For the Spirit
Caring for the dead in many cultures includes caring for the spirit that inhabited the body. Alaskan spirit houses are a common way for Alaskans to offer protection for those who have passed on. These colorful graveyard houses are seen as a form of shelter for the spirits and are designed to look similar to a dollhouse. This spirit box tradition at burial sites can be linked to both Russian Orthodox and Native American beliefs.
Where Can They Be Found?
A graveyard in Eklutna, Alaska has more than 100 burial sites that contain these special small lodgings. This historical gravesite has become so popular that it has even been labeled as a part of Eklutna Historical Park. Located about 25 miles from Anchorage, Alaska; home, more than 800 years ago, to Native American villages. The region now has both a Native American heritage and that of Russian Orthodox missionaries who first came in 1830.
The St. Nicholas Cemetery - built around the late 1830’s and reconstructed around 1970 – is home to many graveyard houses that have been in use 150+ years.
Cremation Was Once Observed
Before burying the dead beneath the ground which was a common practice in Russian Orthodox culture, remains were cremated. Above ground spirit houses or boxes grew in popularity. Many believe they provide warmth, comfort and protection.