Kijik National Historic Landmark

aerial view looking down at a braided river delta where it flows into a large lake bound by tall, snow capped mountains.
The Kijik River, where it flows into Lake Clark

NPS Photo

The Kijik area -- which includes Kijik Lake and the portion of the Kijik River that flows between the lake and Lake Clark -- holds great cultural importance. It is a National Historic Landmark and an Archeological District, one of only three areas in Alaska with both of these designations. Kijik is also considered a "documented cultural landscape."

Kijik National Historic Landmark contains more than a dozen archeological sites, including a village abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century. The sites are affiliated with the inland Dena'ina Athabascan people, who continue to live in the Lake Clark area.

The word Kijik is an English language spelling of Qizjeh, which roughly translates to "where people gather" in Dena'ina.

Historic black and white photo of seven Alaska natives in front of a rough-hewn cabin.
Kijik residents in 1902. Left to right: four unidentified people, Chief Zackar and Mary Evanoff, his son Gillie. Mary (barely visible on end).

Photo courtesy of the Field Museum of Natural History, Chicago.

Kijik Village

Historical texts as old as 1818 mention Kijik village, but the first residents may have moved there decades earlier. The community contained many houses and, according to elders from the village of Nondalton, a Russian Orthodox church was built around 1889.

Kijik residents initially weathered a number of diseases introduced by outsiders, but following outbreaks of flu and measles between 1902 and 1909, families began to leave for Old Nondalton, Tanalian Point, or elsewhere. By 1909, residents had completely abandoned the village.

Evidence from other archeological sites in the Kijik Landmark indicates that Dena'ina people were in the Kijik area for many generations before Russian contact in the late 1700s. Scientists have tested and radio-carbon dated only a few sites in the area, leaving the duration of Dena'ina presence in the area a mystery.


Last updated: July 18, 2016

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