Alaska life

Community Halls in Rural Alaska

Eleanor Yatlin stands outside of the Huslia hall after voting in 2012. Photo by Georgia Attla
Eleanor Yatlin stands outside of the Huslia hall after voting in 2012. Photo by Georgia Attla
A gathering is held in the Huslia hall. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
A gathering is held in the Huslia hall. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

A community hall is a central gathering place in smaller villages. It is a community center, where you go for dances, bingo, meetings, weddings, funerals, banquets and many other events. Voting polls are set up in the  halls during election time. Many halls in the interior are built with logs. Halls usually have a wood stove and electricity with little else. The halls are usually circular with eight sides.

In Huslia, the community hall is about 35 years old and is in bad shape. The doors are old and have been repaired multiple times. Some of the windows are broken. The floors have not been in the best condition for a long time. It is generally in need of a replacement. Plus, the community has outgrown the old hall.

Tanya and Lydia Yatlin attended a wedding in the Huslia hall. Photo by Angela Gonzalez
Tanya and Lydia Yatlin attended a wedding in the Huslia hall. Photo by Angela Gonzalez

Building a hall in a small village of nearly 300 people is a big undertaking. The Huslia Tribal Council and the City of Huslia have partnered in the project. They are working to secure more funding and hope to build the new hall in the summer construction season of 2015. They also hope to make the new hall energy efficient.

According to Edwin Bifelt of Huslia, they have collected 400 logs upriver from Huslia. The next phase of the project will be to build four rafts of 100 logs each and transport them to Huslia. Edwin says, “This is the biggest logging project Huslia ever did.”

Edwin shared a few photos below.

Here are the people in the photo below:
Back row left to right: Timothy Sam, Edgar Weter, Joe Bifelt, DJ Starr, Rocky Peters, Craig Bifelt, Christopher Moses, Glenn Sam (crew boss), Floyd Vent, Russell David, Tony Sam Jr., David Vent and Donovan Williams.

Front Row: Victor Vent, Nate Vent, Beattus “Dino” Moses, Jr. and Calvin Jackson.
Camp Cooks: Kimberly Moses and Ophelia Moses

Other loggers who worked on the project include Robbie Williams, Ricky Vent and Clifford Edwin. Another cook not pictured is Agnes Dayton. Edwin  thanked  George Attla, Jr. for hauling supplies  and Rachel Weter and Em Penn for helping.

Huslia loggers. Photo by by Edwin Bifelt
Huslia loggers. Photo by by Edwin Bifelt

In rural Alaska, you have to be innovative to make things work for your needs. There are many logistics that need careful planning. There is a also a lack of heavy equipment when you are working outside of the village. Calvin Jackson and Glenn Sam built two custom built log hauling trailers for the project.

Log trailer hitched to four-wheeler. Photo by Edwin Bifelt
Log trailer hitched to four-wheeler. Photo by Edwin Bifelt
A log is hauled out on a custom-built trailer. Photo by Edwin Bifelt
A log is hauled out on a custom-built trailer. Photo by Edwin Bifelt

I’m looking forward watching the progress of the rising of Huslia’s new community hall. Community halls are vital to rural Alaskan communities.

0 thoughts on “Community Halls in Rural Alaska”

  1. Beautiful history. We have one in Shageluk built in 1982, all local logs,men from our community. Rudy Hamilton’s design. He designed it this way based on the generation’s old designs from long ago. It is our Kashim.

  2. What an incredible undertaking! I think it’s wonderful the local people are undertaking this chore using their own skills and labor. I wish I were closer and had more building experience; I’d love to give them a hand!

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