Small Number and the Abandoned Pit House

Small Number and the Abandoned Pit House

Written by Veselin Jungic & Mark MacLean 
Illustrated by Kyra Pukanich

Small Number is a young boy who gets into a lot of mischief.  

It is summer time and Small Number visits his Grandpa who lives on their Nation’s traditional territory in a small village near the river.


Story Transcript


Small Number is a young boy who gets into a lot of mischief.  

It is summer time and Small Number visits his Grandpa who lives on their Nation’s traditional territory in a small village near the river.

For Small Number his Grandpa is the wisest man who has ever lived. Grandpa knows so many interesting stories and somehow they are often related to the mischief that Small Number has done or is planning to do.  

This afternoon, Grandpa is meeting with a group of elders and a visitor from a university. Every week they get together so that the visitor can record the stories that the elders tell in their mother tongue. Even though Small Number only understands a few words, he enjoys listening to his Grandpa when he speaks in the language of their people. “I’ll ask Grandpa to teach me all stories that he knows, so that one day I can tell them to my children and grandchildren,” thinks Small Number.

Just when he and Grandpa were ready to leave the house, Small Number got a message from his friend, Big Circle: “Come join us, we are playing at the river bank.” 

“Grandpa, I have to run to the river bank to say hi to Big Circle! I’ll meet you in the village!” 

Grandpa smiled and shook his head, “Nowadays, young people have to do everything at once.” Then he stopped and looked at the sky, “Did I hear the same words from my mother?”

Small Number ran across the field and decided to jump over an old fence to get to the river bank quicker. Small Number was puzzled, “Why would anyone fence the middle of an empty …”

“Aaaa,” screamed Small Number while falling through a hole in the ground. 

“Where am I?” asked Small Number out loud while lying on the ground. He could see the sky through the hole high above him, but the space around him was very dark. He could feel his heart beating faster. He was scared. 

Small Number took his cell phone from a pocket and turned the flashlight on. His wide-open eyes followed the beam of light. “Wow,” said Small Number looking at a vertical pole that was supporting the wooden dome-like structure above him. He was inside an enclosed space.

With his courage back and excited about his discovery, Small Number made a few steps towards the dark side of the space. He could see that the short poles at the edge of the floor and the ends of the long poles were part of the roof that formed a circular ring-like shape. “There must be hundreds of poles used to build this room,” though Small Number.

Small Number’s cell phone started ringing.

It was Grandpa: “Where are you, Small Number?” 

“I fell into a huge underground house,” replied Small Number. “I’ll be there right away,” said Grandpa. 

Soon, Small Number could hear the sound of Grandpa’s truck coming closer and closer. It was very quiet when that sound stopped. Small Number was worried: “I hope that Grandpa will not be angry at me.”

Suddenly, the sunlight came into the room from an opening in the side of the roof. When Grandpa entered the room, Small Number ran towards him and hugged him very tightly. “I love you so much, Grandpa!” “I love you very much too, but don’t scare me like this again! You were very lucky that you didn’t get injured. The hole must be at least three meters above the floor,” replied Grandpa.

“This is an abandoned pit house built by our ancestors,” explained Grandpa. “Our people would live in a house like this during the winter months. This is not a very big house, maybe it has only 8 meters across. The Chief's pit house could be twice as large.”

Grandpa continued: “Everyone would help to build the house. Some would dig the pit and remove soil, others would gather and prepare other building materials. Removed soil would be used for the roof covering. Later, people would feast in the house that they built together.”

“So, those posts are about five meters long,” quietly said Small Number pointing to the roof. “I wonder how our ancestors knew how many posts they needed to build the roof.”

“Our people had their ways,” answered Grandpa, a bit surprised by Small Number’s question. “And now let’s hurry back to the village because I would like to tell our visitor a story about the abandoned pit house.”

Question: Why did Small Number think that the posts used to build the roof were about five meters long each?

Credits and Acknowledgements

Written by: Veselin Jungic, SFU, and Mark MacLean, UBC
Voice: Bethani L’Heureux of the Cree Nation
Illustrator: Kyra Pukanich, Port Moody, BC
Sound: David Brigden, Simon Fraser University
Music: Barry Cardinal of the Bigstone Cree Nation
Animation: Angela Meyers, Vancouver, BC
Producer: Veselin Jungic, Simon Fraser University
Director: Angela Meyers, Vancouver, BC

Special Thanks To:

  • Betty Wilson of the Tla’amin Nation
  • Noreen Pankewich of the Sto:lo Nation 
  • Ozren Jungic, Ottawa, ON
  • Pam Borghardt, Coquitlam, BC
  • Inge Genee, University of Lethbdidge
  • Department of Mathematics, Simon Fraser University
  • Department of Mathematics, University of British Columbia
  • Faculty of Science, Simon Fraser University
  • Office for Aboriginal Peoples, Simon Fraser University
  • Pacific Institute for Mathematical Sciences
  • The IRMACS Centre, Simon Fraser University