The History of Atka

Atka is located on Atka Island, 1,100 air miles from Anchorage and 90 air miles east of Adak. It is the most isolated Native village on the Aleutian Island chain, and is located further west than any other civilian community in the U.S. It lies at approximately 52 12' N Latitude, 174 12' W Longitude (Sec. 22, T092S, R176W, Seward Meridian). The community is located in the Aleutian Islands Recording District. The area encompasses 9 sq. miles of land and 27 sq. miles of water.

The island has been occupied by Aleuts for at least 2,000 years. Recent archaeological evidence indicates that the present village site may have had human use since prehistoric times. The first contact with Russians occurred in 1747, and Atka became an important trade site and safe harbor for Russians. In 1787 a number of hunters were enslaved and relocated to the Pribilofs to work in the fur seal harvest. The townsite was settled in the 1860s. After the end of the sea otter hunting era in the late 1800s, Atka had no viable cash economy. During the 1920s, Atka became relatively affluent due to fox farming. After the Japanese attacked Unalaska and seized Attu and Kiska in June 1942, the U.S. Government evacuated Atka residents to the Ketchikan area. Atka was burned to the ground to prevent Japanese forces from advancing. Residents were allowed to return in 1944, and the community was rebuilt by the U.S. Navy. Many Attu villagers, released from imprisonment in Japan in 1945, relocated to Atka. This exposure to the outside world brought many changes in the traditional culture and attitudes in the community.

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