A 3,500-square-foot Tlingit tribal house could rise up near Bartlett Cove in Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve under a plan the National Park Service first proposed more than a decade ago.
The 18th-century replica was outlined in the park's 1997 Comprehensive Design Plan and Environmental Assessment as a way to provide park visitors with opportunities to learn about Huna Tlingit history and culture through educational and interpretive displays and to strengthen the Huna Tlingit's ongoing connection to their ancestral homeland by providing a venue for cultural events, workshops, and retreats.
The structure would showcase traditional design, construction, decoration and furnishings, as well as use of green-certified local forest products and sustainable utilities. The building and access would cover approximately one acre located along the shore northeast of the Glacier Bay Lodge in Bartlett Cove.
Some work already is being performed on the structure.
Back in October 2010 the Hoonah Indian Association hosted a ceremony to bless two large red cedar logs. This cultural blessing was a way to thank the trees for their contribution to a significant project. Four feet in diameter and 40 feet long, the massive logs will be used to create a carved house screen, the first component of a replica Tlingit plank house to be constructed in Glacier Bay National Park. Part of a long range design plan since 1998, the Huna Tribal House will be constructed along the waterfront of Bartlett Cove, providing the Huna Tlingit the first permanent plank house in their ancestral homeland since their village was destroyed by an advancing glacier over 250 years ago.
Along with blessing the two trees, master carvers have created the house screen, a 30-foot wide interior screen "depicting the story of the four Glacier Bay clans and their deep connection to their Glacier Bay homeland."
The tribal house design is based on accounts and photographs from the historical and ethnographic records, according to Park Service staff.
According to Glacier Bay historians, tribal houses "had gabled roofs held up by four interior posts that supported two massive horizontal beams upon which the rest of the roofing members rested. The walls and floors were of thick, adze-finished planks. Inside were square pits, about 25 feet to a side and about 4 feet deep, where daily life circulated around a central hearth. They traditionally housed extended families, and a cluster of houses would comprise a clan's winter village. Multiple clans would reside together, and legends tell us that the principal pre-Little Ice Age village of the four Huna clans was located in what is now Bartlett Cove."
Under the park's proposal, once built the tribal house would both serve as a Tlingit culture interpretive center for park visitors and "be a place where Tlingit communities and organizations can host cultural preservation workshops on topics such as Tlingit art and design, wood working, Tlingit language, Tlingit song and dance, weaving, healthy living, and more."
The environmental effects of several alternative designs for the tribal house will be evaluated through an Environmental Assessment process. Potential impacts on Bartlett Cove shorefront habitats, mature spruce/hemlock forest, wildlife, other park visitor activities, park utilities, cultural resources, and adjacent concession operations will be evaluated. The public review EA is planned for release in June 2012. If the plan is approved, construction would begin in 2013.
Comments and questions about the proposed Tribal House project are being taken through March 24. For more information or to submit comments and questions, please contact Allison Banks, Environmental Protection Specialist, at 907-697-2611.