Friday, June 5, 2015

Huna Tlingit Tribal House

Today we had the unexpected pleasure of watching Tlingit natives in Hoonah work on carvings to be included in a major project for the region.  The National Park Service has allocated approximately four million dollars (collected from entrance fees) to construct a 2,500 square foot Tribal House to be erected in Glacier Bay National Park in Bartlett Cove.  
House Interior Screen
Traditional cultural elements will be incorporated, including interior and exterior carved screens, house posts, and totems.  The design is based on historic accounts and is due for completion by spring of 2016.  It is not widely known among visitors that Glacier Bay is the ancestral homeland of the Huna Tlingit clans. The original four Huna clans that occupied Bartlett Cove were overrun by the “Little Ice Age” glacial advance of the 1700’s.  Soon after the glacier retreat, the Huna Tlingit re-established numerous fish camps and several villages in Glacier Bay.  Their tribal houses had four interior posts supported by two massive horizontal beams upon which the roofing rested.  The walls and floors were of thick planks.  Inside were large square pits where daily life circulated around the hearth.  Tribal houses included extended families, and a cluster of houses comprised a clan’s village.  
Exterior House Panel at Hoonah Workshop
Sacred objects and art found on screens, posts, and totems told of the clan’s origin, history, and legends.  The talented artists of Hoonah have been commissioned to replicate a Tlingit Tribal House and are currently working on carving the totems. 
Grandma's Face at bottom of a House Post
The interior and exterior screens have been completed, along with the four house posts – open to the public for viewing. 
House Post, Return to Glacier Bay Story
Both the carving and painting is exquisite, attributed to Gordon Greenwald, Owen James, Herb Sheakley, and Louie White Jr., who take great pride in their work.  The Huna Tribal House will memorialize the clan houses that once lined the shores of present day Bartlett Cove.  Once completed, the structure will serve as an interpretive center where visitors can learn about Tlingit culture, and also serve as a venue for Tlingit community cultural workshops and events.  
Carving the Totems, Hoonah Workshop
We so much enjoyed meeting the artisans; they are most gracious and very happy to answer questions from visitors who stop by to watch them work.  
Tlingit Headdresses
Gordon, the project lead, shared many of the stories depicted on the house posts that have been passed down by oral tradition.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like a special experience! Looks like you two are having an amazing time! ~Jessie