A Moving Visit to Chief Shakes Tribal Home

A few year back Jason and I walked our kayaks on the ferry in Bellingham headed to Wrangell Alaska for a 10 day paddle in the area. Our plan was to paddle west down Sumner Strait with the outgoing tide first thing in the morning so we had an afternoon to explore the area. It didn’t take long for us to find the stunning historic home of Chief Shakes.


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Behind the Photo

The artwork on this small island is spectacular and very impressive. However, the challenge was to capture it in context. Without that perspective it loses something. The only way I was able to do this was by getting low and shooting up. It does the trick to some degree, but honestly I’m not sure I did the place justice.

Or perhaps there’s a magic to this place that just can’t be captured on film.

Chief Shakes

Tlingit people and their ancestors have inhabited this island for thousands of years. According to Naanyaa.aayí clan traditions, Tlingit people migrated down the Stikine River during a time when the river still flowed underneath glaciers. The numerous petroglyphs found at Petroglyph Beach just north of Wrangell, as well as those scattered on the beaches of the many islands in the vicinity, attest to the long Tlingit occupation.

Wrangell was founded by Russians as one of the oldest non-Native settlements in Alaska. They started trading for furs with area Tlingit in 1811 at the site of present-day Wrangell. In 1834, Baron Ferdinand Petrovich Wrangel, then head of Russian government interests in Russian America, ordered a stockade built near the Naanyaa.aayí clan house of Chief Shakes, called Shéiksh Hídi. This house was located about 13 miles north of Old Wrangell, on a small island in the middle of what is today Wrangell Harbor. The stockade, named Redoubt Saint Dionysius (Редутъ Санктъ Дионисіусъ), was founded at the location of present-day Wrangell and stood near the end of the small peninsula that forms the northeastern side of the mouth of the harbor.

Recently, the Tribal House underwent a renovation and a rededication ceremony was held back in May of 2013


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