Our History

Since 1903

Gulkana was originally established in 1903 as a telegraph station and today has an active and progressive Village Council. The village members moved to the current location of the village which was first established as a telegraph station by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1903. The current location is on the north side of the Gulkana River on higher ground. The community holds many modern amenities, including paved roads, street lights, community water and sewer, and Soaring Eagle Transit. GVC operates Soaring Eagle Transit, providing transportation region wide to all residents of the Copper River Basin. 

The history of Gulkana Village began when Chief Ewan and his family settled on the south side of the Gulkana River in the early 1900s. Around the same time The Valdez Eagle Trail, a pathway connecting Valdez and Eagle City, was constructed for miners traveling between cities. Gulkana became a stop along the Trail. The condition of the trail was so rough that federal assistance was requested to improve the road conditions. A temporary bridge across the Gulkana River was built in 1911.

A permanent bridge was built in 1912. The bridge failed in 1928 and was replaced by a larger bridge constructed in 1929. In 1943, a bridge was constructed downstream of the previous bridge by the Alaska Road Commission. Construction of the bridge bisected the village and its cemetery. The 1943 bridge made Gulkana unlivable as a cohesive village and unsafe during break up. Without the permission of the Gulkana Tribe, the Federal Townsite Trustee gave this land to the Alaska State Department of Transportation.

The GVC Elders worked tirelessly on ways to obtain ownership of their former village and cemetery and in 2020 the land was returned to Gulkana. They hope to regain ownership in the near future. The village members moved to the current location of the village which was first established as a telegraph station by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1903. The current location is on the north side of the Gulkana River on higher ground.

Gulkana Village Council (GVC) is a federally recognized tribe

Gulkana Village Council (GVC) is a federally recognized tribe and operates as a non-profit business with many programs to help improve the lives of the tribal members such as the Indian General Assistance Program (IGAP), Native American Lands Environmental Mitigation Program (NALEMP), Soaring Eagle Transit, Fire Fuels, Indian Reservation Roads (IRR), and Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA).

GVC currently operates its own Public Water Services through a water treatment facility constructed in 2013, using MIEX technology.

The GVC oversees and maintains independent village infrastructure assets, including water, sewer, roads, street lights and community wide security. Over the years, the GVC has worked to improve the quality of life for tribal members and village residents.

Gulkana Village Council provides both Tribal grants and programs. Gulkana Village Council received a grant through the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) for a new water plant which became operational in September 2013. The water plant is a public water system and is operated under Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) requirements. The new water plant provides drinking water which the residents had never had before. The plant has its own water budget, which is paid for through the water users and supplemented by GVC.

GVC has been receiving NALEMP grants for remediating tribal land that has hazardous materials and providing seasonal jobs for tribal members and residents. The Council also received a grant from AEA in 2011 for a Wood Boiler System which provides heat to the Tribal Buildings and has successfully operated the boiler system since its installment, resulting in a 40% reduction in heating oil costs and providing employment for a part-time winter position.


GVC’s Family Services program provides many community services, including youth outreach activities such as student field trips, sports tournaments, movie nights and a K-12 Summer Reading Program. The Family Services Program also promotes community involvement by sponsoring community events.

Gulkana Village Council also runs Soaring Eagle Transit (SET), a regional program in operation since 2009. SET provides reliable public transportation for the Copper River Basin, meeting the Basin’s transportation needs for healthcare, education, employment, recreation, and community activities. SET provides not only transportation but jobs to the region and logs an impressive 175,000 miles per year. SET employs three full-time drivers, one part-time on-call driver, a full-time dispatcher and a manager. Much needed Medicaid transportation is provided through their services which include a Monday-Friday route from Gakona to Copper Center with stops in between including Glennallen, and service to Anchorage on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Service to Valdez runs during the summer months for customers with a reservation three times a week. SET also provides call-out services within approximately a 50-mile radius from Gulkana.

To make their village even more self-sufficient, GVC invested in alternate energy sources. Since 2008, Gulkana Village Council has installed solar panels to reduce electricity costs for seven of their buildings, including the community hall, offices, clinic, and the water plant. Solar energy will help the tribe continue with their plan of greater self-sustainability and continue to work towards renewable energy opportunities.

In 1997, Gulkana on the Richardson Highway, became the first community on a major highway to ban the importation of alcohol under state law.

Governor Signs Historic Gulkana Village Agreement

June 10, 2020 (Anchorage, AK) – Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Gulkana Village Council and Ahtna Inc., returning the village of Gulkana’s traditional gravesite to the people of Gulkana after nearly eighty years. This monumental agreement follows decades of efforts to return the cemetery to the Gulkana Village.

Historical Articles of Gulkana Village