Chief Shakes Island
This is the centerpiece of picturesque Wrangell harbor. A footbridge at the bottom of Front Street near Wrangell’s cannery and cold-storage plant gives access to Chief Shakes Island. Here you’ll find the Tribal House of the Bear (907/874-2023, www.shakesisland.com), a Native Alaskan log house built in 1939–1940 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
Inside are various artifacts, including beautifully carved house posts that date from 1835. The house is only open for tours when cruise ships are in port, or by appointment. Surrounding the house are seven totems, reproductions of older poles from the area. Shakes Island is especially beautiful at night, surrounded by the town and harbor.
The Shakes lineage was established more than three centuries ago, after the Stikine Tlingits defeated Niska invaders and then forced the vanquished chief, We-Shakes, to give away his name in exchange for peace. Head off the island to Chief Shakes V’s gravesite, opposite the Hansen Boat Shop on Case Avenue. A white fence surrounds it, and two carved killer whales watch silently. (Surprisingly, Chief Shakes isn’t really buried in this grave.)
Several impressive totem poles, carved by the CCC, stand in front of the library on 2nd Street. Wrangell’s small Kiksetti Totem Park, next to the City Market along Front Street, has four poles that were carved without the aid of power tools.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition