SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Governor Appropriates $250,000 to Chief Shakes Island;
Sealaska Donated Cedars Receive Blessing


May 29, 2012

(SitNews) Wrangell, Alaska - Wrangell Cooperative Association just got another dose of financial help, as Governor Sean Parnell included the Chief Shakes Tribal House and Carving Shed on the list of Alaska House District 2 funding recipients for the upcoming fiscal year.

"Alaska’s cash position is as strong as it’s ever been," said Governor Parnell in his annual Budget Message given in Anchorage on May 14th.  "We start from a position of strength.”

The WCA submission was just 1 of 8 Wrangell projects recieving funding in the new budget.  The Governor appropriated $250,000 for use in either, or both of, the Chief Shakes Tribal House restoration and Carving Shed projects. 

jpg Governor Appropriates $250,000 to Chief Shakes Island;  Sealaska Donated Cedars Receive Blessing

Justin Smith and Dawn Hutchinson
Songs, beaded regalia and a blessing from members of the Tlingit community welcomed the Sealaska donated cedars.
Photo by Greg Knight - courtesy WCA

Speaking with KSTK’s Charlotte Duren, Wrangell Finance Director Jeff Jabusch called Wrangell’s results in the 2013 Fiscal Year Capital Projects list “by far, one of the better years we have ever had … We did well last year but I think this year was even better."

Architectual plans for the new Carving Shed have been completed, and the 40,000 + sq. ft. building will serve as not only a carving facility, but will contain retail and office space.  Sitting on the land adjacent to the SNO Building in downtown Wrangell, property given to the WCA by the Tlingit and Haida Housing Authority, the WCA plans to have master carvers taking one-month shifts at the facility for a period of 2 years to train local carvers.

"We were on the City of Wrangell priority list for Capitol Projects for over a year," said WCA's Tis Peterman.  "They submitted it and we were so focused on further fund raising and the Tribal House restoration, which is currently underway, that we were pleasantly surprised when Senator Bert Stedman called us in April, letting us know we were still on the Governor's table."

As far as the Chief Shakes Island restoration, Peterman says complete funding for the project is “very close,” after the State appropriation. 

"This is huge for the Tribe," said Peterman.  "It's not only a relief to know we will have the money for not only the Tribal House, but enough set aside to break ground on the new carving facility too.  This appropriation by the Governor should create momentum for further funding."

First of Sealaska donated Cedars arrive in Wrangell to Native celebration and blessing

The first batch of giant Cedars for the Chief Shakes Island restoration were delivered to the carving facility in Wrangell last week, where the gift was met with a songs, beaded regalia and a blessing from members of the Tlingit community.

Elders, dancers and Wrangell community members were on hand for the blessing, which began with a prayer from Father Thomas Joseph Weise of the Saint Rose of Lima Catholic Church.  Tribe members then brushed the massive, milled logs with Cedar branches and eagle feathers to brush away the negative spirits, and concluded the blessing with songs and dancing from members of the local clans.

"The blessing went beautifully," said Tongass Tribe member Willard Jackson of Ketchikan, who is assisting the WCA with Tlingit history during the resoration.  "I believe it is important to remember the tree and its life, as it too was part of this Earth."

Justin Smith, who first came to town in 2011 to carve along side Wrangell’s female adzers, has returned to the city he claims to love Wrangell more than his hometown to help with the restoration.

jpg Cedar Blessing

Cedar Blessing
Photo by Greg Knight - courtesy WCA

 "The blessing was great," said Smith.  "We want this house to get built and everyone involved with the restoration to be safe.  I'm going to be here in Wrangell until the project is finished and the job is done.  The Cedar looks really good and I can't wait to get started so further generations can continue to honor Chief Shakes." 

Smith and his brother are working to restore a Tribal House in their home of Whitehorse, in the Yukon Territory, and is hoping to see the Chief Shakes project to the end and take some of that knowledge back with him.

Sealaska granted the WCA's request for Cedar, with logs found on nearby Prince of Whales Island by the Sealaska Timber Corporation (STC) .  Had the Sealaska donation not come through, the WCA could have been looking at an estimated $120,000 to purchase a dozen Cedars of that size and quality to finish the corner posts of the Tribal House.

Project Manager Todd White called the first batch of Cedar "great looking wood ...  We've cleared a spot in the carving facility for these logs.  They're huge, so we're gonna need a backhoe to move them.  The corner posts are priority, so we're going to get them into the shed and get the adzers going on them right away."

The Shakes Island tribal house was completed in 1940 built by collaboration between the CCC, the Forest Service and the local Tlingit tribe. Except for minor repairs, no major reconstruction has taken place to the structure. Because the tribal house is listed on the National Historic register, the replacement timbers must be hand adzed. Master carvers from other communities are overseeing and training locals to complete the adzing.

Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA) is the federally recognized tribe of the Stikine River region. WCA’s charter was approved by the Department of the Interior in 1942. Of the 2,000 residents of Wrangell, approximately 800 are tribal members.

Volunteers still needed for 2013 Shakes Island re-dedication, contact the WCA office

With Tribal House restoration on schedule, Wrangell Cooperative Association is looking for volunteers to help with the re-dedication ceremony, which will take place in May, 2013.  The WCA is in search of committee members and volunteers from all communities to help celebrate the re-opening of our National Historic Site.  If you can help organize housing, transportation, food, advertising, fund raising, dancing, gift giving or assist in any other fashion, please contact the WCA via phone (907.874.4304), email us at, or stop by the office in downtown Wrangell. 

Source of News: 

Wrangell Cooperative Association


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Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

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