what in the world is a ‘wanigan’?

When we arrived on Prince of Wales on January 1, 2001…suffice it to say it was a different world. One of the areas Prince of Wales differed was the housing! We would occassionally hear that someone lives in a ‘wanigan’, or owns a ‘wanigan’, or renting a ‘wanigan’.

So…what in the world is a ‘wanigan’?  (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/wanigan)

According to the Free Dictionary, a wanigan


or wan·ni·gan(wŏn′ĭ-gən) alsowan·gun(wŏn′gən, wăng′-)


1. New England & Upper Northern US

a. A boat or small chest equipped with supplies for a lumber camp.
b. Provisions for a camp or cabin.

2. Alaska

a. A small house, bunkhouse, or shed mounted on skids and towed behind a tractor train as eating and sleepingquarters for a work crew.
b. An addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space.
WANIGANS are trailers or manufactured homes what have built-ons that either protect the metal abode from the weather such as the wanigan below

Example of a neat wannagan with a roof to protect against the weather. City of Thorne Bay Trailer Park Manager’s home. (Photo Credit Dennis Sylvia)

…and WANIGANS are also metal abodes whose living space has been extended or enlarged by adding living space as well as protecting the trailer.  According to the local wags the term comes from a degredation of the term “one room again”.

Below is another example of a WANIGAN, this one is home to a Prince of Wales Ron Paul Libertarian:

Ron Paul Libertarian Wanigan

Word History: Wanigan is apparently a borrowing of Ojibwa waanikaan, “storage pit,” a word derived from the verbwaanikkee-, “to dig a hole in the ground.” Citations from the 1800s in the Oxford English Dictionary indicate that theword was then associated chiefly with the speech of Maine. It denoted a storage chest containing small supplies for alumber camp, a boat outfitted to carry such supplies, or the camp provisions in general. In Alaska, on the western edgeof the vast territory inhabited by Algonquian-speaking peoples, the same word was borrowed into English to indicate alittle temporary hut, usually built on a log raft to be towed to wherever work was being done. According to RussellTabbert of the University of Alaska, wanigan is still used in the northernmost regions of Alaska to designate a smallhouse, bunkhouse, or shed that is mounted on skids so that it can be dragged along behind a tractor train and used asa place for a work crew to eat and sleep. However, Tabbert notes that in southeast Alaska, where mobile homes are acommon option for housing, wanigan now means an addition built onto a trailer house for extra living or storage space.Classified advertisements for trailer homes frequently mention wanigans.

2 responses to “what in the world is a ‘wanigan’?”

  1. Hello, my name is Chris Lewis . I found your blog by chance . I built the log home across the bay from what appears to be your property (Wally Greentree’s old home)in the late 90’s. I have some Sitka blacktail stories related to setter lake and in particular Wally Greentree’s home you may find interesting. If so let me know and I will share them with you. Thank you for your time.


  2. I stumbled across this page and I had never heard of the Alaskan variant. This is what I know a wanigan to be. https://www.earthedfound.org/wanigans

    Liked by 1 person

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