Connecting with Culture at Kasaan Whale House

The community of Kasaan is celebrating the completion of restoration work on a large clan house, Chief Son-I-Hat Whale House (Náay I´waans). The Kasaan
Haida Heritage Foundation states it’s the most valuable cultural asset in the village of Kasaan. The foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the cultural
heritage of Kasaan Haida people.

The original Whale House was built in 1880 in Old Kasaan. In 1938, the clan house was rebuilt and stands in new Kasaan, about a mile from where the first house was built. The Whale House includes a frontal pole with eight additional restored and original poles.

Frederick Olsen is the tribal vice president of the Organized Village of Kasaan. Olsen says most likely the eight totem poles were originally carved in 1880 in Old Kasaan and brought to the new Whale House site.

The only Haida clan house in Alaska was in danger of being lost due to deterioration. Restoration work began in 2002, when the site was designated as a National Historic Site.

Lead carver and construction manager, Stormy Hamar, says working on the project has provided some fascinating moments and glimpses in to the past. His team has seen almost every adz mark or notch made in the wood 80 years ago. One powerful moment for the team was reviewing old photographs of the rebuilding that began in 1938 and realizing that they were taking the same footsteps as their ancestors did 80 years ago.

A re-dedication of the Whale House was held September 3, 2016. Sealaska congratulates the community of Kasaan and is proud to strengthen our people, culture and homelands by being a donor to this important piece of Haida culture.

View images from the event and canoe cermony.

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