Today, our shareholders’ lifestyles vary widely. Some live a traditional subsistence lifestyle, while others are skilled craftspeople, college graduates or business professionals. They all share at least one trait, however: a dedication to their common heritage. With the support of our shareholders, Chugach Alaska Corporation’s cultural resources department is actively working to identify and preserve the archeological resources of our region through site visits and careful documentation. Chugach Alaska Corporation works with Native tribes of the Chugach region to implement the provisions of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. We support the repatriation of our ancestors and Native cultural heritage.
Origin of the Name
Oral tradition records describe how the Native name “Chugach” came to be. This story was passed down Vice President of Cultural Resources John F.C. Johnson by the late John Klashinoff, who was born in the village of Nuchek, in Prince William Sound, in 1906.
John Klashinoff learned many stories from Johnson’s grandmother’s uncle, Chief Makari (Makarka) Chimovitski, who adopted and raised him and 10 other orphans at a new settlement called Makarka Point. In the early 1900s, an epidemic that swept across Alaska claimed Klashinoff’s parents and many others.
As he smoked his pipe and scratched his chin, Klashinoff was proud to share old stories so that the traditions and beliefs of the Chugach would not die, but would live on as it was meant to be. The story is told as follows.
For ages and ages Prince William Sound, as it was named by Captain James Cook, was covered by a solid sheet of glacier ice that extended over nearly all of the bays and mountains. One day Native hunters were kayaking along the outer shores of the Pacific Ocean, when a man cried out:
“Chu-ga, chu-ga” — “Hurry, hurry.”
“Let’s go see what that black thing is sticking out of the ice.”
So the hunters paddled closer and closer to see what it was. Within a short distance, the hunters could see mountaintops emerging out of the retreating ice. Thus these ocean travelers settled along the ice-free shores of the Sound.
As the seasons changed from year to year, the ice melted rapidly, exposing deep fjords and lagoons that were rich in sea life and provided good beaches to settle on. It was known that life thrived in the areas where the salt and fresh water met.
When the ice retreated, so did the animals. The Chugach people followed the ice and animals deep into the heart of Prince William Sound, where they remain to this very day.