Skagway Traditional Council President Lance Twitchell (standing) welcomes members of regional tribes to Skagway on May 20. JB

STC promotes tribal unity; work resumes on new home

The Skagway Traditional Council (STC) hosted a range of events over the May 20-23 weekend aimed at preserving Native culture.
A tribal leaders summit was held Thursday at the STC offices. Tribal representatives from Skagway, Carcross, Haines, Juneau, Hoonah and Sitka attended the summit, and discussed issues of culture and language, said STC President Lance Twitchell.
One concern of the tribal leaders was that fewer Native children are being given traditional names in their language, said Twitchell. “Without these names, our people are at a loss, they’re extremely important,” he said.
On Friday, after a noon welcoming luncheon, council members and guests reconvened at 6 p.m. for the third annual Traditional Plant and Native Knowledge Forum.
The forum consisted of six presentations. Tlingit and Tagish elders Jessie Johnnie and Ida Calmegane spoke about traditional plant use and harvesting methods. Libby Watanabe spoke about maintaining a diet to counteract diabetes, which native people are at high risk for. Florence Sheakley and Richard and Nora Dauenhauer gave a Tlingit language presentation.
Twitchell said preserving the Tlingit language is very important to maintaining tribal unity. “We really only have a handful of speakers under 60. We’re actively encouraging people to learn, because so much of our culture is contained in the language,” he said.
To wrap up the weekend, the STC hosted a field demonstration for about 30 people in Dyea on Saturday. The demonstration included a presentation on how to gather materials for a traditional sweat lodge.
Construction resumed this week on STC’s new building after a nearly three and a half year stall. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Sunday, and beams were being erected Wednesday.
Major construction will be performed by Tlingit and Haida Steel Industries, with subcontractors working on the building’s interior. Twitchell estimated that the project would be completed by September or October. “It’s been an exhausting project,” he said.


Doug Smith, playing Martin Itjen, introduces the film “Klondike Annie” starring Mae West, during the recent Skagway Alaskan Film Festival. Itjen drove his streetcar to Hollywood in the 1930s to woo West into “coming up to see us sometime.” JB

Library Corner: Travel slides shows every Monday at 7 p.m.
Join us at the library for a celebration of world travel adventures on Monday evenings at 7 p.m. beginning this Monday, May 31.
World travelers Barry and Corinne will be presenting the first four programs with slides from Barbados, the Chilkoot, England and Mexico. Barry traced his grandmother’s roots to the Caribbean island of Barbados, where he got the surprise of his life. Last summer, he climbed the Chilkoot, and on June 7, he’ll tell us how he survived. A 50-year reunion at his all-boys boarding school called Barry and Corinne back to England where Barry got another big surprise. After visiting friends in Puebla and Oaxaca, they decided to find out for themselves if Mexico City is as dangerous as its reported.
So, bring a friend, refreshments will be served, and watch for further adventures, Monday evenings at Skagway Public Library located at 8th and State.