You are here

Eklutna Cemetery

-A A +A
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery
  • Eklutna Cemetery

The brightly painted spirit houses in the cemetery are neither an Athapaskan nor a Russian Orthodox tradition but seem to be an original product of the collision of two belief systems. Traditionally, the Tanaina would cremate their dead and put the ashes in a spirit house. The Russian Orthodox encouraged burial, and somehow, by the twentieth century, the spirit house was widely used to cover graves.

Today, the dead are buried and the grave covered with a blanket—whose colors often denote clan associations—for forty days. Then the small gable-roofed structure known as a spirit house is erected. The color scheme is selected by the family and often is consistent within a family grouping; color and shape of the ridge ornament are particular to the individual. The fences around the graves are a Russian influence, as are the Orthodox crosses at the foot of the grave and the tradition of graves facing east.

Writing Credits

Alison K. Hoagland


What's Nearby


Alison K. Hoagland, "Eklutna Cemetery", [Chugiak, Alaska], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Alaska, Alison K. Hoagland. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, 106-107.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,