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Friday, March 29, 2013

The house posts are back home.

If you were anywhere near downtown Wrangell on Wednesday morning, you probably heard the house posts making their way from the Nolan Center back home to Shakes Island.

Last April, all Chief Shakes artifacts were removed from the Tribal House to prepare for the renovation.  For the past 12 months, the artifacts and house posts were on loan to the Wrangell Museum, allowing the historic items to be on display to the public rather than stored away in a dark room somewhere.  Major renovation wrapped up months ago and all Project Manager Todd White was looking for was a nice window of weather to make the move.

That weather came this week and on Wednesday morning, nearly 200 were in attendance to escort the house posts through downtown Wrangell, across the 300 ft. bridge onto Shakes Island, and into the entrance of the brand-spankin-new Tribal House.  White had the posts trailered-up and was cruising ever so carefully, a giant wave of singers and dancers in beaded regalia flowing behind his Toyota pickup.  The high skies were exactly what Wrangell needed.

Once the parade hit the bridge, it was eight men per post, four on each side.  The posts crossed a freshly decked footbridge.  The crew recently installed new rails, new planks, even a few pilings, along the elevated path in a project overseen by Bill Williard, Project Manager for WCA Tribal Transportation.

With the amount of traffic that 300 ft. of wood will see in May, the sight of a new bridge is nice, but safety for all of those crossing the bridge is the main reason for the upgrade.  The money is coming from the Bureau of Indian Affairs travel and transportation program.

Once the house posts entered the room, they were met by another resident of the island.  Master Carver Steve Brown, along with carvers Linda Churchill and Susie Kasinger, are putting the finishing touches on the new bear screen, which will again meet visitors and oversee the main entrance of the Tribal House.

Using an overhead projector against perfectly adzed Cedar, Brown and the girls will have created one of only 3-4 bear screens in the world.  To ensure the screen will face the footbridge for years to come, the new version will not be a permanent fixture, but a removable work of Native art that can be packed away to avoid the unpredictable Southeast Alaska winters.

Re-dedication is only five weeks away.  This town is going to be bustling like it's the 4th of July, with three days of scheduled activities and food booths all over town.  More than 700 visitors have RSVP'd.  That doesn't include those who are just planning to show up.  The potlatch for the last Shakes Island opening attracted more than 1,200 out-of-towners, and that was in 1940.

Schedule of events:

Thursday, May 2nd

Canoe Landing - One People Canoe Society

Friday, May 3rd

1:30-2:30 p.m. Parade
2:30-4:30 p.m. Canoe Activities
4:30-5:40 p.m. Toddler Regalia Contest
7:00 p.m. Bingo or Native Dancing

Saturday, May 4th

10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m. Re-dedication Ceremony
3:00-9:00 p.m. Presentation of Gifts, Dancing, Dinner 

Thanks to Apryl Hutchinson and Greg Knight for tagging us in the photos.