Wrangell’s new carving facility is approaching completion, and the Wrangell Cooperative Association is hoping to have a dedication event this winter.
The carving facility on Front Street is a big, airy building with a high ceiling and a polished wood front.
Tis Peterman wrote the grants that brought in funding for the carving facility. She said all the drywall is up, and some of the electrical and plumbing work is done. Peterman said recent grant proposals, if successful, will allow the carving facility to be ready for dedication this winter.
Peterman said she hopes the carving facility will help people in Wrangell develop more expertise in Native arts.
“Our dream was to actually have classes in the carving shed once it’s built and invite master carvers, beaders from all over and have them come in and do classes in there,” Peterman said. “Because right now, sometimes we get a class maybe once a year. And we want people to get to the higher levels, so we have our own masters on the island.”
Peterman also wrote grants to restore the Chief Shakes Tribal House. She said this is the first time the Native community in Wrangell has this many structures.
“I think it’s instilling a sense of pride,” Peterman said. “Here we’re sitting with a $1.2 million building down at the clan house, and this will be another one. So it feels good that we have something that is ours.”
Cooperative Association Office Manager Carol Snoddy said planning for the carving facility and the Chief Shakes Tribal House started in 2006.
“Our vision was to bring our people together,” Snoddy said. “To form leaderships with the younger people, because we quickly realized that, when we looked behind us, there was no one there.”
Snoddy said these projects are also meant to educate the public and invite everyone in Wrangell to participate in Native culture.
“That all came together about a year ago when we had re-dedication of the tribal house,” Snoddy said. “And so there was a resurgence of all things Native.”
After the restoration of the tribal house, the WCA started work on the carving facility. Next, the association plans to repair or re-carve eight totem poles that were removed from Shakes Island. The new facility will provide space for that work.