Spirit Houses

July 16, 2020

Eklutna is the only Native Alaskan village within the municipality of Anchorage.  It sits between Thunderbird Falls and Cook Inlet’s Knik Arm north of Chugiak. One source says the village is 800 years old, another, dates it to around 1650, both well before the Russians arrived.  It is a village of the Dena’ina Athabascan people.

The Russians came in the 1840s and established Orthodoxy.  According to one source the log church dates from just after the transfer to the United States in 1870.  St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church came later.

The Churches and cemetery are part of the Eklutna Historical Park which is on the edge of the village.  We stopped on our way to Wasilla, where I had a sleep study.  

The Museum itself was locked, along with the two churches, but we could pay the admission fee in an “honor box” and were free to roam the cemetery, still in active use.  The cemetery mixes Russian and Dena’ina traditions, with spirit houses and Orthodox crosses (and one Mogen David) and all sorts of artifacts left on the graves, from baseball caps to tools to Minnie Mouse.  One particular spirit house looks like an elaborate doll house.

I’ve taken pictures in the Sitka Orthodox Cemetery.  They are so different, Sitka’s cool and shaded under tall spruce and hemlock, Eklutna’s with short taiga trees and bright sunlight.  Both with mountain backdrops. 

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