Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson speaks at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Elizabeth Peratovich Hall on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson speaks at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Elizabeth Peratovich Hall on Thursday, March 12, 2020. (Peter Segall | Juneau Empire)

Big plans from Tlingit and Haida

“Social enterprise.”

Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska have a lot of irons in their fire.

They have many projects in the works for both the near and long term, said Tlingit and Haida President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson during the Greater Juneau Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Elizabeth Peratovich Hall Thursday.

With a budget of about $34 million, Tlingit and Haida is trying to engage in what Peterson called “social enterprise,” or business that can provide jobs and training for tribal members.

One of the best examples was Sacred Grounds Cafe, he said. Calling himself a “coffee snob,” Peterson said that just a year ago the quality of the coffee served at the cafe was not what he would’ve wanted.

They brought in a number of trainers to teach staff how to improve the quality and now, according to Peterson, the coffee is much better.

“And I’m their toughest critic,” he said.

Other businesses owned by the tribe are Smokehouse Catering and Sacred Shrine Auto Detailing, what Peterson called, “the little detailer that could.”

In addition to providing jobs and training, Peterson said the tribe wanted all its activities to be “indigenized.”

“We want to implement our tribal values in all activities of the tribe,” Peterson said.

Tlingit and Haida has ambitious plans to expand its operations in a way that would provide both jobs and cultural exposure.

The tribe has secured a lease from the City and Borough of Juneau in Thane where they have plans to build what they’re calling an “immersion park.”

Modeled after a traditional village, the park would serve as a tourist attraction and meeting center for tribal events.

“We’re making some big moves there,” Peterson said. “It’s going to bring over 200 jobs.”

The park would have meeting areas and a full kitchen, but it would also have a dedicated carving room that could house large projects such as canoes and totem poles. Additionally, the park would have museum-quality facilities to house older artifacts the tribe had been able to repatriate.

The tribe hopes to have that facility operating by 2022, Peterson said.

Peterson said the tribe was also looking to expand its educational offerings. Tlingit and Haida already runs a vocational training center but the tribe was looking into establishing a fully functioning community college which could award vocational certificates and associates’ degrees.

Tlingit and Haida has been consulting with the University of Alaska Southeast with the aim of creating educational programs that would allow for transition to the university.

Peterson was also pleased to announce the tribe had recently purchased the Triplette Construction company. As the tribe expanded its operations, this would allow many of the projects to be done using their own people, he said.

There were plans to have an open house in April at the company building on Channel Drive but concerns over the coronavirus had put that on hold for now, Peterson said.

Speaking about the virus, he said, “I don’t think that I could be prouder to be from a community such as Juneau. I see our community coming together, trying to be forewarned and forearmed.”

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