Tanana, Alaska

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Not to be confused with Tanaina, Alaska.
Hohudodetlaatl Denh
Postcard: Front Street, Tanana, 1910
Postcard: Front Street, Tanana, 1910
Tanana is located in Alaska
Location in Alaska
Coordinates: 65°10′14″N 152°4′33″W / 65.17056°N 152.07583°W / 65.17056; -152.07583Coordinates: 65°10′14″N 152°4′33″W / 65.17056°N 152.07583°W / 65.17056; -152.07583
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Yukon-Koyukuk
Incorporated June 7, 1961[1]
 • Mayor Donna Folger[2]
 • Total 15.6 sq mi (40.3 km2)
 • Land 11.6 sq mi (29.9 km2)
 • Water 4.0 sq mi (10.4 km2)
Elevation 207 ft (63 m)
Population (2007)[3]
 • Total 275
 • Density 26.6/sq mi (10.3/km2)
Time zone Alaska (AKST) (UTC-9)
 • Summer (DST) AKDT (UTC-8)
ZIP code 99777
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-75160

Tanana /ˈtænənɑː/ (Hohudodetlaatl Denh in Koyukon) is a city in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area in the U.S. state of Alaska. At the 2000 census the population was 308. It was formerly known as Clachotin, adopted by Canadian French.

Jules Jetté (1864–1927),[4] a Jesuit missionary who worked in the area and documented the language, recorded the Koyukon Athabascan name for the village as Hohudodetlaatl Denh, literally, ‘where the area has been chopped’.[5] Several residents are chronicled in the 2012 Discovery Channel TV series Yukon Men. Almost 80% of the town's population are Native Americans, traditionally [Koyukon (Denaakk'e)] speakers of the large Athabaskan (Dené) language family. [6]


Arrival of the mail, 1920

Prior to arrival of non-indigenous explorers and traders in the early 1860s, the point of land at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers (Nuchalawoyyet, spelled differently in historic accounts) was a traditional meeting and trading place used by members of several indigenous groups. There were as many as five different Athabascan languages spoken in the area in 1868 when the French-Canadian François Xavier Mercier established the first (fur) trading post in the area. Noukelakayet Station, later known as Fort Adams, was located about 15 miles downstream from the mouth of the Tanana River on the north bank of the Yukon.[7]

Subsequently, an Anglican mission and several other trading posts were established nearby. In 1898 the U.S. Army, under the leadership of Capt. P.H. Ray, founded Ft. Gibbon at the present location of Tanana. Ft. Gibbon's purpose was to oversee shipping and trading, maintain civil order, and install and take care of telegraph lines connecting to Nome and to Tanana Crossing, on the way to Valdez. All other Euro-American activities in the area near the Tanana-Yukon confluence moved upriver to accommodate Ft. Gibbon and the increased steamboat traffic caused by gold seekers. St. James Church moved to the present site of Tanana to serve the Euro-American population, and the Mission of Our Savior was constructed at the bottom of a hill opposite the confluence. The mission site became a center of activity for indigenous people in the area. Ft. Gibbon closed in 1923, but the town and mission remained.

In the 1930s a regional hospital was built in Tanana, and the Native Village of Tanana was officially chartered by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. The hospital served people throughout most of the rural northern regions of Alaska until 1982. During World War II Tanana's airfield was one of the stops for aircraft en route to Russia as part of the Lend-Lease program. Postwar, a White Alice communications site was built on a hill nine miles behind Tanana, as a part of the Cold War Era's Distant Early Warning system (DEW-Line). Also during the 1950s the mission closed and the indigenous families still living at the mission site moved down to the main town.[8][9][10][11]

2014 killings of Alaska State Troopers[edit]

On May 1, 2014, two officers of the Alaska State Troopers were killed in Tanana after responding to a report of a resident brandishing a gun in an altercation over the private sale of a $150 couch.[12] The Fairbanks-based troopers, Sgt. Patrick Johnson and Trooper Gabriel Rich, had been featured in the National Geographic Channel program Alaska State Troopers.[13] 19 year old Tanana resident Nathanial Lee Kangas was charged with two counts of first-degree murder and a single count of third-degree assault. Kangas allegedly shot and killed the officers as they attempted to arrest his father, Arvin Kangas, at the family's home.[14] Arvin Kangas, 58, was charged with assault for pointing a shotgun at the local Public Safety Officer during the incident that prompted the troopers' investigation.[15]

On May 5, the chairman of the Tanana Tribal Council issued a statement expressing the council's shock and grief and offering condolences to the families of the officers, stating, "We want them to know that this was the action of individuals and that this was not, and is not, Tanana."[16] Later that week, the tribal council voted unanimously to ban the elder Kangas and another resident from the community for their indirect roles in the deaths of the officers.[17]

Geography and Climate[edit]

Tanana is located at the confluence of the tributary Tanana and the Yukon River 65°10′14″N 152°4′33″W / 65.17056°N 152.07583°W / 65.17056; -152.07583 (65.170544, -152.075883).[18]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.6 square miles (40 km2), of which 11.6 square miles (30 km2) of it is land and 4.0 square miles (10 km2) of it (25.80%) is water.

Tanana is about 130 miles (210 km) west of Fairbanks.[19]

Climate data for Tanana
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) −18.3
Average low °C (°F) −27.3
Precipitation mm (inches) 11
Source: http://www.usclimatedata.com/climate/tanana/alaska/united-states/usak0238/2014/1


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 186
1910 398 114.0%
1920 213 −46.5%
1930 185 −13.1%
1940 170 −8.1%
1950 228 34.1%
1960 349 53.1%
1970 406 16.3%
1980 388 −4.4%
1990 345 −11.1%
2000 308 −10.7%
2010 246 −20.1%

As of the census[21] of 2000, there were 308 people, 121 households, and 68 families residing in the city. The population density was 26.6 people per square mile (10.3/km²). There were 166 housing units at an average density of 14.4 per square mile (5.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 79.87% Native American, 17.86% White, and 2.27% from two or more races. 0.65% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 121 households out of which 41.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 26.4% were married couples living together, 20.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 43.0% were non-families. 37.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.43.

In the city the population was spread out with 34.7% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 28.2% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 8.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 131.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 128.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,750, and the median income for a family was $34,028. Males had a median income of $30,781 versus $23,500 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,077. About 16.4% of families and 23.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.0% of those under the age of 18 and none of those 65 or over.


The Tanana City School District serves area residents.

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "Directory of Borough and City Officials 1974". Alaska Local Government (Juneau: Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs) XIII (2): 79. January 1974. 
  2. ^ "Community: Tanana". Community Database Online. Juneau: Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, Division of Community and Regional Affairs. 2013. Retrieved June 4, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Population for Incorporated Places in Alaska". United States Census Bureau. 2008-07-10. Retrieved 2008-07-14. 
  4. ^ "Biography – JETTÉ, JULES – Volume XV (1921-1930)". Dictionary of Canadian Biography. University of Toronto/Université Laval. 2005. Retrieved 2014-12-30. 
  5. ^ Jetté, Jules. 1910. On the Geographical Names of the Ten'a, Microfilm AM 34:688-701. Jesuit Oregon Province Archives, Foley Library, Gonzaga University.
  6. ^ Jones, Eliza, Jules Jette and James Kari. Koyukon Athabascan Dictionary. University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Language Center, April, 2000:1118.
  7. ^ Merçier, François Xavier. Recollections of the Youkon: Memoires from the Years 1868-1885. Alaska Historical Studies in History No. 188. Linda Finn Yarborough, Anchorage, Alaska, 1986: 102.
  8. ^ Alaska Department of Commerce. Alaska Community Database Community Information Summaries. Website, 2011. Home page at http://www.commerce.state.ak.us/dca/commdb/CF_COMDB.htm
  9. ^ Bureau of Indian Affairs, United States Department of the Interior. Corporate Charter of the Native Village of Tanana, approved May 15, 1939; printed by U.S. Government Printing Office 1950. Retrieved from http://thorpe.ou.edu/IRA/tanachrtr.htmlon May 4, 2008.
  10. ^ Gaede-Penner, Naomi. Honoring Our Sacred Healing Place: Tanana, Alaska: Development, History, Community and Cultural Significance of the Tanana Hospital Complex. Alaska Area Native Health Service, Anchorage, AK, 2012: 35 pages.
  11. ^ Huntington, Sidney, as told to Jim Rearden. Shadows on the Koyukuk. Alaska Northwest Books, Anchorage, AK, 1993: pp. 165-167
  12. ^ "Pair of state troopers shot, killed in Tanana; local man arrested after standoff". Alaska Dispatch. 5/2/2014. Retrieved 5/2/2014.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  13. ^ "Officers from 'Alaska State Troopers' killed". CNN. 5/2/2014. Retrieved 5/2/2014.  Check date values in: |date=, |accessdate= (help)
  14. ^ "Alaska man, 19, charged with shooting 2 state troopers". Fox News. 5/4/2014. Retrieved 2014-05-08.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. ^ "Father, son arrested in connection with deaths of 2 Alaska State Troopers". Fairbanks News-Miner. 2014-05-05. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  16. ^ "Tanana grieves for troopers". Fairbanks News-Miner. 2014-05-05. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  17. ^ "Tanana leaders ask two men to leave the community for roles in killing of state troopers". Fairbanks News-Miner. 2014-05-08. Retrieved 2014-05-08. 
  18. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  19. ^ "Man arrested in deaths of Alaska State Troopers." AOL News. May 2, 2014. Retrieved on May 4, 2014.
  20. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2014-01-05. 
  21. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  22. ^ "Email Scam," Alaska Federation of Natives