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Sealaska discovers ancient Haida canoe near Kasaan village

Alaska Beat

A surveyor working for Sealaska Corp. stumbled across a surprise last winter while checking land the corporation owns near the Organized Village of Kasaan on Prince of Wales Island. He found a partially-carved Haida canoe that's a few hundred years old, almost 34 feet long and was buried beneath a thick layer of moss.

After the spring snowmelt cleared way for easier access to the site, tribal members from Kasaan joined leaders from Sealaska to visit the canoe -- the group discovered at least five cedar trees at the site had been hand-crafted with traditional, non-commercial tools.

"Other abandoned canoes have been found in Southeast Alaska, but it is rare to find canoes crafted with traditional tools," said Rosita Worl, president of Sealaska Heritage Institute. "We believe sites like this one will be better protected and preserved under Alaska Native ownership. The canoe symbolically unites past, present and future."

Discovery of the canoe coincides with Sealaska’s decision to include historic and sacred sites as part of its land legislation (H.R.1408 and S.730) that has been presented to Congress by Sens. Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.

"With 40 years of hindsight, we can see that a number of restrictions placed on Sealaska's ability to select lands both increase the likelihood of community conflict and restrict their ability to engage in more sustainable economic development for the region," Begich said on Oct. 8, 2010, during his testimony introducing the bill. "[S.730] is an attempt by the Sealaska Corporation to achieve a balance in their remaining land selections."