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Northway Village Council
History and Culture
The area around Northway was first utilized by the Dene’ Athabaskan who pursued seasonal subsistence  
activities in the nearby rivers and creeks. The original name for the settlement was Nabesna, which is located
across the river from the current Northway community. The current community site was named in 1942, after
Chief Walter Northway. Chief Walter Northway was named after Captain Northway, a steamboat captain
who traveled into the area in 1908, during the Chisana gold rush. During the early years before the area had
been settled, two store owners (Herman Kestler and John Hajdukovich) provided goods and trading with
local area residents. They would freight their supplies from Dawson in Canada by horse. The site of the
community was chosen by Chief Sam, who had moved from his fish camp following the death of his wife
Agnes. T’aaiy Ta’ (father of Chief Walter Northway) encouraged Chief
Sam’s relatives to move next to him, and within a few years six homes were built. Finally in 1946, all of the
residents lived in the main town site area (old town site was located across the river). The first school in the
community started in 1939 in the home of Chief Walter Northway, who moved out of his home for a year
(and lived in a tent) so the community would have a place to meet for school. The following year the
community pulled together and built a log cabin for the school children. In 1940, construction on the airport
started in support of the World War II war efforts. The Northway airport was a link in the Northwest Staging
Route, a cooperative project between the U.S. and Canada, a chain of air bases through Canada to Fairbanks
were used to supply Alaska during World War II. During the construction effort, local labor was utilized for
brush clearing. The construction was hard on residents because the site chosen was directly over the Indian
cemetery. During construction graves were dug up and burnt at the ends of the airfield. During that time
construction of the Alcan Highway had started and a temporary army base was created in Northway. The first
post office was also established in 1941.
Walter Northway