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University course helps students revive First Nations building style

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Students in the Pit House course spent their first day clearing space for their new building (Jennifer Annais Pighin).

A new course at UNBC is reviving a First Nations building style from northern British Columbia.

Pit houses were used by indigenous people throughout British Columbia as a more permanent winter home compared to the summer months, when they would be on the move.

Vince Prince is leading the course. He taught himself how to build pit houses using drawings and descriptions in record books kept by Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice in the 1880s.

"He only wrote two paragraphs on the structure itself," says Prince. "I can tell you that the mistakes I made we won't make at UNBC."

Students taking the course will build a permanent pit house on the UNBC campus grounds in Prince George. The house will then be used for ceremonial and educational purposes, as well as a tourist attraction.

Jennifer Anais Pighin is helping teach the course, following a similar one last year that taught students how to build a traditional dug-out canoe. She thinks this type of learning is important to the future of the region.

Prince agrees.

"Like I was telling the students yesterday, you know what, probably it's been a couple hundred years since anybody's built one around here, and you know you can be proud of that." 

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