Letter to the Editor: Protect Spit from further erosion

Maintain area in manner consistent with traditional values for burial sites - By Darrel Olsen For The Cordova Times

This letter is in reference to the Eyak Lake Spit proposed use cases. Native Village of Eyak Tribe has arguably the most vested interest in this area as first people and traditional users. As such an interested party, NVE participated in the X-ray project that was conducted to determine any underground burials and hosted a meeting for tribal members to share their stories and opinions on how to best preserve as well as use the spit.

Historical knowledge of this area by current Council members precludes a concrete conclusion of who is buried at the spit. It may be Eyak people, Chugach region people or even Chinese people or others. An Eyak person has been repatriated to the spit in 1993 as a separate burial.

The Tribal Council recognizes the sacredness of all burial sites, regardless of ancestry, and wishes to honor the departed by treating their final resting place with respect. The Council also wishes to encourage the use of traditional lands by current tribal members.

The spit has been used as an airplane and boat tie-up as well as a swimming and picnic spot. Many tribal members have used the spit recreationally, and continue to do so. The spit, however, has eroded substantially and has not been maintained in a manner consistent with traditional values of caring for burial sites.

Questions remain as to whether the spit is the best area to safely continue to contain bodies; if a memorial was erected, where the responsibility of maintenance would lie; and would a burial ground necessarily exclude all other activity by matter of being a burial ground, and if it does, how does that affect other popular recreational areas such as Nirvana Park.

At this time, The Native Village of Eyak Tribal Council recommends the following course of action to the City:

  • Current Rasmuson funding be used to replace the eroded areas of the spit and to re-fill the area to prevent erosion from re-occurring and to protect the existing graves from damage and exposure.
  • The alders and trees cut down and the site repaired and continuously maintained so that it looks respected.
  • A memorial area at the end of the spit be created utilizing NVE input and that the City maintain it under its existing Parks and Recs program, and that this section be off limits to vehicular traffic.
  • Existing outhouses or port-a-potties be maintained in good condition.
  • Any airplane or boat tie-ups which may be created and/or maintained done so as to not disturb existing graves.
  • Boat and wave-runner launching return to the existing boat launch site at the old Park-Air area.

Council realizes that there are concerns with launchers dis-obeying runway rules, however, education and enforcement should be an active and expected component in order to establish safe coexistence between user groups.

Editor’s note: Darrel Olsen is the chairman of the Native Village of Eyak Tribal Council.

a copy of this letter was sent to the Cordova Historical Society on Dec. 28, 2016