Saginaw Bay and Kake, AK
Today’s adventure began in Saginaw Bay on Northern Kudu Island. Alaskan Dream Cruises has an exclusive land-use agreement with a local Native corporation, providing us private access to the area. We cruised the bay in the DIB (Demaree Inflatable Boat), enjoying the scenery, wildlife, eagles and a petroglyph.
After our time in Saginaw Bay we boarded the Baranof and headed to the Tlingit village of Kake. Kake rests on the northwest coast of Kuprenof Island and is home to about 500 year-round residents. The name comes from the Tlingit word Keix or Keex, and x’e, which translates to “mouth of the dawn” or “opening of daylight”. Tlingit Indians have inhabited the region of Kake for thousands of years. Their villages were strategically located at the foot of Frederick Sound, which offered the food necessary for the Tlingit tribe to thrive in this coastal environment. Because of its bounty, this same sound attracts hundreds of humpback whales each summer and is now considered one of Alaska’s premier whale watching areas.
Native lecturers, Fallon and Theresa, came aboard to share stories and information about their people and their community. Theirs is a matriarchal society with Raven and Eagle moieties. Like Indians in the lower 48 and facilitated by Native boarding schools, their language began to disappear. Falk noted there is only one first language speaker in their community – Fal’s 87 year old grandmother. They are teaching Tlingit in the Kake schools, a district of approximately 100 students, in hopes of preserving their language.
Kake boasts the site of a 128 foot totem pole carved for the Alaska Purchase Centennial. The last 20-30 feet had been blown down in a recent storm, and will eventually be returned to the top. For now, even its shorter version was still too tall to easily photograph.
Recently retired Kake magistrate, Mike Jackson, gave us a demonstration on carving totem poles and Fal demonstrated Tlingit weaving. Both are very time consuming and beautiful crafts.
We also experienced a local Tlingit dance show. Their dance attire depicted their moiety and family history. Our group was invited to join them for their final dance. The Tlingit people of Kake are very proud of their culture and history and so very welcoming and willing to share.
We all took a break from our dinner desserts on this night to view orcas. It was a rainy and overcast evening so good photographs were hard to come by. We concluded the evening with a lecture on bears, presented by our onboard naturalist, Arianna.