ANCHORAGE, Alaska — An Athabascan village within the municipality of Anchorage has been afforded special protections to preserve its rural character and cultural uses of the land.
The Anchorage Assembly on Tuesday voted to put the protections in place on 800 acres surrounding the Dena’ina village of Eklutna, KSKA reported.
“It is a walking, breathing, living museum, which we believe is worth preserving for the future generations,” said Eklutna Inc. CEO Curtis McQueen.
Eklutna is located about 20 miles north of the city, and is believed to have a 1,500-year history. It’s also thought to be the oldest continually inhabited Athabascan site in the Anchorage area.
The measure prohibits the municipality from building trails or running utilities through the area, and it allows residents to build multigenerational housing on single tracts for extended families. People will also be allowed to build community smokehouses.
One assembly member, Amy Demboski, did express misgivings about giving the village’s native corporation power to refuse utility easements. That, she said, could set a dangerous precedent for the municipality.
“It’s challenging for me when I look down to the future and I say for the first time in history, we are giving a corporation veto authority on a local government,” she said. “I absolutely respect the corporation. You are never going to find another better steward, better neighbor than this corporation. But what I am saying is I am not willing to give away the city’s power at this point, no matter how great the neighbor is.”
But the assembly passed the special provisions.
Both assembly members and representatives from Eklutna and its village corporation said the vote showed respect for the Alaska Native community.