Neilga Koogéi Taija Revels’ grandmother started making regalia in Hoonah in the 60s. Back then, all she had to work with was acrylic paint from school and polyester fabric from the five and dime.
“She just keeps adding more and more and more on, and by the time you see her at the first Celebration in ‘82, you see this beautiful piece of regalia that’s finished,” Revels said. “She danced at the White House in this regalia.”
Revels calls that period “a kind of renaissance” — and she says her grandmother’s work is an important piece of Hoonah’s history. Now she’s searching for it, in pawn shops and online, after someone broke into her Juneau home while she was out of town.
Her family is offering a large reward, with no questions asked.
Revels was named after her grandmother, who died when Revels was a teenager. After she inherited the regalia, she wore it to every graduation and major event in her life. She says it allowed her to be closer to her memory.
“We have so little from her. We lost so many of her possessions when she died because her house got ransacked during her funeral, and the Hoonah fire happened,” Revels said.
Revels’ house got ransacked, too, while she was out of town. When she came home to Juneau on Wednesday, she found her things thrown about and sticky handprints all over the kitchen. The thieves had forced the door with a crowbar. It seemed like someone had been living there for days.
Revels says a friend had to tear her away from her search for the regalia.
“I was like, crying on my knees going through all the clothing being like, ‘I just have to find the regalia,’” she said. “It was just the garment bag, ripped open.”
The thieves took a lot of other things, too: gold beads, otter pelts and moccasin tops that her great-grandmother beaded in the 1940s. Also expensive things, like her PlayStationS5 and her trademark MAC lipstick.
She says another irreplaceable thing, besides the regalia, is a cherished bracelet she was given as a baby, signed by the late silver craftsman Scott Douglas.
She says this latest loss of important family heirlooms reminds her of the trauma her family has endured for generations. She hopes someone will recognize the regalia or come forward to Juneau police or call the Juneau crime line, (907) 523-7700, if they know anything.
“I gu.aa yax̱ x’wán: have courage to say something,” she said. “It would mean so much. Our family’s gone through so much.”
Revels says police told her on Thursday night that they have a person of interest in the case. She says they recovered a few of her belongings, but not the regalia.