Before we headed to Alaska last month, we looked at places we might visit during our short stay there. One of the places that caught my eye was the Eklutna Historical Park, near Eagle River, where our family lives. Advertised as an “Alaska Native and Russian Orthodox cultural experience“, the site includes two churches and an old cemetery, irresistible to this photographer/genealogist! As soon as we arrived, it started to rain, so we were only able to spend about a half hour there, but I managed to take a few photos while protecting my camera from the rain. The site is a blend of the Russian influence and the native Athabaskan tradition of building spirit houses over the graves of their family members. The church above is the new church, built in 1962.
Below are some of the colorful spirit houses in the old graveyard, which is still used. The log church is the original Russian Orthodox Church, built by the Russians some time between 1830 and 1870 in Knik. Around 1900, the building was moved to the old graveyard in Eklutna. The spirit houses show a blend of the Orthodox and native traditions, often decorated with the Orthodox cross.