Building 'eternal bridges'

STC members Andy Beierly, Buster Shepherd, Lance Twitchell and Marion Twitchell inspect the new STC house. AC

STC hosts open house on Dec. 5

“It has been a long time coming.”
So starts the invitation for the open house of the Skagway Traditional Council Tribal Community Center. The project, from its design phase all the way up to its present incarnation is the result of perseverance, hard work and Skagway’s unique sense of community support.
The new facility, at 11th Ave. and Broadway, will open its doors on Sunday, Dec. 5, with the open house running from 5-9 p.m.
“All in the community are invited to attend,” says Lance Twitchell, President of the Skagway Traditional Council. Twitchell is anxious to show off the impressive building to the public. He adds, “Everyone is welcome to come by and visit and see our progress before the open house.”
Some of the features of the building include a full kitchen and a large, open, well-lit area with a vaulted ceiling for its main room. “We hope that people will use the building for weddings, anniversaries or any type of gathering,” says Twitchell.
“We are going to be putting in surround-sound with numerous speakers,” said past Tribal President Andy Beierly. “The ceiling tiles will give it great sound in here.”
Twitchell adds, “We hope to show movies in here and make this a true gathering place.”
Behind the pristine new structure lay a dilapidated little shack with a ceiling that looks about to collapse and a rusty washer and dryer sitting on the porch. Twitchell says with a smile, “This is the old building.”

NEW & OLD - The STC Tribal House rises next to its former confines. AC

The “old building” is where the office for the council used to be. By contrast, the new facility has three separate rooms in the back section of the building that will act as the permanent home for the office and administration of the council and the tribal center.
Many are familiar with various community outreach programs that the council has offered over the past few years including Tlingit language courses and native plants workshops. It is hoped the new facility will facilitate the expansion of those programs.
“We will have artists from other communities come in and teach moccasin making, working with beads and maybe even carving,” says Beierly. “We will continue the programs we already have.”
These programs have proven popular with school-age children in Skagway and Twitchell expresses pride in these children for helping to “build eternal bridges” in Skagway. He continues, “The joy that their enthusiasm and interests bring is the future health and wellness of Shghagwéi,” using an old pre-Anglicized spelling.
Twitchell sees the new building as an essential tool for bridging a long-standing gap between cultural divides in the city of Skagway. “This is the first time in well over a century that our indigenous people have anything we can call our own in this part of Tlingit country,” says the open house invitation.
The dedication for the building will be held sometime in March or April of 2005. Until then plans for a second story mural, and the addition of donated items pertaining to native culture will help add character and history to the building while adding some color and contrast to its freshly painted walls.
The invitation acknowledges support for the project from leaders and members of the tribal community and the public at large whom Twitchell thanks by saying, “It has been those who have given positive encouragement, stressed the community need for diversity, and have offered to assist that really helped make this possible.”
The invitation also includes an outpouring of thanks to those in the tribal community who have remained dedicated to the project and have sacrificed their personal time to see the idea blossom into a reality. “This is the single most important accomplishment for the native community of Skagway,” says Twitchell.
The invitation to the public goes well beyond its initial open house. The Tribe hopes the facility will become a “true community center.”
Twitchell admonishes in his invitation, “The doors will be open, the coffee will be on, and the more this building is used, the more we can bring it to life.”