This video was produced in partnership between Gulkana Village Council and Ahtna, Incorporated.
After almost 50 years, the Gulkana Village Council has reached a resolution with the State of Alaska on the return of their former village lands and traditional burial grounds.
The lands were developed nearly 80 years ago without permission of the Ahtna people. In 1943, the Alaska Road Commission bisected what was a thriving village on the Gulkana River in order to realign the highway and build a new bridge which came within feet of the village cemetery. Land that the Ahtna people had occupied for centuries was uninhabitable, and families had no choice but to pick up the belongings they could carry and resettle across the Gulkana River.
In 1971, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) federal trustee deeded Gulkana’s former village lands to the State of Alaska, once again without the village’s permission. For almost 50 years, Gulkana has worked with each administration in an effort to have the land that was taken returned to the village. Over many decades, people have trespassed through the village’s sacred burial grounds to gain access to the river, thereby desecrating grave sites.
“We would like to thank Governor Dunleavy for traveling to the village to be with us today to take care of this long overdue land issue. We have been waiting for this day for the last 40 plus years. Today we are thankful to be signing this deed to get the land back. Some of the Elders and loved ones that pushed us to get this land back are no longer here with us today. We knew it was their drive that kept us going, to keep fighting to get back what was rightfully ours to begin with,” said Eileen L. Ewan, Gulkana Village Council President.