Sunday, May 27, 2012

"As You You Take Your Long Journey" from Eklutna

I have no idea.  Nary.  None.  But, it's kind of cute.

Just down the highway from where I live is the village of Eklutna.  More precisley, Eklutna Historical Park, where there is a fully functional "new" St. Nicholas Orthodox Church which was built in about 1954 and replaces the old log church that was built around 1870, by the Eklutna Indians.

New church

Old church

My interest in things historical naturally includes graveyards, and until I visited a small graveyard in Copper Center where the grave plots were all encased by little colorful picket fences, I had never seen anything like the ones there and in Eklutna with the obvious comingling of Christian and ancient Indian beliefs.  (These two pictures were taken in Copper Center village a few weeks ago.)

Copper Center grave fences
More Copper Center grave fences

The graveyard in Eklutna is an Orthodox Christian cemetery where most of the people buried are Athabascan Indians, along with some Russian people and Yupik Eskimos.  It is still in use today.

These little knee-high houses that resemble doll houses are "spirit houses" which are placed over the graves 40 days after the burial in order to house the spirits and possessions, or more likely, life tokens, of the deceased.  Side bar about 40 days:  I met a woman in Sand Point (Eastern Aleutians) who baked Russian Easter cakes for forty days after Easter.

The colors of the houses are specific to the families and in this cemetery; red and white colors house the Alex family while the blue and silver belong to the Chilligan family.  Shapes and patterns also designate family heritage, marking graves in a time when the peoples' language was not written.

Blankets cover and adorn the graves moreso than flowers.  I would at first tend to assume that this also has to do with family patterns and designs, but in the picture below you can see there is no design or pattern to this plain white blanket.


Linda said...

A fascinating post with beautiful photos. Thank you so much for sharing.

Tipper said...

Just fascinating photos! I've never seen anything like those cemeteries! Here in Appalachia-in the past-they had grave houses that were sometimes decorated-but I've never seen one myself. said...

How fascinating! I have a vintage postcard of grave houses like these in Northern Michigan, but I had no idea that they might have been so brightly colored. Thanks for your post.