Written by: Ethan Kadake, Chad Ward, Bradon Ward, Bree Travica, Courtney James, and Audrey Clavijo


Wood Products for Culture & Heritage Project 

The goal for this project is to learn from people in our community about our culture and heritage and to gain knowledge about red and yellow cedar. We are also learning about how we can make cedar harvest more sustainable for many more generations to come. The project involves holding discussions with local youth and community members. We really enjoyed hearing stories about Kake, and how different time was back then. Not all things have changed though, we have some weaver & carvers in town that still are into cedar weaving & carving. 




“This week I learned that you need to keep a good mind to do cultural arts such as carving, weaving, and doing formline. Keeping a good mindset while doing these arts will help you keep focused and have a beautiful turnout of your project. Then after our talk with Mike Jackson, he spoke to us about formline and about the reasons we use the colors we use. Red is for blood because we all bleed. Green is for the ocean and sky. Black is for mystery, and white is for peace.”


“What I really like about this week is the discussions we had with some community members in town. My favorite discussion was with Burt Jackson, he had a lot to say about carving. It really spoke out to us as a crew. He also had a lot to say on how to make Kake more involved about keeping our cedar trees safe and to harvest for carvers and weavers in town. You can tell he loves what he does, and wants to pass down to his family to keep it going for generations.”


“This week I learned how to do interviews and ask questions. I also learned so much history from the people we interviewed. Out of all the interviews, I like Ken’s [story] the most because it’s very descriptive about the place and the people he talked about the Kusta kaa. I mostly like the totem stories of how they cut them down and carved them. That was the most interesting story I liked.” 

Photo by Willow Jackson


“This past week we had the privilege of speaking with eight elders of Kake for the USFS & Sitka Conservation Society’s study, Wood Products for Culture & Heritage. Listening to their stories and inadvertent offerings of pure wisdom, you realize that these voices are the soft rhythmic heartbeat of the village- a soft, consistent boom like the low tones of drums– so constant that you may not notice unless you listen. I felt honored to be a keeper of their stories, of their knowledge, of their history, and the history of this amazing and beautiful place- Kéex’. 

I would try to imagine what it was like for them and what Kake was like- obviously, so much different than the town I have known for only a year. As Ruth Demmert spoke of her story of walking down the beach with her mom to gather Devil’s Club after a heart-wrenching doctor’s visit in which she was diagnosed with TB, I walked with them. When Ken Jackson went to harvest the spruce tree which would be used for the World’s Largest Single Tree Totem Pole, I heard the crack of the tree and felt the earth quake as it hit the forest floor. And as Mike Jackson told the creation story of Raven stealing the Moon while effortlessly drawing out the formline Raven on a block of cedar, I became the pen.

No, this is not my heritage. My family is from the opposite end of the Earth. But I still love to hear it and to feel a part of it… and to wonder how the stories may be at all similar to my ancestors of the Andes and Alps. And even more so do I hope that the five wonderful young people with whom I am hearing these words hold onto a deeper understanding, a deeper appreciation, and a fervor to not only listen but to remember so that one day these stories will be their own to carry on.

Everyone and everything has a story. You just have to listen. So we are.”

Launched in 2017, the Training Rural Alaskan Youth Leaders and Students (TRAYLS) Program provides hands-on experience with natural resource management technical skills and cultural knowledge while preparing youth to occupy leadership roles in their communities.  This year, TRAYLS and Youth Conservation Corps (YCC) programs are active in three Southeast communities: Kake, Hoonah, and Angoon.