The History of Kodiak

Kodiak is located near the eastern tip of Kodiak Island in the Gulf of Alaska. Kodiak Island, "the emerald isle," is the largest island in Alaska, and is second only to Hawaii in the U.S. Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge encompasses nearly 1.9 million acres on Kodiak and Afognak Islands. It is 252 air miles south of Anchorage, a one-hour flight, and is a 3-hour flight from Seattle. It lies at approximately 57 47' N Latitude, 152 24' W Longitude (Sec. 32, T027S, R019W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Kodiak Recording District. The area encompasses 3 sq. miles of land and 1 sq. miles of water.

The Island has been inhabited for the past 8,000 years. The first non-Native contacts were in 1763, by the Russian Stephen Glotov, and in 1792 by Alexander Baranov, a Russian fur trapper. Sea otter pelts were the primary incentive for Russian exploration, and a settlement was established at Chiniak Bay, the site of present-day Kodiak. At that time, there were over 6,500 Sugpiaqs (Koniags) in the area and the Island was called "Kikhtak." It later was known as "Kadiak," the Inuit word for island. Kodiak became the first capital of Russian Alaska, and Russian colonization had a devastating effect on the local Native population. By the time Alaska became a U.S. Territory in 1867, the Koniag region Eskimos had almost disappeared as a viable culture. Alutiiq (Russian-Aleut) is the present-day Native language. Sea otter fur harvesting was the major commercial enterprise, and eventually led to the near extinction of the species. However, in 1882 a fish cannery opened at the Karluk spit. This sparked the development of commercial fishing in the area.

The City of Kodiak was incorporated in 1940. During the Aleutian Campaign of World War II, the Navy and the Army built bases on the Island. Fort Abercrombie was constructed in 1939, and later became the first secret radar installation in Alaska. Development continued, and the 1960s brought growth in commercial fisheries and fish processing. The 1964 earthquake and subsequent tidal wave virtually leveled downtown Kodiak. The fishing fleet, processing plant, canneries, and 158 homes were destroyed - $30 million in damage. The infrastructure was rebuilt, and by 1968, Kodiak had become the largest fishing port in the U.S., in terms of dollar value. The Magnusson Act in 1976 extended the U.S. jurisdiction of marine resources to 200 miles offshore, which reduced competition from the foreign fleet, and over time, allowed Kodiak to develop a groundfish processing industry.

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