Smokehouse dedicated at community garden
Ken Hoyt of SEARHC helped bring a smokehouse to Wrangell’s community garden as part of his work in supporting traditional foods in the borough.
By Greg Knight
In Tlingit culture and history, there is a concept of a house outliving its structure – and that the physical presence of any building carries forward in spiritual connotation long after it has fallen to the ground.
With that concept in mind, Ken Hoyt of Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium’s native foods program in Wrangell helped organize the building of a community smokehouse for all residents of the island.
More than two-dozen Wrangellites came out to witness the dedication of the structure on July 27, which sits adjacent to the community garden and was Hoyt’s brainchild.
According to Hoyt, building the smokehouse which was built by Lee Romane involved more than a little planning and adjusting to get it done.
“It took a lot to get to this point and there was a lot of teamwork involved,” Hoyt said. “It was tricky because this is Wrangell, and we are landless. I’ve been up to Klukwan and Kake where smokehouses are everywhere and people just put them up wherever they want. We had to put planning into where this one would go.”
Hoyt said he first spoke with tribal leaders, who directed him to the community garden. He ended up on their board of directors – where he then pitched the idea.
“They said come back with a plan,” he said. “Then we had to go to the planning and zoning department. I thought that would be pretty easy, but it wasn’t, so I went to get letters of support and talk to my brothers in ANB and sisters in ANS, as well as Jeremy (Maxand) who wrote a letter for me from SEACC.”
According to Hoyt, the deluge of backing for the project surprised the planning commission.
“I don’t think they normally see that kind of support for approval,” he said. “I think they normally just check people off and tell them they can build another room in your house. This was different and they noticed that.”
The community garden placement was tricky because of environmental concerns as well, Hoyt added.
“We have a specific clause in our permit that says as long as we don’t try to compost fish at the site we’re OK,” he added. “I said, ‘fine, we’ll butcher the fish somewhere else and bring the fillets in.”
After opening the dedication ceremony with a Kiks.adi song, members of the Raven clan led the entrance and Hoyt went into detail about the people involved in the creation of the smokehouse.
“We were wondering what was going to come up next in terms of red tape for getting it built, and one day I called Lee Romane up and he asked me if I wanted to come check it out. It was done and I was impressed,” said Hoyt.
Hoyt also pointed out the artistic creativity added to the house.
“All of the artistic design of the fish were done by Justin Smith, and there a lot of help from the adzers of the Chief Shakes project as well,” Hoyt said.
The smokehouse will be available for all Wrangellites to use to smoke their catch.
“Everyone should have smoked fish,” he added. “It’s the birthright of everyone in Wrangell. So, if they have access they will have food. People can reach me, if they want, and I will make sure it is set up and ready to go for them.”
Father Wilson, who was the visiting pastor at St. Philips Episcopal Church during last Sunday’s services, blessed the structure. The Ravens sang an honor song, or I-shi-shi-goo-nay, for Smith and Romane, with the exit performed by members of the Eagle clan.
To reserve space in the smokehouse, call Hoyt at 874-2712.