Alaska Native Housing
From: The Tree-Ring Circus (
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 92 17:34 CST
        Hi ho!
        I'm Mike Lewis a PhD student in anthropology at the 
University of Alaska Fairbanks.  I'm not living in a cohousing 
arrangement as yet, but I am interested for several reasons.
        Temperatures in Fairbanks range from 40-50 below zero 
this time of year to the 80's above in the summer.  
"Traditional" single family housing doesn't make a lot of sense 
in this kind of climate, from the standpoint of energy and 
physical resource use. If there is anyplace that is ideally 
suited to cooperative housing, it's Fairbanks!
        As a student of anthropology, I've learned a bit about 
lifestyles of the native peple who lived throughout this land 
before we took it away from them.  Though their have 
changed considerably in recent years, their traditional beliefs 
and lifestyles remain, at least in some form.
        An important, even central, part of the success of Native 
people in this harsh landscape is their sense of community.  
Even among those Native Alaskans living in Anchorage and 
Fairbanks, community is an essential part of their lives.  For 
those still living traditional village lifestyles, little has changed 
in this respect for the last 10,000 years.
        An important feature of Native villages was and is the 
kasgi, or "men's house."  Although this structure has been 
identified as a ceremonial house for male-based clan activities, 
in reality it functioned as the center of activity for the entire 
village. Ceremonies, dances, potlatches, community sweats, all 
were held in the Kasgi, as well as instruction of male children, 
qayaq and umiak building, net weaving, and other activities 
associated with subsistence.
        This seems as good a model as any on which to base a 
cohousing arrangement in the Arctic.  Housing designed to 
share insulation and heating facilities, coupled with modern 
technologies of cold-weather house design, should result in 
housing that is affordable, cheaper to heat and offers a sense 
of community so necessay to mental and spiritual survival in 
this cold, dark land.  (We have four hours of daylight right 
now.  This noon, the sun just barely made it all the way 
above the horizon!)
        I'd be interested to hear if anyone has any experiences 
with cohousing in the far north, or knows of any references. 
        Thanks!  This looks like a great group!
        Mike Lewis
        Chugiak, Alaska

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