Old Harbor, Kodiak Island

Old Harbor, Kodiak Island

by | Oct 13, 2018

Old Harbor is one of six Alutiiq villages on Kodiak Island, Alaska, and is located on the southeast side of the island, about 40 air miles (65 km) southwest of the city of Kodiak.

The community of Old Harbor has its origins in the era of Russian conquest. On August 14, 1784, Grigory Shelikhov with 130 Russian fur traders massacred several hundred Qik’rtarmiut Sugpiat tribe of Alutiiq men, women, and children at Refuge Rock, a tiny sea stack island off the eastern coast of Sitkalidak Island. In 1795, the first Russian Orthodox priests arrived and established a church at Three Saints Bay. The Russian colony was intended to be a permanent settlement, but the site was poorly chosen because the hillside above the shore area was too steep to build on, and the shore area was too small for a substantial settlement. In 1791, Alexander Baranov, the manager of the Russian-American Company, began moving the Three Saints Bay settlement to the site of present-day Kodiak. The Three Saints Bay settlement or the “old harbor” continued to be occupied as a station of lesser importance until roughly the mid-19th century, at which time it was relocated about 10 miles (16 km) up the coast to the site of the present-day community.

In 1920, a whaling station was established at Port Hobron, on Sitkalidak Island across from the village of Old Harbor, employing some residents until 1936 when it was abandoned. In 1925, the first American school was established in Old Harbor, previous to that a system of church elders provided education for young people wanting to learn to read and write in both Slavonic and Alutiiq. In 1964, the Good Friday earthquake and resulting tsunami destroyed the community, only two homes and the church remained standing. The community was rebuilt in the same location. In 1971, the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act was passed by the U.S. Congress and in 1973 the Old Harbor Native Corporation was formed. Today, many Old Harbor residents still live a traditional subsistence lifestyle, smoking, drying and pickling fish, harvesting berries, gathering seagull eggs, kelp, shellfish, sea urchins and octopus, and hunting for ducks, ptarmigan, goats, deer, seals, and sea lions. Read more here and here. See a short video on the earthquake at Old Harbor here. Explore more of Old Harbor here:

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