Saturday, May 19, 2007

"Thank You, You Came Here"

A few weeks ago I was doing a petsit in Thunderbird Heights, which is adjacent to the Athabascan village of Eklutna, about 25 miles north of Anchorage. Eklutna is the oldest continually inhabited village in the Anchorage area, and settled 800 years ago! Apparently, Catherine the Great of Russia, which claimed ownership of and did business in the area, sent Russian Orthodox missionaries to Eklutna in order to convert the natives...I think this has happened a lot throughout AK. There is still a Russian Orthodox church there, so I went to check it out. I loved the colorful "graves," and have since found out they are "Spirit Houses," which I learned more about online:

"The main point of interest is the Eklutna cemetery which has several dozen 'spirit houses.' These are a mix of Russian Orthodox and native funeral practices in which, over a deceased person's grave, a small house, perhaps four or five feet long by two high by one and a half wide, is built for the purpose of giving a new home to the soul of the deceased. The spirit houses are painted in the traditional colors of the deceased's family and are often quite colorful." Very cool!!