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.
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.
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.
The interior and exterior screens have been
completed, along with the four house posts – open to the public for viewing.
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
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.
Gordon, the project lead, shared many of the stories depicted on the
house posts that have been passed down by oral tradition.
|House Interior Screen|
|Exterior House Panel at Hoonah Workshop|
|Grandma's Face at bottom of a House Post|
|House Post, Return to Glacier Bay Story|
|Carving the Totems, Hoonah Workshop|