Bettles / Evansville

Aerial view of Bettles, Evansville and the Koyukuk River in the summer. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Aerial view of Bettles, Evansville and the Koyukuk River in the summer. Courtesy of the National Park Service.

Bettles is located about 180 air miles northwest of Fairbanks, adjacent to Evansville, on the Koyukuk River. Currently, residents of Bettles are both Native and non-Native. "Old Bettles," located six miles from the present community, was the northern end of the Koyukuk River barge line, and was named for Gordon Bettles, who ran a trading post there during the 1899 Gold Rush. Today, the new site of Bettles is also known as Bettles Field, because of the runway built there in the mid-1940s which the U.S. Navy used during their northern oil exploration program.

Elders from Bettles, Evansville, Allakaket and Alatna at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, November 12, 2009.

Elders from Bettles, Evansville, Allakaket and Alatna at the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, November 12, 2009.

Evansville was named for Wilford Evans, Sr., who owned a trading post and river barge business in Allakaket, and opened a sawmill at the present site of Evansville. He also built the Bettles Lodge and General Store. Bettles is a jumping off point for exploring the Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve. Bettles Lodge remains a popular place to stay or have a meal, and the National Park Service operates a visitor center in the community. In 2011, it was estimated that Bettles’ year-round population was 14 and Evansville’s was 8.

Debbie Nictune, Nancy Ambrose, Lulu James and Florence Nictune holding dolls made in Evansville at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, November 12, 2009.

Debbie Nictune, Nancy Ambrose, Lulu James and Florence Nictune holding dolls made in Evansville at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, November 12, 2009.

Elders from Bettles/Evansville visited the University of Alaska Fairbanks on November 10-14, 2009 to look at collections and decide what they most wanted to have accessible online. Jean Stevens, Pauline Demientieff, Florence Nictune, Debbie Nictune, Wyoma and Sonya Knight, Lula James, and Nancy Ambrose looked at photos in the Hazel Lindberg, Betha Moses, and Tishu Ulen Collections in the Alaska and Polar Regions Archives and Collections, Elmer E. Rasmuson Library. They watched film of life in Old Bettles and Evansville, and of the lodge.

Wyoma and Sonya Knight take a closer look at stone artifacts from the Bettles area at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, November 12, 2009.

Wyoma and Sonya Knight take a closer look at stone artifacts from the Bettles area at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, November 12, 2009.

They visited the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center to see their interpretive displays. They looked at stone artifacts, fur clothing and dolls at the University of Alaska Museum of the North, and reviewed Native language material at the Alaska Native Language Archive. Several of these collections are now available online and accessible through this portal.

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