While construction crews continue to work on the restoration of the Shakes Island Tribal House, community members are already planning for the re-dedication ceremony that will take place on May 3 and 4, 2013. Re-dedication committee co-chair Jessica Whitaker said they are expecting a few hundred people to come to Wrangell for this once-in-a-lifetime event.
“A re-dedication ceremony is actually a unique thing. It doesn’t happen so often because traditionally the houses were never fully restored. Pieces were replaced as need be because they were actually living there. So something of this magnitude hasn’t happened since the 1940s, the last time they did the replacement of Chief Shakes Island.”
Because the community hasn’t hosted a ceremony of this magnitude for 70 years, the re-dedication committee sought advice from regional elders who helped them plan the schedule. The first day will include races for traditional, heavy wooden canoes, a parade, and a children’s regalia contest.
“It’s essentially a little fashion show with history about what’s on the material that they’re sewing,” Whitaker said.
The logistics for the day of the ceremony are a bit more complicated to work out. “The house is a small venue for the event that we’re expecting. It can only hold a hundred people,” she said. “So currently we’re trying to think of ideas and ways to make it available to everyone who wants to see. We’re tossing around ideas about being able to display it over the web and having it projected on a screen at a different venue and have people actually see what’s going on at the house.”
After the ceremony, everyone will be allowed to dance through the renovated building and see the inside.
Though the event is still ten months away, the committee needs assistance now from the entire community. They are seeking volunteers who can help coordinate events and organize logistics like food and housing for all of the guests. The event will close with a community potlatch that will feature native foods, which are sometimes hard to come by in early May. To solve the problem, Trident Seafoods is providing a freezer for storing any fish, seafood, or meat that community members would like to donate now.
If you would like to find out more or volunteer, you can contact the Wrangell Cooperative Association at 874-4304.