Celebrating the connection of indigenous peoples to our land

Group of people in lush, verdant woods.
This wooded area where tribal longhouses once stood was one of the sites visited during Chugach National Forest's celebration of International Day of the World's Indigenous People. Forest Service by Erin Cole.


—International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was established by the United Nations in 1994 to protect and promote the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. It is celebrated annually Aug. 9. This year, a group of people gathered at the site of the historic village of Alaganik on the Chugach National Forest to celebrate the culture of the Eyak people who once lived on this sacred ground.

Mark King, local historian and lifelong resident, and Pam Smith, a Native Village of Eyak tribal council member, shared sepia photos of the trading post at a rock outcropping just down the road. They told stories of long-time residents trapping in the area which evoked vivid images of the lives that were lived in places where we now recreate. It was a great privilege to learn from those attending this year’s event about how their ancestors identified with the land and how they continue to carry on traditions through changes to the landscape and communities.

From the site of Alaganik trading post, attendees traveled down the Copper River Highway to visit a wooded area where tribal longhouses once stood and where deep green mosses now cover the ground. The event ended with everyone joining in a circle to honor those who have passed, while Pam Smith recited their names.

Ilanka Cultural Center in Cordova provides more information to those interested in the history of the area. Several books relating to the Eyak culture are also available at the Cordova City Library.

The Chugach National Forest and Cordova Ranger District are fortunate to be part of a landscape with such rich cultural history. Forest employees continue to celebrate the connections of people to the land.