This cabin was built by Mike Alex (1907–1977), a prominent Alaska Native and Russian Orthodox layman. Alex was the last Chief of the Eklutna tribe of the area’s Dena’ina people before they adopted a Village Council system of governance. The structure illustrates the pervasiveness of the log cabin in Alaska during the first decades of the twentieth century, which by that time had infiltrated Native culture. The cabin—a 17-foot-by-20-foot gable-roofed structure built of hewn logs (spruce) 8 inches to 10 inches high and dovetailed at the corners—is representational of the style. In the 1930s, in order to enlarge the cabin for his growing family (he eventually had thirteen children), Alex removed the front wall and added a room, which was 17 feet square and the same height as the rest of building. The addition was of 6-inch logs, sawn flat on three sides and lapped at the corners. There is a gable-roofed vestibule, as well as a small addition in the rear. Although the building was originally set directly on the ground, a concrete foundation has been added. Alex and his family lived in the modest cabin for nearly fifty years, from 1928 until his death.
Alex witnessed great changes during his lifetime. In the summers, he fished at Fire Island in Cook Inlet, and in the winters, hunted and trapped from Eklutna, as was traditional among the Dena’ina people of Southcentral Alaska. Beyond engaging in a subsistence lifestyle, Alex also worked for the Alaska Railroad as a section foreman. He was a devout member of the Russian Orthodox Church and, with his children, built a new structure (known as the New Saint Nicholas Church) in 1962 to replace the 1890s church that had fallen into disrepair. Still, he encouraged the preservation of the older facility. In his later years, he helped compile Dena’ina place names and legends to ensure the preservation of his language and culture. His position as village chief was replaced by a village council, as the traditional tribal structure gave way to incorporation as Eklutna, Inc. The Mike Alex Cabin thus represents an architectural link in Alaska Native history from an era before widespread white settlement to our contemporary age.
Carberry, M.E. "Patterns of the Past: An Inventory of Anchorage's Heritage Resources Anchorage." Anchorage, AK: Municipal Planning Department, 1979.
Laguna, Frederica. The Archaeology of Cook Inlet. Anchorage, AK: Ken Wrays Print Shop, Inc., 1975.
Kari, James. The Heritage of Eklutna: Mike Alex, 1908-1977. Eagle River, AK: Eklutna Alex, Inc., 1977.
Osgood, Cornelius. "The Ethnography of the Tanaina." Yale University Publications in Anthropology, Number 16. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937.