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The History of Hoonah, Alaska

    Hoonah is a Tlingit community located on the northeast shore of Chichagof Island, 40 air miles west of Juneau. It lies at approximately 58 06' N Latitude, 135 26' W Longitude (Sec. 28, T043S, R061E, Copper River Meridian). The community is located in the Sitka Recording District. The area encompasses 1 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.

    It is the principal village for the Huna, a Tlingit tribe which has occupied the Glacier Bay/Icy Strait area since prehistory. Local legend tells of an original ancestral home in Glacier Bay that was destroyed by a glacial advance. Hoonah means "village by the cliff." The Northwest Trading Co. built the first store in Hoonah in 1880. In 1881, the Presbyterian Home Mission and school was built. By 1887, 450 to 500 people were wintering in the village. A post office was established in 1901. In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Co. built a large cannery one mile north of town. The Thompson Fish Company still operates today as Hoonah Cold Storage. In 1944, a fire destroyed much of the City and many priceless Tlingit cultural objects. The federal government assisted in rebuilding the community. The City of Hoonah was incorporated in 1946.

    For most of its history, fishing was the primary occupation of Hoonah residents, but in recent years, tourism has been significant. On July 8th, 2001, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for development of the first private cruise ship destination in the United States, to be called Icy Strait Point. Three years later, on May 23rd, 2004, the Celebrity Mercury made the inaugural call at the new facility. An average of 70 ships now visit annually.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development