The first Native Archaeological Field Class was conducted between 2010-2011 at 13-Mile Haines Highway, the Klaney Cabin Site and archaeological site, SKG-00050, T’a Noow (also known as ‘King Salmon Fort’). An ADOT & PF pedestrian survey (IIC) during 2006-2010 resulted in locating a collapsed wooden structure and 35 ground depressions or pits. DNR Forestry, who could not verify the locations of the pits as mapped, contacted SRScorp, to conduct a re-survey of the site and accurately map all 35 pits so that their proposed access road could be placed a safe distance away and avoid site impacts. SRS teamed with the Anthropology Department from the University of Alaska Southeast (UAS) Juneau campus, Chilkat Indian Village (CIV) and Chilkoot Indian Association (CIA) and conducted a Native Archaeological Training Program where the Chilkat/Chilkoot participants received undergraduate class credits and a certificate of competency for archaeological grading monitoring.
The program resulted in extensive background on the known owner of the on-site cabin, Chilkat Native Gus Klaney. A genealogy was prepared by a Native participant who was his great-great-granddaughter. Oral interviews and archival research, as other student projects, revealed definitively that Gus Klaney used the site during winter months as a trapping-cabin and way-station for guiding hunters and trappers, particularly Port Chilkoot military. Photographic panoramas, architectural renderings and surface artifact mapping were used to document the cabin. One of the 35 pits was recorded by DOT as an outhouse, but an additional pit was found to be remains of a second structure, a bathhouse or saunty (sauna). The other pits appeared to group in clusters. Two square pits near the house and sauna may be for Klaney personal storage in wooden boxes. Nearby round, conical pits appear to have been associated with small shallow pits. The conical pits in these clusters may have been used for dog food storage for Klaney and Port Chilkoot soldier dog teams during the winter months. The small shallow pits may have held buried foothold traps, while food storage pits acted as ‘bait’ for furbearing animals. Finally, the pits located nearest the highway were the largest and deepest, and given the local glacio-isostatic rebound for this area, were under water until around the 1920s; they were therefore likely associated with Port Chilkoot military activities and/or road material mining.
Collectively, ethnographic, archaeological and ecological lines of inquiry were investigated in order to define when the structures and pits were used at 13-mile. Ethnographic evidence narrowed the occupation to the lifetime of Gus Klaney (1883-1948), and within that range to his active adult life (ca. 1900-1940). Childrearing and military service consumed the early years of his adulthood (1912-1920+) placing him actively at the site between 1920s and 1940s with his granddaughter testifying that she visited him there as a child in the late 1930s. Archaeological data, based on maker’s marks and the manufacturing styles of a glass pickle jar, coffee can, and embossed metal stove front, collaborate information documented through oral testimonies. Detailed analyses of all three artifacts provided congruous data, effectively and definitely limiting the date range from the 1920s to the 1940s; and suggesting that the most intensive occupation of the site was during the 1930s. Ecological evidence was based on the analysis of seven tree-ring cores taken from trees within the established site area. The tree-ring data indicated that the oldest tree tested within the pit area began growing around 1890 and the youngest two trees both had a start date of 1940; start dates for five trees more specifically clustered between 1920 and 1940. Glacio-isostatic rebound studies for the region have allowed for calculating that this area was under water until about 1920. The earliest trees correlate with some dry patches; the majority pinpoints when the western edge of the site was above water and could have accommodated tree growth and human occupation. The largest pits along the western edge of the site, on the current water’s edge, could not have been dug until this time which places in them association with Gus Klaney’s tenure here or later.
What this implies is that the at the turn-of-the century the site landscape was much more open than today providing room to accommodate large dog sled teams and canoe-making as ethnographic evidence has indicated. The forest began to grow within the site area essentially from the 1920s to the 1940s; even as much as 50 years ago this area was not heavily forested according to local Native Sonny Williams (2010). Only recently has the forest developed from an open canopy, sparsely forested area to the closed, densely populated forest we see today.