Original Chenega Village Site, Chenega Island
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 the area of Prince William Sound for some 10,000 years, fishing the Sound’s 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).
For centuries, a village on the southern tip of Chenega Island was home
to the Chenega people. The word Chenega means “Beneath the Mountain”. This area, in Prince William Sound, was the hub of the early history
of the Chenega people.
The rich waters of Prince William Sound provided well for the people,
and also brought many changes. In the 1700’s, Russian trappers and
explorers found their way into Prince William Sound, to the Village of
Chenega. It was they who first introduced their Christian Orthodox religious practices which were eventually adopted by the Chenega people.
On Good Friday, March 27th 1964, the island 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 1/3
of them, lost their lives that day. With the village gone, the Chenega
people were relocated to Tatitlek, Cordova and Anchorage. Chenega
suﬀered the highest percentage of loss of life of any community in the
In 1971, the US Congress enacted the Alaska Native Claims Settlement
Act (ANCSA). 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 twenty years following the tsunami without seeing a new home for the Chenega people. Then, in 1984, a group of former villagers established the village of
Chenega Bay on Evan’s Island, in Prince William Sound. But tragedy was
about to strike again.
Chenega Bay, Evans Island
In 1989, twenty-five years to the day, after the tragic tsunami and the
devastation of the village, the EXXON Valdez oil tanker ran aground in
Prince William Sound, spilling millions of gallons of oil into the ocean.
The tides carried the slick black water to the beaches of the newly established Chenega Village, wiping out the Chenega People’s sole means of
livelihood; commercial fishing. Damage to the natural environment and
wildlife also crippled the subsistence life of the Chenega People.
1989 Oil Spill clean up crew
The 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. In 1997, Chenega Corporation sold a portion of its native land to the United States Forest Service
and the State of Alaska “Habitat Transaction” for $34,000,000. With this
capital, the corporation developed a strategic plan, which included a
substantial business development investment in Federal Government
The Nativity of the Theotokos Russian Orthodox Church Chenega Bay, Evans Island
Over time, the Village of Chenega Bay has also steadily developed. It has
a fully operating medical clinic, a beautiful Orthodox Christian Church,
a school and community hall, a 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.
After taking a great leap of faith at consider
able risk, Chenega Corporation today ranks
among the top 5 most successful Alaskan
owned businesses in the state, according to
Alaska Business Monthly Magazine
continues to exemplify strength in its core
values centered on faith, fortitude and the
perseverance of the Chenega Shareholder
Chenega Corporate Headquarters, Anchorage, AK