Indian Point may be listed on National Historic Register

Area would be first traditional cultural site in Alaska on list

Posted: Friday, November 19, 2004

The state will ask the federal government to list Indian Point on the National Register of Historic Places, officials said.

The roughly 78-acre site, just north of Juneau's state ferry terminal, is considered sacred by Tlingits, said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute, which prepared the application for listing.

The institute is a private nonprofit that administers cultural and educational programs for Sealaska Corp., the Southeast Alaska for-profit Native corporation.

The site is closely associated with key events in the history of the Auk Kwaan, especially the Yaxte Taan L'eineidi clan, the application says. Dwellings, subsistence sites and burial sites date back to 1100 to 1300 A.D., it said.

"It's a site that was used for pulling up canoes," Worl said. "There's a burial site there. They used to gather herring eggs from this area. But perhaps the most significant thing is it's a burial site of a shaman."

In the 1960s the city wanted to put housing on the land, but it backed off in the face of Native concerns. In the late 1990s, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wanted to build a fisheries research center there. But again Natives and others objected, and the agency traded for land at Lena Point.

The heavily wooded area also is known as Auke Cape. The application includes two small uninhabited islands nearby.

The site is primarily used for hiking on old Indian trails, subsistence gathering and Native ceremonies.

The eight-member Alaska Historical Commission, meeting in Anchorage on Monday, unanimously approved the institute's application. The city's Historic Resources Advisory Committee previously had approved it by a 5-1 vote, said staffer Chris Beanes of the Community Development Department.

The landowners - the city, Sealaska Corp., and the National Park Service - endorsed the application, said Jo Antonson, deputy state historic preservation officer.

The state Office of History and Archaeology plans to submit the application to the National Park Service, which oversees the register, by the end of the year, she said. The park service has 45 days after that to make a decision, she said.

If approved, it would be the first traditional cultural property in Alaska to be placed on the register.

A listing on the National Register would not bar development of the site, said Antonson and the Sealaska Heritage Institute. Federal and state laws encourage, but do not mandate, the preservation of National Register properties. Federal agencies are required to consider the effect of federal projects or federally assisted projects on properties listed in or eligible for listing in the National Register, the institute said.

Designation on the registry would not affect private property next to the site, the institute said.

It's harder to get traditional cultural property listed on the historic register than other types of property, Antonson said. Applicants must establish there is an ongoing and continuing reverence for the place and use over time, she said.

Often, such applicants offer oral traditions and show that they are corroborated by archaeological surveys. Sealaska also was able to cite photographs from the 1890s that show Native use of the area.

"I think they (SHI) have shown that after the Auk folks moved from the site they continued to return and they continue to have associations with the location," Antonson said. "And it's aided by the fact there are graves out there."

Worl said the area is used occasionally by Tlingits seeking spiritual renewal.

"They may burn food, which we believe transfers food to the sprit world," she said.

• Eric Fry can be reached at

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