What is the Kiana Village History Project?
This is a program that blends audio taped interviews with historic photographs,
drawings and maps to describe the early history of Kiana, Alaska, as told
by local Elders. Kiana is one of nine villages in the region with cultural
ties to the lands now encompassed by the Western Arctic National Parklands.
The information shared in this presentation is meant to inform and enlighten
local residents as well as visitors who may be new to the region served by
the Western Arctic National Parklands. For those visitors who may never have
an opportunity to set foot in a northwest Alaskan village, the program offers
glimpses of the people of Kiana, their history, and the setting of their
How did the Kiana Village History Project come about?
We are indebted to the late Dave Spirtes, former Superintendent
of the Western Arctic National Parklands, for initially conceiving
of the basis for this project and for dedicating ample funding
and staff time to ensure its success. Throughout his tenure
in northwest Alaska, Dave remained strongly committed to partnering
with local communities on projects of mutual interest, as well
as on efforts providing lasting benefits to the agency, area
residents and newcomers alike.
The Kiana Traditional Council (KTC) has demonstrated a strong
commitment to documenting aspects of their local community,
history, traditions and knowledge. Local communities are important
partners for the National Park Service (NPS), particularly in
this region where the history of Native Alaskan occupation and
traditional use can be traced back for centuries. The NPS recognized
a need to inform visitors not only about matters directly related
to park lands, but also to introduce them to the people who
call these national parks their homeland.
Who worked on the Kiana Village History Project?
The National Park Service partnered with the Kiana Traditional Council on
this project to introduce park visitors to area villages and to document
local history for community members. Eileen Devinney, Cultural Anthropologist
for the Western Arctic National Parklands, spearheaded the organization and
coordination of this project. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History
Program at Elmer E. Rasmuson Library was also a vital partner in the project,
providing technical expertise and personnel. Bill Burke, a research technician,
and Karen Brewster, a research associate, helped design this program, and
Ilana Kingsley, the web librarian, provided consultation on technical and
design issues. Transcriptions for this project were produced by Carol McCue of Heartland Court Reporting in Fairbanks.
The National Park Service is grateful for the support of the Kiana Traditional
Council and the Kiana Elders Council in making this partnership possible.
Local Project Coordinators for the Jukebox Project were Hazel Apok and Vera
Morris. Elders and residents who participated through interviews and the
sharing of photographs include: Roger Atoruk, Walter Cook, Tommie Sheldon,
Jr., Henry Jackson, Leo Jackson, Ruth Sandvik, Frank Gooden, Thomas Jackson,
Martin Smith, Percy Jackson, and Lorenz Schuerch, Jr.
Thank you to Claudia Sampson, NANA Resource Specialist (for working with the Elders) and Mike Atoruk (for translation and transliteration assistance).
It is hoped that hunters and recreational users may find background information
helpful for trip planning and perhaps encourage them to set aside time to
experience Kiana during their journey down the Kobuk River. Through this
introduction to the people of Kiana and their community, visitors may gain
a greater appreciation of the rich heritage of the Inupiat people of the
region and their enduring connections to the lands set aside as National
Parks and Preserves in northwest Alaska.