Cultural Landscape

A Survey Day at Napâtalik

August 2018

Guest post by: Denver Edmunds, Nicholas Flowers, Halle Lucy, and John Piercy

The Avertok Archaeology Project just finished field work for another season in Hopedale. The project hired four high school students from Hopedale to work with Laura Kelvin (Postdoctoral Fellow, Memorial University) as archaeological field assistants: Denver Edmunds, Nicholas Flowers, Halle Lucy, and John Piercy. The students wrote the following story about their trip to conduct an archaeological survey of Napâtalik (Woody Island). They were joined by Reuben Flowers (Hopedale community member) and Deirdre Elliot (PhD student, Memorial University).

On July 5th 2018, we went off in the speedboat to Napâptalik (Woody Island). The name Napâptalik derives from the Inuttitut word for tree, napâttuk. Junius Bird, an American archaeologist, his wife Margaret (Peggy), and their guide Heinrich Uisuk (Hopedale resident) researched the island in 1934. They recorded two sod houses and excavated one. They also recorded two tent rings. By reading their documents, we were able to locate this significant site on the western side of Napâtalik.

When we arrived on the island, Nicholas almost tripped on a bunch of rocks. When we got a second glance at the rocks, we noticed they were laid out in the shape of the letters “H” and “P”, so we figured that there was a message about the rock– someone may have needed help and tried to reach out using the rocks. This could be especially troubling since when we were walking on the beach Rueben noticed some polar bear tracks. Luckily, they were old and Reuben came prepared.

We found the tent rings and sod houses. We recorded them and took pictures of them. The most fun part was watching Deirdre fly her drone, which she named “Disco”, over the sod houses and tent rings to see them from a higher and better view. The drone took aerial pictures of the site.

After that we had a boil up. Nicholas showed us how to use a bow-drill that he made to start a fire the way our ancestors did. Deirdre was looking around and she spotted a seal when we were having a boil-up. We also saw the Northern Ranger passing by! It was exciting because it was our first time seeing it since late November.

After our lunch break, we recorded Deirdre talking about how her drone works and what she uses it for. John and Nick went on a little hike to get photos of the site from the same vantage point as Bird’s photos of the site from 1934 – not that much has changed! Denver, Halle, and Laura recorded the sod houses and we also recorded some of the island.

While observing Napâptalik’s beautiful landscape, we stumbled across a piece of Ramah Chert that was debitage, possibly from making a projectile point. Finding these finds throughout the island was absolutely amazing, and we are interested to learn more about their history.

On the way back to Hopedale we stopped at Crossway Island and found some more tent rings but we couldn’t find the sod house that Junius Bird saw there. We are hoping that we can go back to Crossway Island and look for the sod house. We also saw a lot of animals and it was good to see icebergs again.

It was a fun and interesting day!

My Favourite Part of the Day


Being part of the archaeological team who investigated the island of Napâtalik, I was very fascinated with the sod houses, tent rings, firepits, and artifacts. I believe that it is important to learn more about our ancestors who had previously occupied the land. Being able to sit next to the campfire and gaze at the ocean made me realize how the Inuit had lived a tranquil life. I enjoyed spending time with the team and my father during the entire boating trip, including our time on Napâtalik. I am looking forward to more trips out on the land observing the historic Inuit way of life.


The trip was really good! I loved being out on the land while having to work at the same time, discovering new things, seeing people find old sod houses, and old rocks. Taking pictures was my favorite part. I also loved that we get to work together and learn about interesting things on the land and I love learning about history. We also had a fire and Nick started it with friction using a bow-drill. It was my first time seeing a fire lit like that and I found it really cool. We all seen the northern ranger pass by; I got really excited and took a ton of pictures. It was also my first time seeing a drone and seeing it being flown in the air. It was one of the best days ever to be gone off because it was very warm and beautiful. The boat ride back was fast and short and I loved it so much! I enjoyed myself and I hope to have another time off like that again.


My favorite part of the trip was being able to have the chance to actually go out in speedboat and to spend the whole day with a bunch of cool teammates. The trip had me feel relieved because being out on the land is stress relieving. Yesterday was a great day and I am glad that we were offered this opportunity; thanks to Laura and Rueben for preparing this boat trip.


My favorite part of yesterday’s trip was being able to go in boat and being on the land for a few hours and seeing wildlife again. I also liked seeing Deirdre using a drone because you won’t see them everyday and it’s cool seeing what a small thing like that can do. Me and Nicholas also went for a hike to try and recapture a picture and I think that it’s good taking a hike every now and then because you might see stuff that you thought you wouldn’t see before, plus you get to see almost every place around you and it’s such a beautiful view!