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Alaska begins process of returning land back to Alaska Native village

Dec 6, 2018

The state of Alaska has begun the process of giving about 20 acres of land the state developed without permission back to Gulkana, a village about 155 miles northeast of Anchorage, near Glennallen.

The Village of Gulkana, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Gulkana Village Council)

“Saturday was a big day for Gulkana, they got their land back," said Nick Jackson, Gulkana Village Council vice president.

According to a news release from his office, then-Gov. Bill Walker and the village formally agreed to the process Saturday.

The move came three days before Walker’s successor, Mike Dunleavy, was sworn into office. Jackson wasn’t sure how the new administration will affect the agreement, but hoped it would be honored.

According to the release, in 1943 the Alaska Road Commission built a bridge across Gulkana River, splitting the village in half. Jackson says the village was forced to relocate across the river.

When the bridge project was finished, Jackson says the land was supposed to be re-conveyed back to the village. But that never happened.

"Ever since then, back in 1972, we started trying to get it back,” Jackson said. “That's what we've been working with the administration all the way to Saturday. Finally we convinced them.”

Currently a state parking lot and camping area sit upon Gulkana’s former village site and about 100 graves. Jackson says the agreement creates a 30-day comment period before a public hearing will be convened.