Return of Land in Alaska's Chugach Region Secures Cultural Site for Future Generations
Chugach Heritage Foundation plans for cultural and historic preservation
Chugach Alaska Corporation (Chugach) has purchased more than 150 acres of surface and subsurface estate at Point Martin at the edge of the Copper River Delta from The Nature Conservancy (TNC). The property was transferred to Chugach Heritage Foundation (CHF), Chugach’s non-profit arm, for future cultural and historic preservation and use.
Chugach’s long-term lands management strategy seeks not only to provide economic benefits for the Chugach community and region, but also to preserve and protect Chugach lands for generations to come. Transferring the Point Martin property to CHF aligns with two of the pillars of Chugach’s mission statement: celebration of our heritage and ownership of our lands.
“Point Martin, at the mouth of the Copper River Delta, is an important part of the cultural heritage of the Alaska Native People of the Chugach Region,” said John F.C. Johnson, Chugach’s Vice President of Cultural Resources. “Historically, this area was an important crossroads of migration for Chugach, Eyak and Tlingit cultures. Most notably, the area was once a Tlingit/Eyak village called Qixtaqlaq which means ‘Behind the Martin Islands’.”
“In 1883, the Staatliche Museum in Berlin collected numerous cultural items from the Point Martin village and from burial sites in the Chugach Region,” Johnson said. “The groundwork has been laid for a future partnership with Berlin to share history and knowledge. The recovery and preservation of subsistence and heritage sites will give strength and direction to the generations to follow.”
Johnson noted that Chugach expressed interest in attaining the property through the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971. “Chugach selected and received conveyance to numerous historical sites under ANCSA. This site was one of the selections. However, it was not available at the time due to private ownership. Through the efforts of the partnership with TNC, we are pleased that these lands will be returned to Native stewardship.”
Chugach and TNC representatives included the following land acknowledgement in the official transaction documents:
Let it be acknowledged that this land and its waters are the irreplaceable birthright of the Chugach, Eyak and Tlingit People of Alaska. As a living part of the historic and cultural foundation of Alaska Native People, the vital legacy of this land is to utilize, preserve, and promote the tradition and culture of the Chugach region. Let the natural beauty, spiritual significance and cultural history of this land be forever and only in the trust of the Chugach People and their descendants.
“The Nature Conservancy is pleased to join the Chugach Heritage Foundation in securing a safe future for the culturally significant Point Martin land parcel,” says Steve Cohn, Alaska state director for The Nature Conservancy. “Through the return of this land, TNC is honored to support the Indigenous people of Alaska’s Chugach region and the valuable mission of the Chugach Heritage Foundation.”
“Chugach is very grateful that TNC recognized the significance this property holds for Chugach and that it rightfully belongs to the Native people of the Chugach Region,” said Josie Hickel, Chugach’s Executive Vice President of ANCSA and Community Affairs. “By allowing Chugach to purchase Point Martin and pass ownership on to CHF, our shareholders and their descendants can continue to use this property for subsistence and cultural purposes and honor our traditions and the rich heritage of our lands for generations. It took a lot of time and effort for this transaction to take place, and we appreciate the people at Chugach, TNC and CHF for their assistance and perseverance in making this a reality.”
About Chugach Alaska Corporation:
Established in 1972 under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, Chugach Alaska Corporation exists to serve the interests of the Alaska Native people of the Chugach region with a focus on profitability, celebration of our heritage and ownership of our lands. Through responsible management of our lands, businesses and assets, we provide meaningful opportunities and benefits to our community of 2,600 shareholders. Chugach fulfills its mission through a range of investments and operating businesses that provide government, facilities and energy services. Learn more at www.chugach.com.
About Chugach Heritage Foundation:
The Chugach Heritage Foundation (CHF) began on a small scale in 1985 with the publication of Chugach Legends followed by Eyak Legends, and it used the revenue from these book sales to support scholarship awards. Since that humble start, CHF has grown to provide approximately $800,000 in annual scholarships to Chugach shareholders and lineal descendants. In addition, CHF manages Nuuciq Spirit Camp, an annual gathering that has taken place for more than 25 years on Nuchek Island designed to raise awareness of the origin and history of the people in the Prince William Sound and to heighten awareness of our history and culture. CHF also hosts the annual Russian New Year Celebration and numerous cultural workshops. Learn more at www.chugachheritagefoundation.org.
About The Nature Conservancy:
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated creating innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. When invited to collaborate, TNC works in partnership with Indigenous Peoples and local communities to strengthen their role in stewarding the lands and waters upon which all life depends. TNC believes a thriving future is possible only if communities are shaping conservation and development decisions. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, and providing food and water sustainably through a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. Learn more at nature.org/alaska or follow @nature_AK on twitter.
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories: 37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.