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The Chenega Story

WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
The story of the Chenega people is one of tenacity and endurance in the face of astounding hardship. The people of the Chenega Tribe have lived in Prince William Sound for some 10,000 years, fishing the waters and harvesting the abundance of their land. They are part of the Alutiiq (ah-loo-tik) tribal family. The native language of the Chenega people is a dialect of Alutiiq, called Suqcestun (sooks-toon)

The Village of Chenega

A CULTURE ROOTED IN HISTORY
For centuries, a village on the southern tip of Chenega Island was home to the Chenega people. The word Chenega means “Beneath the Mountain.” The rich waters of Prince William Sound provided well, but also brought many changes. In the 1700s, Russian trappers and explorers found their way to Chenega and first introduced their Christian Orthodox religious practices which were eventually adopted by the Chenega people.

RESILIENCE IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY
On Good Friday, March 27, 1964, the village of Chenega was destroyed by a tsunami created by a massive 9.2 magnitude earthquake. The loss of life was catastrophic. In this single event, centuries of history were washed away. Twenty-six of the Chenega people, over one-third of them, lost their lives. Chenega suffered the highest percentage of loss of life of any community in the earthquake and tsunami catastrophe. With the village gone, the Chenega people were relocated to nearby communities of Tatitlek, Cordova and Anchorage.

 

In 1971, U.S. Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. This Act granted the original residents of Chenega title to over 70,000 acres of land in Prince William Sound, paving the way for the Chenega Corporation, which was established three years later in 1974.

 

The tides of Prince William Sound came and went for 20 years following the tsunami without seeing a new home for the Chenega people. Then, in 1984, a group of former villagers established a new village on Evans Island, in Prince William Sound.

 

In 1989, exactly 25 years after the Good Friday 1964 tsunami, the Exxon Valdez oil tanker ran aground in Prince William Sound. It spilled millions of gallons of oil into the ocean. The tides carried the slick black water to the beaches of the newly established village, wiping out the their sole means of livelihood; commercial fishing. Damage to the environment and wildlife crippled their subsistence life. Chenega Corporation chose to participate in the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council Habitat Restoration Program, which protected large blocks of land harmed by the spill.

The Chenega Corporation

A STRATEGIC PLAN FOR SUCCESS
In 1997, Chenega Corporation sold a portion of its land to the U.S. Forest Service and the state of Alaska for $34 million. With this capital, the corporation invested in a business development plan focused on federal government services contracting.

 

ONE OF THE MOST SUCCESSFUL ALASKAN-OWNED BUSINESSES
After taking a great leap of faith at considerable risk, Chenega Corporation consistently ranks among the top 10 most successful Alaskan-owned businesses in the state. Chenega continues to exemplify strength in its core values centered on faith, fortitude, and the perseverance of Chenega shareholders.

 

Over time, the village of Chenega has also steadily developed. It has a fully operating medical clinic, beautiful Orthodox Christian church, school and community hall, subsistence center, airport, and small harbor. A system of generators and fuel tanks keep the residents in constant supply of power. There is also a ferry dock used by the state of Alaska ferry system as part of the Alaska Marine Highway System, and notably, the community also has a sophisticated response system for oil spills operated by the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

Investing in Economic Development

Chenega Corporation invests in

projects and programs which enable

economic infrastructure development

in the village of Chenega.

Chenega has the dual mission of succeeding in business

to assist its shareholders, descendants, and family

pursuant to the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.

Chenega is an Alaska Native corporation established

members in their journey to economic and social self-

determination and self-sufficiency; and to create and support

comprehensive cultural, societal and community activities.

Some photos provided courtesy of Polling Trust.

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