"We are the people of Old Harbor, Alaska, or Nuniaq as it is called in the indigenous Alutiiq language."
The Native Village of Old Harbor is a federally recognized tribe and one of several villages on Kodiak Island, located in the Gulf of Alaska. We are located on the Southeast Coast of Kodiak Island, 70 air miles Southwest of the City of Kodiak and 322 air miles Southwest of Anchorage, Alaska.
The indigenous Sugpiaq Alutiiq peoples were the primary inhabitants of the Kodiak Archipelago. Archaeological evidence from Sitkalidak Island and areas surrounding Old Harbor identifies the presence of people for at least 7000 years.
The abundant marine environment surrounding Old Harbor supported a vibrant culture of marine hunters, fishermen, and artisans. Ethnological collections demonstrate artistry in carving, basket making, and clothing production as well as a rich heritage in song and dance.
In 1784, the arrival of the Russian Grigori Skelikov and his “Three Saints” flagship visited Old Harbor with armed Russian fur traders for the exploitation of fur bearing sea mammals marked the beginning of a series of substantial changes for the Alutiiq people.
With the Russian occupation, it also introduced the Orthodox Religion. Many Sugpiaq people adopted this religion as their own, and today the Three Saints Russian Orthodox Church is a major part of life in Old Harbor. Many believe that Old Harbor is the oldest Orthodox community in North America. Russians continued their occupation of the Kodiak Archipelago until the sale of claimed Russian territory to the United States in 1867.
Old Harbor practices its traditional Alutiiq culture and subsistence lifestyle. In the last two decades many of the Sugpiaq Alutiiq descent have been experiencing a resurgence of pride in their culture. Today, Old Harbor has an Alutiiq dance group called the Nuniaq Dancers of Old Harbor. A number of residents and former residents of Old Harbor are respected and accomplished artists. Through the efforts of the Alutiiq Museum, the native language is being taught to the younger children and this year we started a preschool that uses our native language taught by an elder.
The current population is 224 individuals of which more than 75% are Alaskan Natives. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the community. Today our village is a thriving community that was rebuilt with faith and pride.
We are a community that relies on the natural resources of our surrounding sea and land environment for our livelihood. The sea also provides us with our main means of transportation and access. It is important to note that Old Harbor can only be reached by marine or air transportation. There are no roads leading to Old Harbor. The Sven Haakanson Sr. Memorial Airport consists of a small, north-south 2,700-foot gravel strip that is not large enough to accommodate larger, freight cargo aircraft. Fortunately, our Tribal leaders have planned to extend the runway to 4,700 ft. in order to allow larger freight cargo planes to land. Plans for construction of this new runway will begin in the summer of 2012 thanks to the marines and the Innovative Readiness Training program.
The city of Old Harbor recently constructed a new boat harbor for the commercial and sport fishing fleet and subsistence use. The boat harbor renovation project is the replacement of our inner harbor facilities and the construction of other facilities to accommodate a growing local sport charter fleet, commercial fishing fleet which supplies one third ( 7 million out of 21 million pounds) of our fish to a local cannery in Alitak, and local subsistence hunting and gathering. There are approximately 20 commercial vessels, 10-15 sport charter vessels, 25-30 subsistence, and personal use vessels that use Old Harbor boat harbor during the year.
The start of a major construction of a new City Dock will begin early spring of 2011. The new dock will benefit the community of Old Harbor as a whole by providing adequate facilities for fuel and freight transport, ferry, and possible seafood processing and cruise ship moorage. Old Harbor is only accessible by air or water and the dock serves as the main point of entry for fuel, freight, supplies and goods for all community residents, businesses, organizations and the school.