Ella B. Vernetti School

  • PO BOX 70
    KOYUKUK, AK 99754
    PHONE: (907) 927-2212

Ella B. Vernetti School Staff

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About Koyukuk

  • The village of Koyukuk (population now about 100) was established in the late 1800’s. It used to be called the Koyukuk Station, because there used to be a telegraph station there. The native name is Meneelghaadze T’oh, which means “At the foot of the Koyukuk Mountain.” It is located 290 air miles west of Fairbanks.

    The Koyukuk Mountain is called Meneelghaadza’. According to Madeline Solomon, the mountains called Meneelghaadze’ because a long time ago people used to get clay called Meneelghaadze’ to make cooking pots from there.

    Most of the people that settled at Koyukuk came from up the Koyukuk River, up as far as Dolbi River which is close to Huslia. Even after the people made Koyukuk their permanent home, they used to go up the Koyukuk River to their winter camps for the winter, then come out in the spring and have a joyous reunion at Koyukuk before going to fish camps.

    At potlatches people of other villages mention Koyukuk Mountain in their speeches in order to honor the people who live there. In this way they compare the people of Koyukuk with famous landmark Meneelghaadze’.

    The cave at Koyukuk Mountain is called K’ee¬k’enh Yeh, which means “the house of one who is abstaining from certain food and certain activity’. This was a custom followed when a girl reached puberty. She was put in a house by herself and is not allowed to eat fresh meat or fish. She had to learn to sew and learn to do other handcrafts. She was not supposed to be seen in public. Here is Julie’s story about it that she wrote in the fifth grade.

    Story Tells Koyukuk Legend

    Written by Julie Jones published in Han Zaadletl’ee, April 1983 (page 5)

    There is a cave at Koyukuk with a rock sticking up in the cave towards the back. It is said that back in the days when all animals were people, the Raven (who is a tricker always looking for a way to free food) tricked people into playing seesaw on the Koyukuk bluff on a log. All the people climbed on the log and then he (the raven) covered himself up with a blanket in the center of the log and split the log. Everyone fell off and got killed and turned into animals. Only few survived. At a time, a young girl was living in the cave. She was sitting in the back of the cave with her back to the door. When everybody died, she turned into a rock.

    Well-known people of Koyukuk include: Young Toby, Dominic and Ella Vernetti, Madeline Solomon, Julia Nelson, Sally Pilot and Ben and Eliza Jones

    YKSD Biography Series: Roger Dayton, Madeline Solomon