Document Type


Publication Date



Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park and Preserve (Alaska), National parks and reserves -- Alaska


The National Park Service initiated a series of studies, working in collaboration with park-associated Native communities, to provide basic documentation of the nature of Alaska Native ties to Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The current study represents one of a series of baseline reports on Alaska Native ties to the park. Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve includes parts of the traditional territories of three general Alaska Native groups—the Upper Tanana and Ahtna Athabascans and the Yakutat Tlingit. Prior to the current effort, the park completed ethnographic overviews and assessments in the upper Tanana and Ahtna regions, which are located in the central and northern parts of the park. However, the southern coastal region of the park, in the traditional lands of the Yakutat Tlingit and Eyak communities of the Gulf of Alaska, had not been the focus of even basic, systematic documentation by the NPS. The Tlingit people have traditionally occupied and used that part of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in the vicinity of Icy Bay and Disenchantment Bay, the Malaspina Glacier and Forelands, and the present day community of Yakutat, but have a deeper history that includes other portions of what is today the park. The absence of even baseline NPS documentation of their ties to lands within the park remained a significant gap.

The main product of this research is the summary report that follows, synthesizing prior ethnographic literature and related materials into a narrative that, while meeting academic standards, is meant to be understandable to park managers and the interested public. The document that follows presents basic information regarding Yakutat Tlingit culture and history, specifically focusing on the Kwáashk’ikwáan and GalyáxKaagwaantaan clans, which may be salient to future interpretation and management relating to Wrangell-St. Elias.2 The research was initiated to illuminate the interests of the Yakutat Tlingit, who are the emphasis of this document. Yet, the document also incorporates select material on the Eyak community of Cordova, specifically the Native community of Katalla, at the request of the Yakutat Tlingit Tribal Council—reflecting the longstanding connections between the two communities and of segments of the Eyak community to the region encompassed by this study. Cumulatively, this research has sought to illuminate ties between these communities and lands in the park that may serve as a background reference for tribal and agency staff, alike, as they seek to understand the park’s Alaska Native history and to protect cultural resources of mutual concern. In this light, the investigation has maintained a special emphasis on traditional land and resource use in the Yakutat and Eyak traditional territories—especially as those practices relate to the lands and resources of Wrangell-St. Elias since the time of European contact.

Persistent Identifier