- Associated Press - Sunday, February 1, 2015

SITKA, Alaska (AP) - A project to shore up the foundation of one of Katlian Street’s oldest clan houses, the Kaagwaantaan Eagle Nest House, may also help shore up family and clan ties as well.

At least that’s the hope of two Juneau residents who have family ties to Sitka.

Tommy Jimmy and John Smith - who before coming to Sitka to work on the Eagle Nest House foundation didn’t cross paths much in Juneau - look at the project as a metaphor for strengthening family relations. The two share a common relation in Pauline Paul - Jimmy’s grandmother, and Smith’s great-grandmother - who was a member of the Eagle Nest clan.

“We’re putting back the pieces of Shuka (a Tlingit word denoting ancestors). Basically taking care of issues of family and houses” Jimmy told the Sentinel.

For the past week Jimmy and Smith, who has 25 years of construction experience working for Whitestone Logging, have been joined by Sitkans Charles Young and John Young in volunteering their time to make repairs to the century-old house. Besides stabilizing the foundation they’ve also fixed a broken sewer pipe and repaired a water line.

The house, which fronts directly onto the Katlian Street sidewalk, is in need of major structural repair. In May 2008 the house shifted a foot toward the street, and city crews joined by good Samaritans placed cribbing under the house to arrest its slide.

Smith says the house has moved a total of about two-and-a-half feet from its original position.

He explained that the movement is caused by poor drainage and an unstable slope running down from Kaagwaantaan Street, which is above and behind the Eagle Nest House.

“Raven House (the clan house next door and which also needs repair) is holding up the road.” Smith said.

Jimmy said the challenges of fixing Eagle House are the result of several factors. “There is no agreement worked out between the clan, the city, and federal entities for dealing with the issues (such as drainage and maintaining a restricted deed property),” he said.

“Culture teaches us that family needs to start talking to each other and acknowledge our responsibility.” he said.

Jimmy and Smith are hopeful that the recent interest in the neighborhood shown by those involved in the Celebrate Katlian Street group will help to resolve issues and allow repairs to be made to all clan houses along the street.

Celebrate Katlian Street is a community wellness initiative of the 2014 Sitka Health Summit held in October. Smith and Jimmy attended one of the group’s meetings at ANB Founders Hall recently to talk about their work.

Both of the men said they were impressed by the enthusiasm of the group.

They were also grateful for the helpfulness of Sitka Sound Seafoods, which donated treated wooden beams for the stabilization project. Smith added that the Juneau ANB Camp 70, where he is sergeant-at-arms, donated more than $200 to the effort.

Before leaving on the ferry to return to Juneau, where he works as a counselor and cultural specialist at Thunder Mountain High School, Smith crawled under the house for one last inspection to make sure everything was stable.

He and Jimmy said they hope to return to Sitka in the spring to continue working on the house.


Information from: Daily Sitka (Alaska) Sentinel, https://www.sitkasentinel.com/

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