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The History of Unalaska, Alaska

Unalaska overlooks Iliuliuk Bay and Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island in the Aleutian Chain. It lies 800 air miles from Anchorage, a two- to three-hour flight, and 1,700 miles northwest of Seattle. The name Dutch Harbor is often applied to the portion of the City on Amaknak Island, which is connected to Unalaska Island by bridge. Dutch Harbor is actually within the boundaries of the City of Unalaska. It lies at approximately 53 52' N Latitude, 166 32' W Longitude (Sec. 11, T073S, R118W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Aleutian Islands Recording District. The area encompasses 116 sq. miles of land and 99 sq. miles of water.

More than 3,000 Unangas (known since the Russian era as "Aleuts") lived in 24 settlements on Unalaska and Amaknak Islands in 1759. Unalaska became a Russian trading port for the fur seal industry in 1768. In 1787, many hunters and their families were enslaved and relocated by the Russian American Company to the Pribilof Islands to work in the fur seal harvest. In 1825, the Russian Orthodox Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ was constructed. The founding priest, Ivan Veniaminov, composed the first Aleut writing system with local assistance, and translated scripture into Aleut. Since Aleuts were not forced to give up their language or culture by the Russian Orthodox priests, the Church remained strong in the community. By this time, however, between 1830 and 1840, only 200 to 400 Aleuts lived in Unalaska. In 1880, the Methodist Church opened a school, clinic and the Jesse Lee Home for orphans. During World War II, on June 3, 1942, Unalaska was attacked by the Japanese. Almost all of the Aleuts on the Island were interned to Southeast Alaska for the duration of the War. The Russian Orthodox Church was nearly destroyed by evacuating U.S. Army troops. The Church is the oldest Russian Orthodox cruciform-style church in North America, and is currently undergoing restoration.

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development