Villages(old version of webpage)


 Beaver: Beaver is located on the north bank of the Yukon River, approximately 60 miles southwest of Fort Yukon and 110 miles north of Fairbanks. The 2009 estimate population was 58 people living in Beaver, with 95 percent of the population being Native, predominantly mixed Gwitchin/Koyukon Athabascan Indian and Inupiat Eskimo. Subsistence is an important source of food items, and almost all Beaver residents are involved in subsistence activities. Moose, salmon, freshwater fish, bear, and waterfowl supply meat. Gardening and berry picking are also popular activities. Most wage employment is at the school, post office, clinic, and village council. Seasonal wages are earned through Bureau of Land Management (BLM) fire fighting, construction jobs, trapping, producing handicrafts, or selling cut firewood.

Gold discoveries in the Chandalar region in 1907 led to the founding of Beaver. It was established as the Yukon River terminus for miners heading north to the gold fields. The Alaska Road Commission built a trail from Beaver north to Caro on the Chandalar River in approximately 1907. In 1910, Thomas Carter and H.E. Ashelby established a store at Beaver, and three freight companies operated on the trail, commonly known as Government Road. In 1911, about the time the gold rush was over, Frank Yasuda, a Japanese who had traded at Point Barrow and prospected in the Brooks Range, arrived with a group of Eskimos and became a partner in the trading post. They served the remaining mines in the region, supplied riverboats with firewood, and traded with Eskimo and Indian fur trappers. A post office was established in 1913, and a second trading post opened in the early 1920s. The first Beaver school opened in 1928, and an airstrip was built in the 1930s. Beaver’s population remained stable from 1950 through the 1970s. In 1974, the village council purchased the local store and set it up as a cooperative, with villagers holding shares of stock. 


 Birch Creek: The village is located along Birch Creek, approximately 26 miles southwest of Fort Yukon. According to the 2009 estimated poplulation was 31 people live in Birch Creek, a 100 percent Native community. Local residents are Dendu Gwich'in Athabascans and are active in subsistence activities. Birch Creek’s economy depends heavily on subsistence. Salmon, whitefish, moose, black bear, waterfowl, and berries provide most food sources. Wage income opportunities are extremely limited. BLM fire fighting, construction, the school, and the village council provide employment. The community is conducting planning activities to expand the economy to include tourism and merchandising.

The Dendu Gwich'in traditionally occupied much of the Yukon Flats south of the Yukon River, including portions of the Crazy and White mountains. Semi-permanent camps existed near the present village. The first written reference to a settlement in the Birch Creek area was in 1862 by a Fort Yukon clergyman who visited a camp established to provide fish for the Hudson's Bay Company in Ft. Yukon. Some anthropologists believe that this band was annihilated by scarlet fever in the 1880s, but there are ethnographic accounts of the use of this area from 1867 onward. Birch Creek Jimmy was the founder of Birch Creek and was Great Chief among the chiefs in his days. He built a cabin in 1898 at the site of the Hudson’s Bay fish camp. Several years later, he was joined by other extended family members. In approximately 1916, the group moved three miles upstream to the site of the present village. It was used as a seasonal base for harvest activities until the early 1950s, when the establishment of a school encouraged village residents to adopt a more settled way of life. The first airstrip was constructed in 1973. 


 Chalkyitsik: Chalkyitsik is located on the Black River about 50 miles east of Fort Yukon. The area encompasses 8.7 sq. miles of land and 0.3 sq. miles of water. The 2009 poplulation estmated was 60 people living in Chalkyitsik, with 98 percent being Native. Chalkyitsik is a traditional Gwich'in Athabascan village with a subsistence lifestyle. Wage opportunities are limited and primarily part-time with the school district, village council, clinic, or state and federal agencies. Seasonal work is found fire firefighting for the BLM, making sleds and snowshoes, trapping, and handicrafts. Subsistence plays an important role in the village economy. Moose, caribou, sheep, salmon, and whitefish provide a relatively stable source of food.

Chalkyitsik means “fish-hooking place” and has traditionally been an important seasonal fishing site for the Gwich'in. Archaeological excavations in the area reveal use and occupancy of the region as early as 10,000 BCE. Village elders remember a highly mobile way of life: living at the headwaters of the Black River from autumn to spring and then floating downriver to fish in summer. Early explorers of the region refer briefly to the Black River Gwich'in Natives. Archdeacon MacDonald encountered them on the Black and Porcupine Rivers, as well as trading and socializing in Fort Yukon and Rampart, on a number of occasions from 1863 to 1868. Near the turn of the century, the Black River band began to settle in Salmon Village, about 70 miles upriver from the present site. The first permanent structure was built there by William Salmon, a Canadian Indian who married a Black River woman. In the late 1930s, a boat bound for Salmon Village with construction materials for a school had to unload at Chalkyitsik because of low water. The site was used as a seasonal fishing camp, and four cabins existed at that time. The decision was made to build the school there, and the Black River people began to settle around the school. By 1969, there were 26 houses, a store, two churches, and a community hall in Chalkyitsik.

Circle: Circle is located on the south bank of the Yukon River at the edge of the Yukon Flats, 160 miles northeast of Fairbanks. It is at the eastern end of the Steese Highway. The area encompasses 107.7 sq. miles of land and 0.5 sq. miles of water. The 2009 population of Circle was estimated to be 99 people, of which 85 percent are Native, predominantly Athabascan. The Circle Civic Community Association was formed in 1967. It cooperates with the traditional council in maintaining the sign area and public boat launch and in preserving historic sites. Recreation attracts visitors to Circle seasonally. Some persons live in the community only during summer months. Major employers include the school, clinic, village corporation, trading post, and post office. A 25-room hotel is under construction. Two residents hold commercial fishing permits. Almost all residents are involved in subsistence. Salmon, freshwater fish, moose, and bear are the major sources of meat. Trapping and the making of handicrafts contribute to family incomes.

Circle (also known as Circle City) was established in 1893 as a supply point for goods shipped up the Yukon River and then overland to the gold mining camps. Early miners believed the town was located on the Arctic Circle and named it Circle. By 1896, before the Klondike gold rush, Circle was the largest mining town on the Yukon, with a population of 700. It boasted an Alaska Commercial Company store, eight or ten dance halls, an opera house, a library, a school, a hospital, and an Episcopal church. It had its own newspaper, the Yukon Press, and a number of residential U.S. government officials, including a commissioner, marshal, customs inspector, tax collector, and postmaster. The town was virtually emptied after gold discoveries in the Klondike (1897) and Nome (1899). A few hardy miners stayed on in the Birch Creek area, and Circle became a small, stable community that supplied miners working the nearby Mastodon, Mammoth, Deadwood, and Circle creeks. Mining activity continues to this day.

Fort Yukon: Fort Yukon is located at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers, about 145 air miles northeast of Fairbanks. The area encompasses 7.0 sq. miles of land and 0.4 sq. miles of water. The 2000 Census reports 585 people residing in Fort Yukon, of whom 89 percent are Native. Most Fort Yukon residents are descendants of the Yukon Flats, Chandalar River, Birch Creek, Black River, and Porcupine River Gwich'in Athabascan tribes. Subsistence is an important component of the local culture. City, state, and federal agencies and the Native corporation are the primary employers in Fort Yukon. The school district is the largest employer. Winter tourism is becoming increasingly popular—Fort Yukon experiences spectacular shows of northern lights. The BLM operates an emergency fire-fighting base at the airport. Trapping and Native handicrafts also provide income. Residents rely on subsistence foods—salmon, whitefish, moose, bear, caribou, and waterfowl provide most meat sources.

Fort Yukon was founded in 1847 by Alexander Murray as a Canadian outpost in Russian territory. It became an important trade center for the Gwich'in Indians, who inhabited the vast lowlands of the Yukon Flats and River valleys. The Hudson Bay Company, a British trading company, operated at Fort Yukon from 1846 until 1869. In 1862, a mission school was established. Alaska was purchased from Russia by the United States in 1867, and two years later it was determined that Fort Yukon was on American soil. Moses Mercier, a trader with the Alaska Commercial Company, took over operation of the Fort Yukon Trading Post. A post office was established in 1898. The fur trade of the 1800s, the whaling boom on the Arctic coast (1889–1904), and the Klondike gold rush spurred economic activity and provided some economic opportunities for the Natives. However, major epidemics of introduced diseases struck the Fort Yukon population from the 1860s until the 1920s. In 1949, a flood damaged or destroyed many homes in Fort Yukon. Fort Yukon incorporated as a city in 1959.

Stevens Village: Stevens Village is located on the north bank of the Yukon River, 17 miles upstream of the Dalton Highway bridge crossing and 90 air miles northwest of Fairbanks. The area encompasses 10.4 sq. miles of land and 0.6 sq. miles of water. The 2009 estimate recorded 64 people in Stevens Village, of whom 95 percent are Native. The Native population is predominantly Koyukon Athabascans, who depend heavily upon subsistence activities. Salmon, whitefish, moose, bear, waterfowl, and small game are the primary sources of meat. Gardening and berry picking are also popular. There is some seasonal and part-time employment at the school, clinic, village council, stores, BLM fire-fighting, and construction work.

The original settlement, called Dinyea (meaning “mouth of the canyon”), was founded by three Athabascan Indian brothers from the Koyukon region: Old Jacob, Gochonayeeya, and Old Steven. The village was named for Old Steven when he was elected chief in 1902. During the gold rush, residents cut wood for mining operations and to fuel steamboats plying the Yukon River. A trading post was established in the early 1900s. The first school opened in 1907, a post office began operations in 1936, and scheduled air service was initiated in 1939.

Venetie: Venetie is located on the north side of the Chandalar River, 45 miles northwest of Fort Yukon. The area encompasses 20.8 sq. miles of land. The 2009 estimated reported 185 people living in Venetie, of whom 97 percent are Native. Venetie comprising primarily descendants of the Neets'ai Gwich'in and, to a lesser extent, the Gwichyaa and Dihaii Gwich'in. The village council is combined with that of Arctic Village. Subsistence activities are an important part of the local culture. Salmon, whitefish, moose, caribou, bear, waterfowl, and small game provide meat sources. Most employment is through the school, clinic, post office, store, and village council. The National Guard has used Venetie as a cold weather survival training school. BLM employs residents as fire fighters seasonally. The village is interested in tourism promotion and in developing a small mill to process local lumber for housing and other projects. Cabins manufactured from local logs could house visitors, developing arts and crafts activities, cultural activities, and a museum.

Known to early explorers as Old Robert’s Village or Chandalar Village, Venetie was founded in 1895 by a man named Old Robert who chose Venetie because of its plentiful fish and game. In 1899, the U.S. Geological Survey noted about 50 Natives living on the Chandalar River, some in small settlements of cabins about seven miles above the mouth of the river, but most in the mountainous part of the country beyond the Yukon Flats. He noted that the Natives spent only the coldest winter months in cabins and the remainder of the year traveling for various food sources. In 1905, Venetie was a settlement of a half a dozen cabins and 25 or 30 residents. The gold rush to the Chandalar region in 1906–1907 brought a large number of miners. A mining camp of nearly 40 cabins and attendant services was established at Caro upriver from Venetie, and another store was located near the mouth of the East Fork. By 1910, the Chandalar was largely played out, and Caro almost completely abandoned. In 1943, the Venetie Indian Reservation was established, through the combined efforts of the residents of Venetie, Arctic Village, Christian Village, and Robert’s Fish Camp, who worked together to protect their land for subsistence use. At about this same time, a school was established at Venetie, encouraging additional families to settle in the village. Eventually an airstrip, a post office, and a store were built. During the 1950s and ’60s, the use of seasonal camps declined, but the advent of the snowmachine enabled Venetie residents to renew use of areas that had traditionally been occupied seasonally. When the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed in 1971, Venetie and Arctic Village opted for title to the 1.8 million acres of land in the former reservation, which they own as tenants in common through the Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government.