From Ancient Cultural Homelands to Boarding School Site
The Native Village of Tazlina is working to bring the story of our homelands back full circle.
The Village has an opportunity to purchase a 462-acre parcel of land along the Copper River, land that encompasses traditional, subsistence fish-wheel sites along the river. Land that has archeological home sites dated to 300 – 700 years old (NPS, 2019). This culturally-significant, resource rich land was sold in 1954 by the U.S. Congress, at the nominal price of $10, to the Catholic Church’s Archdiocese of Alaska for establishing the Copper Valley School.
The boarding school served as a regional education hub for two decades, educating many of today’s Alaska Native, business, and community leaders.
But the school was closed in 1971 and a fire destroyed the facility in 1976, turning the site into a “brownfield” of toxic wastes. Asbestos, lead paint, abandoned fuel tanks, and building infrastructure debris created a hazardous waste field that sat in the midst of the Village community for three decades.
Repatriate Homelands for Cultural and Subsistence Preservation
Tazlina tribal leadership held a two-day, Vision to Action workshop in 2011 that initiated remediation of the burned school facility brownfield site. After an EPA and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation-approved clean up of the land, conducted by the Archdiocese of Anchorage in 2014, the Archdiocese wants to sell the land, and has entered into a contract with the Native Village of Tazlina.
Now the Archdiocese of Alaska is offering to sell the property to NVT for $1,800,000.
In the Tribe’s vision, the 462-acre parcel would once again serve as a cultural gathering place for village members, Ahtna Natives, and visitors.
The property will host subsistence use fish wheels (and contribute to fisheries research), a community garden, a green-energy community hall and cultural center, a tribal college, and a church hall. A conservation easement will be added to a portion of the river shoreline land, protecting subsistence fish wheel sites in perpetuity.
A plan to purchase tribal homelands.
The Native Village of Tazlina (NVT) has undertaken a capital campaign so that it can purchase its tribal homelands from the Archdiocese of Alaska. Other prospective funders include large private foundations ($600,000 combined), Native entities in Alaska and in the lower 48, individual donors, and the Great Land Trust which is working as a partner to craft a conservation easement.
Help Tazlina today – time is running out.
Under the terms of a contracted executed with the Archdiocese of Alaska, the Village has until fall, 2022 to purchase its homelands.
If the Village is unable to raise the funds to meet the Church’s asking price, the Church has indicated it will sell the land on the open market. With valuable riverfront property being part of the parcel, it’s hard to see how this land would remain undeveloped, and not be lost to the tribe forever.