The people of Port Graham were the ancestral inhabitants of the Kenai Fjords. Prior to the arrival of the Russians during the late 1700’s, thousands lived and prospered along this rocky coast. A sophisticated culture of maritime hunters and gatherers thrived in Nuka Bay, Yalik Bay and Aialik Bay. Encompassing an area today of Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula, Cook Inlet, and Prince William Sound the Sugpiaq, or more commonly, the Alutiiq, both past and present existence is based on the spiritual ties to the land, the bonds of kinship and belief, respect for Elders and community, and the shared practices and meanings of subsistence life. The spiritual relationship with the natural world is still deeply a part of hunting, fishing, and gathering. This connection is found in traditional art and objects – from kayaks to weapons, clothing, and hunting hats.The Russians coerced the Alutiiq inhabitants to hunt sea otter for the burgeoning fur trade. Eventually, all the people were relocated to Alexandrovsk (now Nanwalek) or Paluwik (now Port Graham) by the Russian missionaries during the late 1800’s. According to the U.S. Geological Survey in 1909, Port Graham later became the site of a cannery and wharf.
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the people of Port Graham received a significant land entitlement from the federal government. In 1980, President Carter signed the Alaska national Interest Lands conservation Act and created the 500,000-acre Kenai Fjords national Park. Over 44,000 acres of Port Graham land falls within the current boundaries of the Kenai Fjords National Park. The National Park Service and PGC have a strong working relationship and strive for consistent management of private Port Graham lands. As an important business partner the National Park Service and PGC are jointly exploring economic opportunities on the Port Graham lands within the National Park including co-management agreement and conservation easement if appropriate.
Port Graham Today
The population of Port Graham is around 178. After a fire at the fish cannery in 1998, a new $4.5 million cannery and hatchery was rebuilt and opened in 1999. Commercial fishing continues to be a main economic activity in the community providing seasonal employment for residents. Logging, construction, health care and tourism are growing segments of the local economy.
The Native Village of Port Graham does not have access to the road system and like most rural Alaskan communities relies on air service from Homer, Alaska as the primary transportation link. Local residents rely on there fishing and motor vessels for seasonal transportation to and from the village. There is no scheduled water taxi or ferry service however non-scheduled barge service for delivery of fuel and supplies is available from Homer.