Wrangell Cooperative Association Announces $450,000 Award from Rasmuson Foundation
December 28, 2011
"We are thrilled with this announcement," said Dawn Hutchinson, president of the WCA Tribal Council. "It's taken years, but through persistence and the help of our grant writer, Tis Peterman, we’ve been able to secure funding for over half of the estimated cost of the renovation of the Chief Shakes tribal house.”
Work began in earnest on the tribal house renovation in August with the hiring of master carver, Wayne Price and a team of adzers. Although Wayne Price left in November to pursue other projects, the adzers continued to work until recently due to a winter break.
WCA continues to pursue funding for repair or replacement of the totem poles on the island and for construction of a carving facility in which to work on the totem poles and other carving projects.
Shakes Island is located in the harbor at Wrangell, Alaska and contains the Chief Shakes Historic Site, a National Register site that receives over 10,000+ visitors a year. The island stands as one of the few lasting reminders of Southeast Alaska Natives and their unique totemic art. The site’s main feature is a replica of a 19th century Tlingit tribal house which is set on the authentic location historically occupied by Chief Shake’s lineage. Not only is the site important to the national chronology of Native-white contact, it is still used today for Tlingit ceremonies and contains the prized clan artwork - at.óow - of the Stikine Tlingits. Shakes Island is owned and operated by the Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA) which is the federally recognized tribe of the Stikine River region.
WCA’s charter was approved by the Department of the Interior in 1942. The tribe’s mission is to support the cultural, ceremonial and subsistence lifestyle for all Alaskans and to promote the safe use and availability of a healthy environment for present and future generations. WCA provides social services, employment and educational opportunities to both the tribe and the Wrangell community. Of the 2,000 residents of Wrangell, approximately 800 are tribal members.
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. The old structure needs to be dismantled and then a new structure erected in its place with the hand-adzed timbers, new electrical and a new roof of split cedar shakes. The totem poles on the island also need to be refurbished. When the project is complete, a celebration of project completion will be held.
The Rasmuson Foundation was created in May 1955 by Jenny Rasmuson to honor her late husband "E.A." Rasmuson. Through grantmaking and initiatives, the Foundation is a catalyst to promote a better life for all Alaskans.
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