The Alaska Pioneer Home sits in downtown Sitka. Its Spanish-style architecture, complete with a red tile roof, is a mystery, as is the cluster of pigeons around the statue of a prospector on the front lawn.

I canít explain the architecture, but can the presence of pigeons, so alien to Southeast Alaska.

Robert Modrell, good friend and a superb boatbuilder, was hired by the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) in 1947 to teach boat building at the boarding school on Mt. Edgecumbe, the federal installation just across a narrow channel from Sitka. This was the only boarding school in Alaska for Natives.

As an incentive to the students, the boys (no girls in those days) were promised a trip to Seattle when the boat was finished. They worked very hard and were justly proud of the nice boat they built.

At the last moment, some BIA bigwigs decided a voyage to Seattle was just what they needed, so they came along. When the boat reached the city, they also decided they didnít want to be bothered with the students, so forbade them to leave the boat and headed off to enjoy Seattle.

To give themselves something to do, the bored boys built some traps and lured a few pigeons onto the boat. Rob knew what they were doing, but felt the bosses didnít need to know, so said nothing.

The ship returned to Mt. Edgecumbe with the bosses, the boys, and some pigeons. It didnít take long for the birds to move across the channel to the Pioneer Home where there was usually someone around to throw crumbs. As the native crows, ravens, and eagles do not like to share their habitat, the pigeons have never thrived anywhere except the Pioneer Home grounds.

A few pigeons hang out around the courthouse in downtown Juneau, but I donít know how they got there. I doubt they flew the 70 miles from Sitka.

D. L.

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