Chief Shakes Tribal House dedication celebration ongoing in Wrangell

The Chief Shakes Tribal House rededication ceremony began in Wrangell on Thursday, with the arrival of seven canoes from surrounding communities including Juneau, and continued today, Friday, with a parade and other activities.


On Saturday, the official rededication ceremony of the historic clan house will be held beginning at 10 a.m., followed by dancing and the presentation of gifts.

The project began in April 2012, and was undertaken to restore the previous Tribal House, constructed in 1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which had become weakened by time and weather. Except for minor repairs, no major reconstruction had taken place to the structure since that time.

The restoration process, led by Project Manager Todd White, included replacing and restoring totem poles at the site under the direction of Master Carver Steve Brown. Last summer, Brown determined that three of the original poles needed to be replaced — Undersea Bear, Strong Man and half of Bear Up the Mountain; the rest were restored. Sealaska Timber Corporation donated red cedar logs for the totems, as well as other cedar trees for the project’s corner posts and beams. Brown and his team also created a new bear screen out of cedar for the Tribal House, one of only a handful of such screens in the world.

Because the site is listed on the National Historic Registry, the materials and building styles for the new structure had to conform to those established by the original structure. For example, the replacement timbers were hand adzed. Elements from the original structure were salvaged whenever possible.

During the restoration process, all the artifacts and clan artwork — at.óow — from the site were stored at the Wrangell Museum, where they remained on public view.

The tribal house, owned and operated by the Wrangell Cooperative Association, is set on land historically occupied by Chief Shakes’ lineage. Of the 2,000 residents of Wrangell, approximately 800 are tribal members.

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