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Roadtrippin’ 2022: Preserving family history through spirit houses at Eklutna Historical Park

Roadtrippin' 2022: Eklutna Historical Park tells stories of the past
Published: Jun. 8, 2022 at 11:26 AM AKDT
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EKLUTNA, Alaska (KTUU) - A quick detour off the Glenn Highway brings you to the village of Eklutna which houses the Eklutna Historical Park. The park has over 100 little doll house-style graves, called spirit houses.

“The spirit houses are to be maintained as monuments to people. Another belief is that these were temporary portals that, once they serve their purposes, go back to the earth,” said Aaron Legget, president of the village of Eklutna.

The grounds demonstrate a mixture of both Russian Orthodox culture and Eklutna tribal heritage intertwined together to demonstrate the belief in the afterlife.

“Traditionally when they are buried they would cover it with a blanket. Then the spirit house is put on top of it,” Leggett said.

Loved ones will fill the boxes with possessions they believe the deceased will need in the afterlife. Many of the houses on the ground are personalized and demonstrate a bit about who was buried underneath.

“I think they have put some photos in here and there is a knitting needle and a crochet hook. My grandma used to like to crochet,” Leggett said.

The graves on sight go back generations and it is still an active burial ground.

“We are doing a much better job at documenting now where people are buried but again every time I come out here there is somebody new,” Leggett said.

Leggett said when members visit they should remain on the pathways and be respectful of the grounds.

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