Saturday, June 28, 2014

Alaska Day 12: Tlinglit Culture in Wrangell

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We woke up in the pre-dawn hours to take in the sights as we sailed along the Wrangell Narrows past Petersburg - a quaint, upscale Norwegian fishing village - on our way to Wrangell to disembark from the boat for half a day of site seeing in the small Tlinglit community. The first thing we did after disembarking was hit up every single store (all six of them) in the main part of town to try to buy a new point & shoot camera. Alas, not one store stocked a single camera. Some said that we were the second people that week to ask about a camera but with cell phones, most people in the community don't even want cameras anymore. I understood their plight, but was still bummed by my own. I brought my wonky Olympus along just in case I could get it to work. While I was able to get a couple of pictures throughout the day they were nothing worth showing.

After our shopping failure, we met up with other folks from the boat and made our way to Chief Shakes Tribal House, a newly rebuilt and re-dedicated Tlinglit log house on Shakes Island. At the house, we learned about the restoration of the building, the education efforts taken on by the tribal elders, and the history and lineage of the tribe. It's heartwarming to see a community so knowledgeable about their history, and so committed to preserving its heritage, but at the same time, it was a sober reminder of the treatment our native populations faced and how hard it is to bounce back from that.



We also visited the Wrangell history center where we learned more about the history of Wrangell, and got to pet the various animal pelts. I don't know why, but apparently I am very allergic to wolverine fur. Who knew?

Another interesting thing about Wrangell is its garnet mines. The story goes that back in the day (I'm specific, no?) two sisters had a garnet mine. When they died, they willed it to the children of Wrangell. The proceeds from the sales of these garnets goes to an education fund for the children. Sometimes, depending on when you visit the town, the children will be down at the dock selling the garnets. Alas, we were there while the kids were still in school, so Alan ended up buying a garnet for his mom at the visitor center.

Back on the boat, we left Wrangell and made our way out to Behm Canal. We had been told that if we were going to see orca on this particular trip this would be the best place for such a site. Alas, it was not to be. We spent some time up in the captain's wheelhouse - Un-Cruise has an open bridge policy - as we kept a look out, and that was nice because it was much warmer and dryer up there than out on deck.