Alaska Native Heritage at Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

A group photograph of participants of Qu'k Taz'un Culture Camp
Participants of the first Quk' Taz'un Outdoor Leadership Camp.

Lake Clark is Dena'ina ełnena (land).

The Dena’ina Athabascan people have lived in the Lake Clark region for thousands of years. Before this area was designated as part of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, it was named Qizhjeh Vena meaning 'a place where people gather lake' in the Dena’ina language. The name Qizhjeh Vena represents the history of place and generational connection of this area's first people. People migrated to the Lake Clark region for many reasons, including an abundance of salmon, caribou, moose, and edible plants. The energy of this place continues to influence the language, stories, songs, dance, ceremony and deeply held values like respect and never taking more than you need. These values align with the mission of the National Park Service to both preserve the past and protect the land for future generations.

The Dena’ina people remain connected to their ancestral lands. Many of the people whose ancestors lived in Qizhjeh continue to live in villages within and around the park. The resilliency of the Dena'ina people is shown in how they have adapted to extreme changes in land ownership, religion, education, illness, generational trauma and technologies.

"Our culture has all the tool passed on from our ancestors: we are meteorologists, diplomats, artists, architects, linguists, botanists, biologists, midwives, and astronomers. The essence of being Native is ingenuity and creativity."
—Dena'ina Steering Committee quote from "Dena'ina Ełnena, A Celebration," page. 32.

A female elder stands in front of a cardboard sign that says "Dena'ina Alphabet"
A Respected Elder teaches the Dena'ina alphabet on the shore of Qizhjeh Vena (Lake Clark.)

In Dena'ina, there is no word for subsistence. The phrase Ye’uh qach’dalts’iyi means 'what we live on from the outdoors.' This partly refers to harvesting animals, plants, and fish which has been passed down through time. It also refers to the many other ways Dena’ina people interact with their landscape. In Dena’ina traditions, all things are connected. Ye’uh qach’dalts’iyi encompasses spirituality, language, history, traditions, and the foundation of the Dena’ina people.

Watch the video Quk' Taz'un, 'The Sun Is Rising' to follow along as students engage with culture through language, history, wellness, and traditional crafts.

See the articles below to learn more about Dena’ina history, stories and places.

Visit the park website at: Lake Clark National Park & Preserve (U.S. National Park Service) (

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    Last updated: November 1, 2021