Protection of land will secure traditional Alaska Native home sites and natural resources sacred to the Dena’ina people
Wells Fargo & Company is donating 143 acres of land adjacent to the Native Village of Eklutna to The Conservation Fund for permanent land and habitat preservation. The property is located approximately 25 miles northeast of Anchorage, in the heart of Dena’ina Athabascan country where Alaska Native people have lived for thousands of years.
A donation ceremony will take place on June 8 at 2:30 p.m. during the Native Village of Eklutna’s biennial Dena’ina Potlatch celebration in Eklutna. The potlatch also kicks off the National Congress of American Indians mid-year conference slated for June 8-11 in Anchorage.
“We hope families in Eklutna, all Dena’ina people, and all Alaskans enjoy this beautiful land for generations to come,” said Joe Everhart, Wells Fargo Alaska regional president. “This donation is being made to honor the Dena’ina people by returning land that has immeasurable cultural and spiritual value. This donation aligns with Wells Fargo’s goals to be good stewards of the environment and support local communities. We are proud to work with The Conservation Fund and Eklutna, Inc. to protect this land.”
“When we got the word from Joe, we were thrilled and filled with such emotion that it took several days for the news to sink in,” said Curtis McQueen, Eklutna, Inc. CEO. “We are grateful for the vision and respect shown by Wells Fargo toward the Dena’ina people.”
“This land is the centerpiece of an ongoing effort to protect and restore the lands and waters of great cultural and environmental value to the Eklutna people,” said Larry Selzer, president of The Conservation Fund. “We are pleased to work with Wells Fargo and Eklutna, Inc., and we applaud the corporate leadership and community appreciation for this wonderful and important conservation accomplishment.”
The land has cultural and historical significance to the Dena’ina people with traditional semi-subterranean dwellings (nichilq’a in Dena’ina Athabascan) and storage caches identified on the property. They are among the few remaining undisturbed Dena’ina habitations within the Municipality of Anchorage. The area remains a place for traditional subsistence activities such as hunting, fishing, and berry picking. Hills on the property are also revered as sacred grounds where ancestors’ ashes are spread. A unique granite formation on the land was the inspiration for the Native village’s name, Idlughetnu in Dena’ina Athabascan, which means river that flows by two hills.
On June 4, Wells Fargo announced that 54 environmental nonprofits were awarded grants totaling $3 million from the 2014 Wells Fargo Environmental Solutions for Communities grant program. The grants include a total of $125,000 awarded in Alaska to the Anchorage Parks Foundation Youth Employment in Parks (YEP) program, the Alaska Zoo for its polar bear exhibit, and Alaska Pacific University’s Spring Creek Farm in Palmer. The philanthropic grants support projects focused on land and water conservation, energy efficiency, infrastructure, and educational outreach in communities where our customers and team members live and work. This grant program began in 2012 as part of Wells Fargo’s commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits and universities by 2020.