The kiguli pithouses of Banff represent the most enduring type of fixed architecture in North America, although the dwellings are a mystery to most Canadians. The homes, called kiguli or ke’kuli in the Chinook trading jargon, were used as winter villages by the interior Salishan speaking peoples for four thousand years. The question of who used the dwellings in the Bow Valley is of considerable interest.
In 1913, Canada’s first Dominion Archaeologist, Harlan Smith, protected a cluster of fourteen pit dwellings, a winter village just downstream from the confluence of the Spray and Bow Rivers. Canada’s first protected archaeological site, it was later covered by the Banff golf course. There is a group of kigulis in the Red Deer River Valley near Skoki Lodge in Banff National Park. A remaining kiguli site near the Town of Banff is located next to the Juniper Hotel on the north side of the valley.
We’ve discovered there is living memory of these homes within many Shuswap families. Marge Eugene, a kiya’a or matriarch from Invermere, has agreed to share her family memories of pithouse dwellings with Bowstrings Banff. Watch for the video, soon to be posted here.