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Cultural Revitalization and Economic Development in Wrangell

By | July 10, 2013 - 7:00 am

A small island town with economic roots in the fishing and logging industries, Wrangell is nestled in the heart of the Inside Passage at the mouth of the mighty Stikine River. Wrangell’s cultural heritage is rooted in the traditions of the Stikine Tlingit and Haida tribes, a cultural connection that the Wrangell Cooperative Association has been working to revitalize and reestablish in the close-knit community of 2,300 residents.

Wrangell Cooperative Association (WCA), the federally recognized tribe for Wrangell is undertaking a cultural revitalization and economic development project to strengthen the community’s cultural identity and create opportunities for local economic growth.

Construction of the Cultural Center in Downtown Wrangell, June 2013

Construction of the Cultural Center in Downtown Wrangell, June 2013

WCA is currently constructing a 40’x 90’ cultural center. This center is phase two of the three-phase project. Phase one saw the renovation of the Chief Shakes clan house, which sits on an island in Wrangell harbor. Constructed on the site historically occupied by Tlingit Chief Shakes’ lineage, the house was originally built in 1940 and has withstood over 70 years in the temperate rainforest climate of Southeast Alaska.

Chief Shakes House – Renovation 2013

Chief Shakes House – Renovation 2013

The renovation of the clan house was completed in May of 2013, and was followed by a re-dedication ceremony that brought hundreds of visitors to the community of Wrangell to celebrate with traditional Native foods, games, storytelling, canoeing and dancing with guests from neighboring communities.

The cultural center is partially complete and will include a retail store for Native art. This facility will also be used to re-carve and renovate eight totem poles that will then be returned to stand on Shakes Island. In addition the center will be used for teaching all forms of Native art. Completion of this project will create a base for a tourism business for the tribe.

Native dancers at the Chief Shakes Tribal House Dedication ceremony

Native dancers at the Chief Shakes Tribal House Dedication ceremony

The renovation of the Chief Shakes clan house has created a resurgence in the dormant culture of the Tlingit & Haida in Wrangell. The re-dedication celebration brought over 800 visitors to the community to celebrate the historic event. This was the first event of this nature since the original dedication in 1940. The cultural center will create a place to foster the Native culture. This project will benefit the community of Wrangell, as well as other residents of Southeast Alaska, as classes will be offered at the center to anyone interested.

The project has been made possible through partnerships with the State of Alaska, the Rasmuson Foundation, Murdock Charitable Trust, the Paul Allen Foundation, the City and Borough of Wrangell, Sealaska, and the US Forest Service.

For more information about this project, please contact Tis Peterman, tis@wrangellcooperative.com

(Photos courtesy of Wrangell Cooperative Association)

About Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition

The Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to inspire Southeast Alaskans and support community organizations working toward the wise management of our region’s watersheds. We envision a unified Southeast Alaskan voice that promotes the long-term sustainability of our rural communities and wise management of the region’s watersheds. We provide services and develop regionally relevant projects and programs in partnership with local organizations, tribes and municipalities. We work with Southeast Alaskans to build healthy communities, economies, and watersheds.

http://alaskawatershedcoalition.org/

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