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Kiakum

By Peter Wrinch. Posted on August 4, 2019 in Stories + Recipes

Kiakum is a rustic round building nestled into the trees. There is a small skylight and narrow windows, and intricate features such as wooden columns for hanging lights. This space hosts many of our wisdom teachings and skills-building programs.

Kiakum was built between 1970 and 1971. It was started by a builder from Denman Island named John LeBaron and completed by David Rousseau in 1971. Kiakum was built for the Cold Mountain Institute which operated between 1970 and 1976 and was lead by Richard Weaver. Weaver had trained at the Esalen Institute in California and wanted to replicate on Cortes Island, the ground-breaking Humanistic Psychology that was Esalen was famous for. The work of Cold Mountain was centred in Gestalt therapy and took many cues from Fritz Perls, the founder of Gestalt. Kiakum was built to foster this type of deep inner work. This is also why why the windows are so narrow – to bring the attention inwards.

The clear origin of the name Kiakum remains a mystery to us. We have spoken to a number of the remaining people associated with Cold Mountain to try to decipher where the name comes from and continue to dig into history. For years, Hollyhock had a sign in the building that said that “Kiakum is a Coast Salish word that means gathering place.” Upon review, we could find not find the word Kiakum in the Klahoose, T’lamin, or Homalco languages, or any other Coast Salish language, and have removed the sign.  

In our research, we found a county in Washington on the shores of the Columbia River (near Oregon) that is named Wahkaikum. The county was named in 1854 after the Chief of the Kathlamet Nation, Chief Wakaiyakam. Wahkiakum translates to “tall timber” in the Chinook language. It is our working theory, that the name traveled to Cortes with Americans (mostly likely Richard Weaver) who were headed to Cold Mountain in the early 1970s. A number of Cold Mountain people have suggested this may be true.  

Since 1982 Kiakum has been a well loved session space at Hollyhock. It can accommodate up to 60 people on chairs and backjacks. Over the years, Kiakum has been used as a space for singing, health and wellness, social innovation, and everything in between. There is something wonderful about watching the light come through the roof and the sun moves across the sky. Every year Kiakum receives some love from our maintenance team. Recently we replaced the floor with a beautiful, bright engineered hardwood.

Photo Credits: Zack Embree

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