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History of Hoonah

The Huna Tlingit people have lived in the Southeast Alaska archipelago for many hundreds of years. They originally occupied the area now known as Glacier Bay, but were forced from their village more than two hundred years ago by advancing glaciers. In 1754, they permanently settled twenty miles to the south where they subsistence-harvested each summer. The new settlement was referred to as Gaawt'ak.aan, or "village by the cliff." Later, the name was changed to Xu.naa (Hoonah), "where the north wind doesn't blow." 

The Hoonah Indian Association was chartered in 1939 as a Federally Recognized Tribe. The clan is the basic social unit within the Tlingit society. Its membership is comprised of individuals who trace their kinship through the maternal line.

A partial timeline of modern Hoonah history is below:

  • 1754 - Huna Tlingit people established a permanent village in what is now present-day Hoonah.

  • 1880 - The Northwest Trading Company built the first store in Hoonah.

  • 1881 - The Presbyterian Home Mission and school was built.

  • 1887 - 450 to 500 people were wintering in the village.

  • 1901 - Hoonah post office was opened.

  • 1912 - The Hoonah Packing Co. built a large cannery north of town. The cannery was shut down in 1953 and is now a tourist attraction, Icy Strait Point. The Thompson Fish Company, now known as Hoonah Cold Storage, is still operating and freezes and ships salmon, crab, black cod and halibut.

  • 1944 - June 14, 1944: A disastrous fire destroyed much of the town. Homes filled with ancient, priceless objects of Tlingit culture were lost to the flames. The federal government helped to rebuild Hoonah by diverting World War II housing that was en route to Hawaii. These houses, located in the downtown area, are still called the "war homes."  

  • 1946 - Hoonah was incorporated as a First Class City.

  • 2004 - The first cruise ship arrived at Icy Strait Point. Presently, there are over 75 ships that dock annually at Icy Strait Point between the months of May - September.

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