Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska recently acquired a pair of buildings downtown near the Andrew Hope Building as it hopes to provide more office space to centralize services for its citizens. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska recently acquired a pair of buildings downtown near the Andrew Hope Building as it hopes to provide more office space to centralize services for its citizens. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Tlingit and Haida president talks new buildings, future expansion

The tribe is taking steps to consolidate a number of its offices downtown.

With the purchase of two buildings near its Andrew Hope Building , Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska has expanded its footprint downtown.

But there’s more yet to come, said President Richard Chalyee Éesh Peterson, who has far-reaching plans to expand the tribe’s holdings further.

“That is the neighborhood of our original village,” Peterson said in an interview. “We’re really trying to consolidate that.”

The two buildings, whose sale was finalized late last year, are located on Willoughby Avenue. One was occupied by offices of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, while the other had a number of tenants. All current tenants will remain in the buildings for the time being, Peterson said, but Tlingit and Haida will begin filling in the vacant space with offices like the tribal courts, which will move into the new buildings. The two buildings combined were assessed by the City and Borough of Juneau at more than $12 million, though Peterson did not disclose to the Empire what they were sold for.

“Those buildings are part of the long-term plan. Really, the COVID short-term need is we weren’t able to separate employees,” Peterson said. “We’re going to be doing some renovations to make sure the airflow is good.”

The conditions for tenants are likely to improve, Peterson said, with Tlingit and Haida’s organic maintenance and construction assets able to rapidly respond to issues within the structures.

“We’ll be managing our own properties,” Peterson said. “We have our own facility maintenance department. (Tenants’) needs will be getting more immediate attention.”

The move comes as part of a push to consolidate more tribal offices downtown, Peterson said, easing access for tribal citizens, especially in a pandemic where traveling via public transit may be contraindicated for some.

“We’ve always wanted to be more centralized and have more of a campus. It’s been a hardship on some of our citizens to go all over town for appointments,” Peterson said. “It’s about bringing people back to the office but it being a safe space, protecting their health and that of their clients.”

Peterson said he hopes to bring other offices to that part of town as well.

“My goal is to move my office back downtown to the Andrew Hope Building,” Peterson said. “In a historical context, I think people view the Andrew Hope building as the headquarters of Tlingit and Haida and it’s important to have the office of the president there.”

Eyes to the horizon

Beyond that, Peterson said, Tlingit and Haida’s expansion ambitions are in full flood.

“We’re just growing. And I expect to continue to grow. It’s about meeting the needs of our citizens,” Peterson said. “I want us to be the answer. I want us to be where our citizens can go to heal and get the assistance we need.”

Peterson said Tlingit and Haida has no desire to go it alone, but to work in concert with organizations like Sealaska, SouthEast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, and other tribes to heal the ails of its citizens.

“It’s about ‘How do we work together to do more?’” Peterson said. “Some of this work we’re doing, everyone could get into it and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

Peterson said Tlingit and Haida is exploring the possibility of developing its own tribal college, offering both traditional degrees and vocational training within the next decade. The tribe is also looking to expand in other directions.

“We’re in a good position to acquire new land or trade. There’s a lot of potential there. There’s a lot of possibilities,” Peterson said. “We used to have a (commercial driver’s license) program. We’re bringing that back. We want anyone who lives in the Southeast, anyone who lives in Juneau, to be able to come here and be able to get that, instead of having to go to Anchorage.

Staff levels have more than doubled since he took the president’s chair, Peterson said.

“When I came onboard as president eight years ago we had 190 employees,” Peterson said. “Now we’re at 420-430.”

That number is likely to grow as the tribe both embraces distance work and expanding services to meet its citizens wherever they are, Peterson said.

“The tribe is in a real growth era. When you go on our website there’s a ton of jobs offered. If you could work from home and be successful, home can be wherever,” Peterson said. “A big goal of the tribe is to meet our citizens where they’re at. And our citizens are all over the world.”

But while distance work is completely viable, the home offices of the tribe will continue to be in Juneau, getting ever larger, Peterson said.

“Juneau is the headquarters of Tlingit and Haida,” Peterson said. “We’re always going to be hiring here.”

• Contact reporter Michael S. Lockett at (757) 621-1197 or mlockett@juneauempire.com.

Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska recently acquired a pair of buildings downtown near the Andrew Hope Building as it hopes to provide more office space to centralize services for its citizens. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska recently acquired a pair of buildings downtown near the Andrew Hope Building as it hopes to provide more office space to centralize services for its citizens. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)

More in News

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Norwegian Encore docks in Juneau in October of 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for t​​he Week of April 22

Here’s what to expect this week.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Sunday, April 21, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The “Newtok Mothers” assembled as a panel at the Arctic Encounter Symposium on April 11 discuss the progress and challenges as village residents move from the eroding and thawing old site to a new village site called Mertarvik. Photographs showing deteriorating conditions in Newtok are displayed on a screen as the women speak at the event, held at Anchorage’s Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center. (Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)
Relocation of eroding Alaska Native village seen as a test case for other threatened communities

Newtok-to-Mertarvik transformation has been decades in the making.

Bailey Woolfstead, right, and her companion Garrett Dunbar examine the selection of ceramic and wood dishes on display at the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser on behalf of the Glory Hall at Centennial Hall on Sunday. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Empty Bowls provides a full helping of fundraising for the Glory Hall

Annual soup event returns to Centennial Hall as need for homeless shelter’s services keeps growing.

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon and her husband Greg. (Photo courtesy of the City and Borough of Juneau)
Greg Weldon, husband of Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon, killed in motorcycle accident Sunday morning

Accident occurred in Arizona while auto parts store co-owner was on road trip with friend

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Saturday, April 20, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Friday, April 19, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Thursday, April 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Delegates offer prayers during the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska’s 89th Annual Tribal Assembly on Thursday at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall. (Muriel Reid / Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
Tribal Assembly declares crisis with fentanyl and other deadly drugs its highest priority

Delegates at 89th annual event also expand foster program, accept Portland as new tribal community.

Most Read