The Dry Bay Jukebox Project is the result of a collaborative effort between the traditional clans of Dry Bay (Gunaxoo), the National Park Service (NPS), the National Forest Service (NFS) and the University of Alaska Oral History Office. The project was funded by the NPS, which currently manages a large portion of the traditional territory of the Gunaxoo Kwaan, extending from Lituya Bay in the south through Glacier Bay National Preserve to the Alsek River in the north. Traditional Gunaxoo Kwaan lands north of the Alsek River to the Italio River are presently administered by the Yakutat District Ranger's Office of the Tongass National Forest, which supported the project by providing transportation, professional expertise and access to many important places. The photos in this project were taken by Wayne Howell, unless otherwise noted.
The place where the Alsek River breaches the Fairweather Mountains to discharge its waters into the Gulf of Alaska is a dynamic landscape where continental forces collide. Underlain by the Fairweather fault (the interface of the North American and Pacific tectonic plates) and swept by fierce pacific storms and northward flowing ocean currents, Dry Bay is a land that is constantly being built and destroyed. It is also a place where, according to Tlingit legend, Raven traveled and left his marks as he created the world in which we live today. The river and its tributaries also provide spawning grounds for all five species of Pacific salmon, and many other species of fishes, birds and mammals make the rich Alsek delta home. Drawn by these rich food resources, the mouth of the Alsek River also became a place where diverse peoples mingled - the coastal Tlingit and people from the across the mountains, the Athabaskans. Hence the name Gunaxoo -"among the Athabaskans".
Dry Bay is the place of origin of several Tlingit clans; the Shungukeidi, an Eagle clan with the Thunderbird crest, whose legends have their roots along the Alsek River, and the Luknaxadi clan, the Raven Coho people who grew to build six renowned houses at the village of Gus'eix. Later, after tragedy left Gus'eix abandoned, they rebuilt the houses in other parts of Dry Bay and eventually, people migrated to other communities throughout northern Southeast Alaska.
By the time this project began in 1996 it had been nearly 75 years since the Gunaxoo Kwaan had lived as a community of people at Dry Bay. Changing times and economic forces had acted to disperse the clans throughout northern Southeast Alaska, with many people settled in Yakutat. However, over the years many Dry Bay people returned seasonally to the mouth of the Alsek River to fish, hunt and trap. This group of people, the ones who had kept alive their connection to this special place, formed the core of this project.
Several years had passed since many in the Gunaxoo Kwaan had actually been at Dry Bay, it was natural that this project should return to the landscape to search for lost villages and reconnect people's memories to places. Much of this program relates the two field trips to Gunaxoo; in 1997 to search for the former village on Cannery Creek and for Dine'lgi.aan (Shaking Village), and in 1998 to search for the lost village of Gus'eix. The project also inspired people to gather from throughout northern Southeast Alaska to share information during the Sealaska Celebration in 1998 and in Yakutat later that same year. Much of that information has been condensed into the place name map and is presented here. Eventually, members of the Gunaxoo Kwaan began to gather as a group in Yakutat, and one of those gatherings is presented in its entirety here. As you listen to the recording of the gathering you will notice that there is much discussion, not just about the place of Dry Bay, but also of the ancestors who lived there and how they are related to the Dry Bay people today. Ultimately, this program is a record of the Gunaxoo Kwaan as it exists at the end of the 20th century, its memories of past events and peoples, and their powerful connection to this very special place. Enjoy and learn.
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