Wrangell Sentinel -


New shed to rise as Shakes nears completion


The Chief Shakes Tribal House renovation is almost done after a yearlong crawl towards completion – and a new, permanent carving shed is almost ready to be built adjacent to the SNO Building on Front Street in downtown.

The Shakes structure is beginning to look like a near finished product, with foundation, wall and roof construction wrapping up in the past few weeks. Finishing the interior will still take at least two more months, though, and some of the house’s artwork, including the screen, still needs to be restored. The bear screen, which guards the entrance to the Historical Site, is set to be restored by master carver Steve Brown and adzers on the project.

“Nineteen boards left,” exclaimed carver Susie Kasinger.

That was the good news the adzing workers at the carving shed got back in late August, as project manager Todd White and the crew only need 25 more cedar planks to finish the Tribal House roof. Counting the three that lay finished in the corner of the facility, and the planks each member of the carving trio were adzing that day, there was finally a finish line in sight.

“It’ll take us about a week to finish those last 19,” Kasinger said. “Some boards can take a little longer, depending on how many knots you find and how the grain is treating you. It’ll usually take about eight hours to finish one, but Linda (Churchill) finished three and a half the other day.”

Churchill has been busy over the past year, she said, trying to find just the right pieces of wood to go into the project.

“I was just cruising that day, picking some really good pieces of wood,” said Churchill, whose father was also a carver. “Picking the right piece takes a little luck. Sometimes a good looking piece of wood can take you twice as long, you don’t find out until you get going a little bit.”

During the early days of the renovation the carvers made adzes under the guidance of master carver Wayne Price. Each has picked up a couple other adzes along the way, whether it is a hand-me-down or one they found online.

Kasinger and Churchill, along with Justin Smith of Whitehorse in the Yukon, have had every piece of Cedar pass through their workshop, a temporary carving facility comprising of two shipping containers and an adjoining roof. While the two say they couldn’t have done it without Smith returning for a second round in the carving shed, the real story remains that the women who are fueling a project in positions that historically are rarely filled by females.

“Linda and I aren’t really thinking about that,” Kasinger said. “We’re just relieved to see the light at the end of the tunnel and the building almost finished.”

Kasinger and Churchill continue to work at the shed, while Smith said goodbye to Wrangell until the re-dedication in May. If his plans hold up, he could be finishing off a cross-continent run to Guatemala where he will fly to take part in some Aztec and Mayan 2012 celebrations.

“This Tribal House, working in the carving shed, has been just like its own marathon,” Smith added. “I am very honored to have been a part of the Shakes Island project.”

Within the next few weeks, ground will be broken on a brand new 4,500 square foot shed, on the same patch of land they carved on for months – but in the meantime the adzers will work from another temporary shed. Once again it’s two shipping containers and a roof, but this time they have a view as the shed is across the bridge from Shakes Island.

The re-dedication of Shakes Island is set for May 3-4, 2013.


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