Alaska Native Heritage at Katmai National Park and Preserve

A woman sitting down with her hands folded in her lap.
Palakia Melgenak, born in the late 1870s in the remote village of Savonoski in Alaska, Pelagia grew up learning about hunting, gathering, navigating and guiding in the area around Katmai National Park and Preserve.

Photograph from "Mount Katmai, Alaska Eruption Tape Recording
Wilbur A. Davis of the University of Oregon, July-August 1961." NPS-AKSO Katmai park file

Residents of communities around Katmai National Park and Preserve have hunted, fished, and gathered berries and other materials from the land for many generations. Today people with historic ties to Katmai, mostly of Alutiq descent, live around southwest Alaska and beyond: many are actively involved in subsistence activities -- with salmon being one of the most important foods -- and participate in the park management process through Alaska Native corporate and non-profit organizations.

Prior to the 1912 Novarupta-Katmai volcanic eruption, there were four year-round villages and many other seasonally used camps in the area. Read accounts of those who saw the mountain explode in Witness: First Hand Accounts of the Largest Volcanic Eruption of the Twentieth Century. Following the eruption and with the heavy volcanic ash fall, the inhabitants left and resettled elsewhere on the Alaska Peninsula.

Despite having to relocate, one former Katmai resident named Pelagia Melgenak continued to live, teach, and share her culture and values including a spiritual reverence for the land.

Learn more about traditional subsistence practices in the area and how these activities have changed for many individuals—listen to interviews for Katmai Project Jukebox.

Early settlements within the park and preserve go back thousands of years, with one precontact home site revealed in the Story of a House. Archeological evidence in Amalik Bay shows that over 7,000 years ago, Amalik Bay was home to families dependent upon the natural resource wealth of the Katmai coast.

Visit the Katmai National Park and Preserve's website to learn more about Alaska Native heritage.

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    Last updated: January 16, 2024