Chief Kashakes House

Also known as: Eagle Tail House, Chief Kah-Shakes House, AHRS Site No. KET-34
Mile 2.5 S. Tongass Hwy., Saxman, Alaska



In 1878 the Presbyterian Home Mission Society established its first missions in southeast Alaska. At the request of Fort Tongass and Cape Fox Tlingit, Dr. Sheldon Jackson offered to establish a school if the Tlingit congregated in a single village. The relocation project did not materialize until 1895 when Congress made a special appropriation to help establish the new village. Chief Kashakes, head chief of the Cape Fox Tlingit and a member of the Beaver Clan of the Raven Moiety, participated in the selection of the new village site at Saxman 2.5 miles south of Ketchikan. He announced that he would build his new clan house next door to the school. Chief Kashakes also built four other homes for his family in Saxman. Chief Kashakes Clan House was built in 1895 and exemplifies the transition from traditional single-room plank clan houses to balloon frame construction that occurred as the Tlingits moved into new communities in the late 1800s and pursued wage-paying positions. The name of the carpenter is unknown, though he probably constructed the framing and the tongue and groove siding. By the 1900s balloon frame construction flourished throughout the southeast in Haines, Juneau, Ketchikan, and Saxman. Despite the change in construction technique, the clan house remained communally owned and open to all clan members. The first floor was spacious to accommodate traditional Native activities similar to the design found in plank clan houses. The second floor was later partitioned into sleeping areas. Outside the house stand two totem poles, the marble base of a third, and one Russian cannon. Chief Kashakes died in the 1912 pneumonia epidemic and was succeeded in the traditional Tlingit manner by two of his nephews. Chief Kashakes House is one of the last remaining examples of balloon frame construction in southeast Alaska. It is central to the historic village of Saxman, the original school, and the surrounding Cape Fox and Fort Tongass totem pole collection and the Beaver Clan tribal house. -- Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS AK-190)

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on April 26, 1993
Reference number
Areas of significance
Ethnic Heritage - Native American; Architecture; Social History
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Work of art (sculpture, carving, rock art); Meeting hall; Multiple dwelling
Current function
Work of art (sculpture, carving, rock art)
Periods of significance
1900-1924; 1875-1899; 1925-1949
Significant year
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 1
Contributing objects: 4
Non-contributing buildings: 1