History of Chilkoot

Published on October 30, 2010 by John

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The Haines area was called “Dei Shu” by the Tlingit, meaning “end of the trail”. The Chilkat Tlingit tightly controlled the trading routes between the coast and the Interior. The first non-Native to settle here was George Dickinson, an agent for the North West Trading Co., in 1880. In 1881, S. Young Hall, a Presbyterian minister, received permission from the Chilkat to build the Willard Mission and school. The mission was renamed Haines in 1884 in honor of Mrs. F.E. Haines, Secretary of the Presbyterian Women’s Executive Society of Home Missions, who had raised funds for the mission’s construction. During the Klondike gold rush in the late 1890s, it grew as a mining supply center, since the Dalton Trail from Chilkat Inlet to Whitehorse offered an easier route to the Yukon for prospectors. Gold was also discovered 36 miles from Haines in 1899 at the Porcupine District. Four canneries had been constructed in the area by the turn of the century. The first permanent U.S. military installation in Alaska, Fort William H. Seward, was constructed south of Haines in 1904. The city was incorporated in 1910. In 1922, the fort was renamed Chilkoot Barracks. Until World War II, it was the only U.S. Army post in Alaska. It was deactivated in 1946 and sold as surplus property to a group of veterans who established it as Port Chilkoot. In 1970, the City of Port Chilkoot (formed in 1956) merged with Haines into one municipality. In 1972, the post was designated a national historic site, and the name, Fort William Seward, was restored. The last of the early canneries closed in 1972 due to declining fish stocks. Expansion of the timber industry in the early 1970s fueled growth. The sawmills closed in 1976. In 2002, the city was consolidated with the Haines Borough.

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A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community — the Chilkoot Indian Association. The population of the community consists of 18.5% Alaska Native or part Native. Historically Chilkat Indian territory, Haines is now predominantly a non-Native community. There are two Chilkat Indian Villages in the area, the Chilkoot in Haines and the Chilkat in Klukwan. Haines is home to the world’s largest congregation of bald eagles, who feed from the hot spring-fed rivers. The Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, located 18 miles from Haines, is a major attraction in Southeast Alaska. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 895, and vacant housing units numbered 143. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 47. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 772 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 13.55 percent, although 44.1 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $39,926, per capita income was $22,505, and 7.91 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.

Source: commerce.state.ak.us

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