Wrangell’s first community smoke house will be set up today at the community garden site near City Park by the SEARHC traditional foods program, and the project will be dedicated on Friday. The seven-foot tall, four foot by four foot structure was built of Sitka spruce from the region and designed, crafted, and painted by local artisans.
Project coordinator Ken Hoyt said the design reflects local culture. “It’s made of spruce and the walls are opaque and the front door has the traditional Tlingit form line design. We have the adzers from the Shakes renovation project painting fish on the doors.”
The project fills a long-term community need, Hoyt said. “For years people have been saying we need a community smokehouse because not everybody has a smokehouse, not everybody has a yard. So it would be cool if they had a place to process their fish and with this, it will be open to the public.”
The smokehouse is big enough to process about 25 fish at a time and will primarily be used for hot smokes. Community members will sign up in advance for time slots to use the facility.
“We’re going to have people sign up in advance so that way we know is someone makes a big mess, we know who they were, or if someone is stealing fish we know who it was,” Hoyt explained.
He emphasizes that it’s not just a Native project; it’s a community project aimed to pass on the traditions of food preservation to all generations. The dedication ceremony will start at 11 am on Friday and include a blessing ceremony, native dancing, and some fish. Donations of wood and fish are accepted for the project in general.