. As well, the knowledge that they brought with them, and the stories of their grandparents and great grandparents were great to hear and added depth to the knowledge that I have gained here while working on village sites. Oral traditions are extremely important when it comes to historical archaeology, and while we do have access to many recordings of the history of Perryville and the indigenous villages of Alaska, it is always preferable to hear them in person. The histories are able to come to life that way, and we are more able to actively engage with them. I truly enjoyed getting to learn from this group of people.
One of the really interesting things that we set up for the Culture Camp participants to be able to do was use a Virtual Reality Headset to let them interact with a model of Katmai village. The Cultural Resources Crew here has recovered and been given photographs over the years of what Katmai Village looked like when it was fully standing and in use. Using these photographs and the accounts of the village, one of the NPS Archaeologists created a 3D rendering of the village in an architecture software. The process was really interesting to hear about, because all of the photos were from different angles and included different buildings, so creating a composite was not the easiest endeavor. Watching the participants put on the headset and begin to explore the village was really cool. They all knew the stories of their ancestors and had pictured the village, based off of the images, but being able to feel like they were walking through it was something that they all had a good time doing.
Unfortunately, due to some changes in circumstances, the Perryville folks were not able to get out into the backcountry, but we were able to take them over to Brooks Camp, which is the other base of operations for Katmai National park. They were able to visit some sites there, mostly multiroom house depressions, and interact with some of the NPS Interpretive Rangers, which was a good experience. At the end of everything, the Archaeological Crew was very sad to see them go, but we are already making plans for an even better Culture Camp next Summer!