The City and Borough of Juneau and the Douglas Indian Association are constructing a Native Burial Ground Monument at Sayéik Gastineau Community School. Nicholas Galanin, a Tlingit/Unangax̂ multi-disciplinary artist, has been selected to design and produce a central component of the monument — a Tlingit ceremonial fire dish. In Tlingit, the dish is called gankas’íx’i, “Dishes for the Fire.” The fire dish is symbolic for the Tlingit practice of placing food into a fire to feed and comfort the spirits of the departed. Galanin was chosen by a three-member Art Selection Panel through a CBJ Call for Artists process.
Galanin is an award-winning artist whose work is exhibited around the country and world. Locally, his work is part of the Alaska State Museum collection. Galanin collaborated with renowned Tlingit glass artist Preston Singletary to create the Glass Clan House Screen for Juneau’s Walter Soboleff Center. Galanin holds a Masters in Indigenous Visual Arts from Massey University in New Zealand and has apprenticed with master carvers and jewelers. Galanin is of the L’uknax.ádi, Raven/Coho Clan, Sheet’ká Kwáan. His Tlingit name is Yéil Ya-Tseen.
The goal of the Native Burial Ground Monument is to help the community find forgiveness, restore peace, and to evoke spiritual help to heal from grief and loss for generations to come. When Sayéik Gastineau Community School was being renovated in 2012, five graves were unearthed, which was evidence that the school, constructed in 1958, was built upon a known Native burial ground. The traumatizing event impacted the entire community, Native and non-Native alike. The Douglas Indian Association and CBJ, with the guidance of DIA Elders, are working together to create the monument.
The monument will have several components. Outside the school’s front entrance, bronze panels will be embedded in an arc into the existing concrete plaza and engraved with a Tlingit quote and its English translation. A stone path will be laid from the plaza to the sidewalk. The path will also lead to a granite boulder, located in the center of an existing grove of trees. The boulder will have a cast bronze Tináa plaque, and the bronze fire dish on top illuminated by a light to represent an eternal flame.
For more information, contact Project Manager Lisa Eagan Lagerquist at (907) 586-0893 or Lisa.EaganLagerquist@juneau.org.