Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

 
 

Unveiling of women's totems Saturday

 


Two totems honoring women will be unveiled and dedicated Saturday at the site of Alaska’s only Alaska Native Sisterhood Hall.

The Alaska Native Brotherhood, or “ANB,” has a long history of advocating for the Native peoples in Southeast. But the group’s sister organization, the Alaska Native Sisterhood, also is at the forefront of the Native cause.

Elizabeth Peratrovich, an activist and ANS grand president, gave pivotal testimony that resulted in a 1945 anti-discrimination law that was one of the first in the nation.

Three women from the Chilkat Valley have served as ANS grand president: Mildred Sparks, Kimberley Strong and Johanna Hotch. Evelyn Hotch was grand treasurer of the group for more than 20 years.

Other members, like master weaver Jennie Thlunaut, helped preserve Native cultural traditions while raising families.

The first ANS Hall was built on the site of the Klukwan Mercantile store in the late 1940s. The new structure was built in the mid-1980s, with help from village Native corporation Klukwan, Inc.

“These totems are to honor the women in our community and region,” said Lani Hotch. “The ANS, in different ways, has impacted our community and all of Alaska.”

The 10-foot totems were carved by Jim Heaton and villagers Joe King and Jeff Klanott, Jr. during the past two summers. Dedication of the totems marks completion of a $40,000 hall renovation, including replacement of stairwells and improvements to insulation and siding.

The hall serves as a venue for meetings, art classes and memorial services. Upstairs are offices for the Jilkaat Kwaan Heritage Center and Americorps workers.