Don't build a bridge

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

This letter is to oppose the building on any kind of bridge from Ketchikan-Pennock Island-Gravina Island.

Pennock Island was and still is tribal burial grounds for the Tanda Kwaan (Tongass Tribe) and Saanya Kwaan (Cape Fox people). Not only are tribal people buried there, but also white people that could not afford to be buried in the Ketchikan Cemetery.

Pennock Island's graveyard starts from the southern tip to the northern tip of the island (just inside the tree line) on the Ketchikan side. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, we had monuments, head stones and totem poles as markers for our loved ones. In the early 1920s and 1930s, encroachment started occurring by houses being built. The applications to build these houses were being falsified about our tribal graves not being present. Tongass Tribe received documentation as evidence from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) that several copies of these applications were deceptive. Every application to build homes had fabricated the truth. Want to open a can of worms?

Tongass Tribe is indigenous to the Ketchikan area. Ketchikan was a summer fish camp at one time. Ketchikan Creek was owned or used by the Saanya Kwaan people for subsistence. Later it was given as a gift to a couple (Tongass man and Saanya Kwaan woman) that had married. Tongass Tribe territories spans north Ketchikan to Cape Chacon, south of Tongass Island which includes Chomley, Annette Island, Duke Island and Village Island. This is all documented history. I wanted to show the vastness of the Tongass Tribe traditional territories.

You can have your bridge, but not to Pennock Island. I would recommend the bridge be built from Wolf Point. This would be a more feasible and shorter distance. I would further recommend an underground tunnel. Boston has an underwater tunnel and Virginia has miles of underwater tunnels. Tunnels will not impede cruise ships nor would they interfere with boats traveling up and down the Tongass Narrows. I have driven through these underwater tunnels. I do not believe it would cost more money than a bridge. There has been enough encroachment of our tribal lands and the atrocious desecration of grave sites.

The sad thing about this bridge is that there only seems to be a handful of opulent people that are pushing for this bridge to be built and the rest of the community will pay for it. Why must our ancestors suffer more? This is their final resting spot. I can only imagine the uproar if a bridge was going to be built on the same ground that you have buried your ancestors. Give our ancestors the respect they deserve, don't build a bridge over them.

Don Hoff Jr.

Chattanooga, Tenn.

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