The name Kaltag comes from the Yukon word, “Ggaa¬doh.” “Ggaa¬doh” means, ‘before the king salmon’ and was the name of a place across from Kaltag where people gathered before the king salmon run. The name was borrowed by non-Natives for Kaltag because the other Native names were too hard to pronounce. The village also has two other names. One is Le’on Kk’e Dodeelenh Denh, which means, ‘place where the current hits the bluff’. The other is Tokk’atleegheetonh Denh. This means ‘place where the trail comes out to the river’ and Kaltag has this name because there is a portage there that comes over the river toward Unalakleet. This portage was part of a trade route to Unalakleet. People from all the villages upriver used to go to Unalakleet this way to get supplies. Because of the trade route, there is a close connection between Kaltag and Unalakleet and some of the people in two villages are related to one another. The village is 335 air miles west of Fairbanks.
A lot of the people now living in Kaltag originally came from other villages downriver and from villages toward the Innoko River. They fish for sheefish in the winter and for king salmon in the summer. In 1983, in a move to protect subsistence rights, people of Kaltag joined together with Eskimo people in the lower Yukon in an effort to persuade the Fish and Game Department to allow drift netting for silver and king salmon on the Yukon.
In 1971 Plasker Nickoli build the beautiful octagonal community center, which is now a landmark in Kaltag. This amazing structure is 57 feet across from corner to corner, yet has no internal supports. The octagon has a cupola at the top with a window on each of its 8 sides. The acoustics in the octagon are also remarkable: the sound of singing rings through to the top of building, rising in pitch and lingering above the hall. When Kaltag hosts the Stick Dance, it is held in this building. A smaller version of the octagon has been built in Huslia and there are plans to build them also in Fairbanks, Venetie, and Anaktuvuk Pass.
Well known people of Kaltag include: Edgar Kalland, Goodwin Semaken, Franklin Madros and Missouri Stanley.
YKSD Biography Series: Edgar Kallands