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Michael "Mike" Kunz, Part 2
Mike Kunz

This is the continuation of an interview with Michael "Mike" Kunz on November 14, 2006 by Marie Mitchell in his office at the Bureau of Land Management in Fairbanks, Alaska. In this second part of a two part interview, Mike continues to shares his experiences of doing archeological surveys and excavation work along the Haul Road and Trans-Alaska Pipeline. He talks about the remote working conditions and their work schedule, having no communication and travel being difficult, the introduction of female archeologists, coordinating with the construction crews, and the importance of their archeological findings. He also discusses some of the cultural history of the area and connections with Alaska Native people.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2006-28-01_PT.2

Project: Dalton Highway
Date of Interview: Nov 14, 2006
Narrator(s): Michael "Mike" Kunz
Interviewer(s): Marie Mitchell
Location of Interview:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
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1) Duties of supervisory archeologist and conducting archeological surveys

2) Seasonal work schedule

3) Archeologists' fieldwork schedule

4) Importance of Trans-Alaska Pipeline archeology

5) Recording archeological sites

6) Artifacts and archeological findings

7) First arriving at Galbraith Lake, and the Brooks Range reminding him of New Mexico

8) Remoteness of the Haul Road

9) Communication and transportation

10) Being left out overnight in the field while surveying

11) Continuation of being left out in the field, and dealing with mosquitoes

12) Archeology teams

13) Construction workers, construction camps, and hiring of female archeologists

14) Sharing living quarters with women

15) Dealing with the lack of privacy in the barracks with humor

16) Success of student archeologists and hiring of women

17) Working with Susan Will

18) Use of helicopters

19) Keeping ahead of construction crews

20) Stevens Village's lack of support for the Haul Road and locating the Yukon River crossing far from the village

21) Traditional lifestyles of Native Alaskans

22) Contributions of TAPS archeology to understanding part of Alaska's cultural history

23) Understanding the broader cultural history of northern Alaska

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Section 1: Supervisory archeologists are in charge of operations for the pipeline section. Mike Kunz worked directly with Alyeska to know the construction schedule. He surveyed what sites would be impacted and excavated.The field foreman or crew boss was in charge of actual excavation. Archeological crews performed the excavations. During the summer, he surveyed archeological sites ahead of construction crews for both summer and winter season, since the construction crews worked in the winter. Some times archeologists would do field work in the winter.
supervisory archeologists -- duties\ scheduling\ surveying\ logistics\ Kunz, Mike -- supervisor\ Alyeska -- collaboration\ field foreman (crew boss) -- duties\ coordinate excavations\ archeological crew -- duties\ excavations\ summer -- surveying\ survey -- archeological sites\ summer\ winter\ season|

Section 2: During the winter season, the archeological team documented their findings. Because of how the construction work was proceeding, construction crews worked Sections 5 & 6 year around. The work schedule was 11 weeks on and 2 weeks off, 12 hours a day, and 7 days a week. Because of the TAPS project work schedule, some folks were exhausted. The TAPS project determined the baseline in how things are managed today. Mike comments, "You can't ask people to work that many hours and days without a break. So, today it is two weeks on and two weeks off." Mike shares a story of how the crew wrote in their journal about the experiences of being in the middle of nowhere. "If every dime was spent on crew morale (income, food, lodging, benefits), that is money well spent. Morale is the biggest thing. One thing you can't defeat (no matter the benefits) is not giving the crew a break."
archeological team -- findings\ documentation of\ schedule -- description\ 11 weeks on\ 2 weeks off\ 12 hours a day\ 7 days a week\ TAPS project -- intense\ heavy work loads\ TAPS project -- scheduling standards\ establishment of\ morale -- importance|

Section 3: Archeological crews had a flexible schedule. They were not fixed to one campsite. The crew was mobile, seeing new country, hiking to unknown locations. They were not locked into a construction site, or cooking in the same spot, or mopping and cleaning rooms for 12 hours. Archeologists worked 12 hours, but the work called for exploration.
archeological crews -- flexible schedule\ mobile\ exploratory\ construction crews -- immobile\ stationary|

Section 4: Archeological sites provide information, a cultural history, to answer a research question about a people, a place. Pioneering archeology was new in that area (along the Haul Road). There is now more research today then back then. Yet, no one has done much archeology in that area since TAPS. (Supervisors would be surveying for the next site, while the crew would be excavating the site just surveyed).
archeological sites -- purpose of\ information\ cultural history\ Haul Road -- unexplored\ pioneering archeology\ archeology -- changes in\ TAPS archeology -- largest project|

Section 5: The results of TAPS archeology were that 300 sites were recorded within the CZW or on the material sites. Other sites were noted but not recorded because they weren't going to be impacted by the TAPS project.
TAPS archeology -- findings\ 300 sites -- recorded\ fieldwork -- CZW\ material sites|

Section 6: Archeologists were finding artifacts in an arctic area that had never been reported. Found artifacts in the arctic area that were similar to artifacts in the coastal area. The reports provide a site by site definition, noting the physical location of a site that bears witness to human activity from many years ago and the information about how people lived.
artifacts -- findings\ comparisons\ Arctic -- coastal\ artifacts -- explanation\ human activity\ cultural information|

Section 7: archeology\ remote conditions\ Galbraith Lake\ airplane -- landing\ road -- narrow\ airplane -- Merlin\ landing -- scary\ North Slope -- introduction to\ airplane -- stopping\ safety\ fear\ Brooks Range\ landscape\ trees -- lack of\ vegetation -- lack of\ rocks\ scenery\ New Mexico\ snakes -- looking for|

Section 8: The first time he flew from the Galbraith Lake site to Fairbanks, he saw only lights in Wiseman and in Livengood. That is over 400 miles in the northern interior of the state. Today you can see lights. Back then, no lights. Because of that, Mike felt, "You are really out in the wilderness -- not like a Yellowstone National Park. Intriguing that there was nothing out there. Back then in the Lower-48, you could not find such a place". Mike was intrigued that some places still exist like that (remote and natural).
Galbraith Lake site -- first site\ story of\ transportation -- airplane\ Arctic -- impressions of\ travel -- 400 miles\ northern interior\ no lights\ remote\ natural|

Section 9: There were no communications (no internet, no GPS, no phones, no radio). The daily work schedule was breakfast; ride a helicopter to site for surveying or excavating; and 12 hours later returned to camp. The Bel-205 Huey helicopter was transportation for the entire archeological crew. He rode in helicopters everyday; it was like a bus.
electronic communications -- not available\ schedule -- description\ breakfast\ helicopter transportation\ archeological site\ surveying\ excavating\ 12 hours\ returned to camp\ helicopter -- Bel-205 Huey\ helicopter -- transportation\ archeological crew|

Section 10: Slaughter, Dale\ fieldwork\ archeology -- survey\ pick-up -- lack of\ overnight\ survival\ pilot -- forgot\ pilot -- quit\ communication -- lack of\ passengers\ pilot -- responsibility of\ pilot -- pick-up\visibility\ gear -- limited\ raingear\ clothing -- warm\ equipment\ camping supplies -- lack of\ gun\ grizzly bear\ regulations -- guns\ rules -- exception\ archeologists\ helicopter\ engine -- failure\ adventure\ accidents|

Section 11: pilot\ airplane\ pick-up -- lack of\ overnight\ survival\ pilot -- quit\ walking\ staying warm\ tundra\ wet conditions\ mosquitoes\ bug dope\ mosquitoes -- number of\ mosquitoes -- landing\ mosquitoes -- noise of\ wind\ mosquitoes -- inhaling\ Slaughter, Dale\ competition|

Section 12: Archeological teams had low turn-over. Archeologists are used to the outdoors. During the TAPS project, John Cook recruited over 400 archeologists. Galbraith Lake site had 70 people working on it. The outdoors is more rigorous in Alaska. Most of the archeological field crew were graduate students, with fieldwork experience.
archeological teams -- turn-over\ archeologists -- recruitment of\ number of\ Galbraith Lake site -- 70 archeologists\ Alaska -- rigorous\ archeologists -- requirements\ fieldwork experience\ wilderness experience|

Section 13: Turnover rate was higher with the other trades, especially if the person was stuck in one location. "If you had to stay in the same camp site, like a cook, sewer treatment plant operator, carpenter, any crew that kept the camp site operation or airfield going, you did not go anywhere". This was one reason for the high turnover. Mike Kunz and Dale Slaughter were like celebrities because they stayed in the same barracks as the women. Women were not permitted to work in the construction camps. John Cook told Alyeska that they needed to prepare for women being out at the construction site, since he had recruited women archeologists. During road construction, campsites were small. TAPS employed 160 people at Galbraith Lake camp site. That same camp, when the pipeline was approved for construction, had over 1200 people. Barracks were 20 men units. When the archeological crew showed up, they put the men and women in one barrack. Once the unions heard the news of women archeologists, other trades recruited women. When the culinary union recruited women, they were housed with the archeologists.
trades -- turnover rate\ turnover rate -- higher\ turnover rate -- reasons for\ women -- story of\ TAPS -- refusal to hire women\ Cook, John -- hiring of\ women -- first to work TAPS\ campsites -- description of\ barracks -- male units\ archeologist crew -- shared barracks\ TAPS archeology -- hired women\ impact of\ influenced other trades\ women -- recruitment of|

Section 14: crew\ Slaughter, Dale\ living quarters\ barracks\ barracks -- co-ed\ men\ women\ people -- number of\ barracks -- new\ room -- changing of\ men -- problems with\ alcohol\ women -- protection|

Section 15: living quarters\ barracks\ building -- design\ men\ women\ bathroom\ privacy -- lack of\ urinals\ joking\ fun|

Section 16: Some of the archeology graduate students that were involved with the Haul Road have become well known archeologists, or have retired, or have become professors. All of the graduate students have looked back saying it was the best experience -- not life changing, but certainly a unique experience. Retrospectively, they might have felt they made history. The archeology program was 100% responsible for bringing women to the TAPS project. This opened the opportunity for women to be involved with other trades for the TAPS.
TAPS archeologists -- years later\ stories of\ professors\ archeologists\ retired\ contract archeologists\ Haul Road -- memories of\ TAPS project -- experience of\ historic\ archeology program -- responsible for\ women -- recruitment of\ TAPS\ TAPS archeology -- opportunity\ women|

Section 17: Susan Will was a junior at college. She started working with John Cook in 1974. She had a lot of practical experience due to her family history. Mike Kunz was her boss during the TAPS project. Now Susan is his boss with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Back then, all undergraduate students had field experience. Today a student can get a Masters Degree and not have any field experience. Today, there are many subdivisions within archeology. In 1974 during the building of the Haul Road, a smaller archeological crew was recruited. Susan Will was a meticulous worker. In 1975, she became a crew foreman in charge of the excavations and logistics. When the Haul Road was completed in late September of 1974, teams could drive to the sites and camps.
Will, Susan -- TAPS archeologist\ college student\ Cook, John\ Kunz, Mike -- TAPS supervisor\ Will, Susan -- manager\ Bureau of Land Management (BLM)\ archeology -- changes in\ students -- field experience\ Will, Susan -- TAPS archeological field crew\ crew foreman\ meticulous\ Haul Road -- completion date|

Section 18: The person in charge of the carpenter's shop expressed to Mike "how much of a drag it is to be stuck at the camp". Said he would like to see the area and take pictures. Dale and Mike had helicopters specifically assigned for their archeological work. Alyeska had the money to expedite the TAPS project, therefore, wanted to be sure there was available helicopter transportation. The archeologists' helicopter contracts guaranteed them 80 hours per month of transportation time (even if they only used 20 hours). The archeology crew used 40 hours per month. Dale and Mike asked someone from Alyeska if their remaining 40 hours of flight time could be used to fly campsite crews around the area (if the pilot agreed). What resulted for Dale and Mike was full cooperation from the other trades, which was not their intent. Dale and Mike did not anticipate the return cooperation, which was especially helpful during the wintertime when they needed to fabricate their gear to work in the winter season.
helicopter -- story of\ archeological crew -- mobile\ helicopter -- transportation\ construction crew -- stationary\ archeological crew -- helicopter tours\ tours -- construction crews\ favorable\ morale -- improved\ construction crews -- appreciation of|

Section 19: The archeological crews tried to stay ahead of the construction plans. Sometimes their plans changed due to the route being changed, or they would have to travel out of the CZW area. Usually before the winter season, the sites were recorded or marked before the archeological crews left. If the route changed during the winter season, the archeological crews returned to work to excavate the site. The archeological crew developed a method for thawing the frozen ground. They cut the top half off a fifty gallon drum, and cut a hole. They used a propane weed burner and blew heat into the hole. The top of the drum would contain the heat, which thaws the ground. This required a lot of propane. They excavated this way only during the winter.
archeological crews -- construction plans\ CZW area\ sites -- recorded\ marked\ excavated\ winter -- methods\ methods -- development of\ description of\ ground -- thawing|

Section 20: Stevens Village\ Haul Road\ road -- not wanting\ road -- impacts\ Hickel Highway\ Yukon River\ river -- crossing\ bridge -- location of|

Section 21: Why are villages located where they are in Alaska? Seasons in Alaska are dramatic, so people had a seasonal round (travel-migration). During spring, people had a camp location for spring resources. During summer, people had a camp location for summer resources. People migrated seasonally. People had spring caribou camps, summer waterfowl camps, fall fish camps, and late fall caribou camps. Seasonal locations provided subsistence to survive during the year (especially winter). Reasons most villages exist today were due to white men arriving in Alaska, particularly the missionaries and teachers. Wherever the Alaskan Natives were camped at the time, the missionaries or teachers settled there, which is where the village ended up. Natives wanted to get supplies and education. Villages were located where the trading was better.
aboriginal Alaskan -- seasonal (travel-migration)\ spring camp -- spring resources\ summer camp -- summer resources\ spring resources -- description\ caribou\ summer resources -- water fowl\ fall resources -- fish\ caribou\ winter locations -- place to live\ seasonal locations -- subsistence\ Alaskan Native villages -- formation of\ effect of\ villages -- locations of\ trading posts\ not reflective of the culture\ villages -- influence of trading\ white man|

Section 22: Villages may not have an archeological or physical history, but do have a history as a seasonal camp. Tanacross village formed around a trading post. Most of the villages started in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The archeological findings along the Haul Road did not really contribute to the history of a village. What the archeological findings along the Haul Road did contribute is a picture of a cultural history of an area of Alaska that was previously poorly known.
villages -- limited pre-history\ seasonal camp\ Tanacross village -- trading post\ villages -- formation of\ late 1800s\ Haul Road -- archeological findings\ results of\ Coldfoot\ Wiseman\ Haul Road -- contributions\ cultural history|

Section 23: Archeologists knew that Eskimos traveled south, and Indians traveled north. They lived in this vast area. Therefore, along the Haul Road, the archeology is just an archeological slice. Archeology discovered that the Eskimo continuum of cultures lived in this area, because there is this geographical slice right through the northern interior of Alaska where nothing had been researched before. There were past assumptions about the area, but now archeologists can say who lived in this area, and paint a bigger picture of the cultural history from 12,000 years ago until the present time.
Haul Road -- archeological slice\ archeology -- findings\ arctic region\ cultures\ history -- understanding\ history -- broader\ cultural history|