Yakutat City and Borough, Alaska

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Yakutat City and Borough (pronounced /ˈjækətɑːt/) is a unified city-borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2000 census, the population was 808. The name is Tlingit, Yaakwdáat, meaning "the place where canoes rest," but it originally derives from an Eyak name diyaʼqudaʼt and was influenced by the Tlingit word yaakw “canoe, boat”. Besides the original city of Yakutat, described below, the only other significant population center in the borough is the community of Icy Bay, the site of the Icy Bay Airport, in the west-central part of the borough. Yakutat City is the largest city in the United States by area, and the eighth largest city in the world by area.

Contents

History

The original settlers in the Yakutat area are believed to have been Eyak-speaking people from the Copper River area. Tlingits migrated into the area and assimilated the Eyaks before the arrival of Europeans in Alaska. Yakutat was only one of a number of Tlingit and mixed Tlingit-Eyak settlements in the region, although all the others have been depopulated or abandoned.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, English, French, Spanish and Russian explorers came to the region. The Shelikhov-Golikov company, precursor of the Russian-American Company, built a fort in Yakutat in 1795 to facilitate trade in sea otter pelts. It was known as New Russia, Yakutat Colony, or Slavorossiya.[1] When the Russians cut off access to the fisheries nearby, a Tlingit war party attacked and destroyed the fort.

By 1886, after the Alaska Purchase by the United States, the black sand beaches in the area were being mined for gold. In 1889 the Swedish Free Mission Church opened a school and sawmill in the area. A cannery, another sawmill, a store and a railroad were constructed from 1903 by the Stimson Lumber Company. Many people moved to the current site of Yakutat to be closer to the Stimpson cannery, which operated through 1970. During World War II, the USAAF stationed a large aviation garrison near Yakutat and built a paved runway. The troops were withdrawn after the war but the runway is still in use as Yakutat Airport, which offers scheduled airline service.

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