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Hoonah, Alaska

Xunaa / Gaaw Yat’aḵ Aan
Aerial photo of Hoonah
Aerial photo of Hoonah
Hoonah, Alaska is located in Alaska
Hoonah, Alaska
Hoonah, Alaska
Location in Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Hoonah-Angoon
Incorporated June 8, 1946
 • Total 7.13 sq mi (18.47 km2)
 • Land 5.87 sq mi (15.20 km2)
 • Water 1.26 sq mi (3.28 km2)
52 ft (16 m)
 • Total 931
 • Density 130.58/sq mi (50.41/km2)
Time zone UTC-9 (Alaska (AKST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-8 (AKDT)
ZIP code
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-33360
GNIS feature ID 1403488

Hoonah (Tlingit: Xunaa or Gaaw Yat’aḵ Aan) is a largely Tlingit community on Chichagof Island, located in Alaska's panhandle in the southeast region of the state. It is 30 miles (48 km) west of Juneau, across the Alaskan Inside Passage. Hoonah is the only first-class city on Chichagof Island, the 109th-largest island in the world and the 5th-largest island in the U.S. At the 2020 census the population was 931, up from 760 in 2010. In the summer the population can swell to over 1,300 depending on fishing, boating, hiking and hunting conditions.

"Hoonah" became the official spelling in 1901, with establishment of the Hoonah branch of the United States Post Office. "Hoonah" is the approximate pronunciation of the Tlingit name Xunaa, which means “lee of the north wind”, i.e., protected from the north wind.


Native art at the dock in Hoonah, Alaska
Native art at the dock in Hoonah, Alaska.

The clans comprising the Huna Tlingit originally settled what is now Glacier Bay National Park as well as Icy Strait, Cross Sound, and the outer coast north to Sea Otter Creek. Two catastrophic events forced the Tlingit from their homeland; rapid glacial advance in Glacier Bay and a landslide-induced tsunami in Lituya Bay along the outer coast. Tlingit oral tradition recounts these events as well as the clans' ultimate resettlement in Xunaa.

A partial timeline of modern Hoonah history is below:

  • 1750's - Xunaa was settled by clans fleeing glacial advance in Glacier Bay
  • 1880 - The North West Trading Company built the first store in Hoonah.
  • 1881 - The Presbyterian Home Mission and school was built.
  • 1887 - 450 to 500 people were wintering in the village.
  • 1901 - Hoonah post office was opened.
  • 1912 - The Hoonah Packing Co. built a large cannery north of town. The cannery was shut down and is now a tourist attraction at Icy Strait Point.
  • 1934, 1936 Hoonah Indian Association constituted as a federally recognized tribe, authorized to act on behalf of the Huna Tlingit
  • 1944 - A fire destroyed much of Hoonah, including many priceless Tlingit cultural objects. The United States federal government assisted in rebuilding Hoonah.
  • 1953 - Last year that Icy Strait Salmon Company operated as a full-fledged canning operation. From this point until 1999 the property functioned as a maintenance and support facility for the seine boat fishing fleet.
  • 1964 - First High School graduating class from Hoonah High School graduated in May
  • 2001 - Groundbreaking ceremony for Icy Strait Point, at abandon Hoonah Packing Company site.
  • 2004 - Celebrity MV Mercury makes inaugural call at Icy Strait Point.
  • 2007 - ZipRider! The world's largest zipline opens at Icy Strait Point.

The town of Hoonah is featured on the Discovery Channel show Alaskan Bush People.

Education & Schools

Hoonah City Schools, Alaska
Hoonah City Schools, Alaska

Sheldon Jackson established the first school house & teacher's residence in November 1881. The school was initially overseen by Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Styles of New York until their transfer to Sitka in 1882. The Reverend and Mrs. John McFarland assumed responsibility for the school in 1884 and by 1885 219 Tlingit students were enrolled, 69, boys, 76 girls and 74 adults. A Territorial school and Government school were built in 1923. In 1932 the Government school was demolished and replaced by a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.

Hoonah City Schools currently serves the needs of Hoonah's elementary and secondary students. Six graduating seniors made up Hoonah City Schools class of 2015.

Hoonah Packing Company

Hoonah Packing Company
The Hoonah Packing Company building at Icy Strait Point, now used as a tourist destination for cruise ships.

Hoonah Packing Company ("HPC") built in 1912 was one of eight canneries operating in the area during the early twentieth century, representing Hoonah's major industry at the time. HPC was sold several times until coming to be owned by Wards Cove Packing which also owned Hoonah Trading. The Cannery ceased operating in 1954, but continued to see use by commercial fishermen for storing and repairing their boats and gear.


Hoonah is on the north shore of Chichagof Island, on Icy Strait, at 58°6′34″N 135°26′11″W / 58.10944°N 135.43639°W / 58.10944; -135.43639 (58.109435, -135.436349). The communities of Whitestone Logging Camp, Alaska, which was being dismantled in early 2011 and Game Creek are also in its urban area. The port at Hoonah is called Port Frederick. Other small communities nearby on Chichagof Island also include Tenake Springs and Pelican. A study began in 2009 regarding the feasibility of a road from Hoonah to Pelican and possibly connecting to Tenake Springs to allow an energy corridor to hot spring thermal energy sources in the region for Hoonah, to lower heating and energy costs. Most Tenake residents expressed opposition to the road, while Pelican has generally supported the idea. The road would save the Alaska Department of Transportation ferry costs in summer snow-free months, by connecting these areas to Hoonah.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.7 square miles (23 km2), of which, 6.6 square miles (17 km2) of it is land and 2.1 square miles (5.4 km2) of it (24.05%) is water.

Tongass National Forest borders the area and has an unpaved road system of over 300 miles. recreation areas include Game Creek, Kennel Creek, Freshwater Bay which has a small boat harbor, all to the east and Whitestone boat landing and False Bay recreation area to the southeast. These areas are inaccessible in winter due to deep snow.


According to the Köppen climate classification system, Hoonah has an Oceanic climate (Cfb).

Climate data for Hoonah
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 54
Average high °F (°C) 33.5
Average low °F (°C) 25.1
Record low °F (°C) 3
Average precipitation inches (mm) 6.3
Average snowfall inches (cm) 24.7
Average precipitation days 18 14 15 15 16 15 18 17 20 24 18 19 209


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 800
1890 438 −45.2%
1900 447 2.1%
1910 462 3.4%
1920 402 −13.0%
1930 514 27.9%
1940 716 39.3%
1950 563 −21.4%
1960 686 21.8%
1970 748 9.0%
1980 680 −9.1%
1990 795 16.9%
2000 860 8.2%
2010 760 −11.6%
2020 931 22.5%
U.S. Decennial Census

Hoonah first reported on the 1880 U.S. Census as the Tlingit settlement of Koudekan. It reported as "Huna" on the 1890 U.S. Census. It next appeared on the 1900 U.S. Census as "Hooniah." From 1910 onwards, it appeared as Hoonah. It formally incorporated in 1946.

Hoonah is the principal village for the Huna Tlingit who originally settled Glacier Bay, Icy Strait, Cross Sound, and the Outer Coast. The four original Tlingit clans present are Chookaneidi, T'aakdeintaan, Wooshkeetaan, and Kaagwaantaan. Numerous other clans migrated to, or married into, the community, as have non-native peoples.

As of the census of 2000, there were 860 people, 300 households, and 215 families residing in the city. The population density was 130.2 people per square mile (50.2/km2). There were 348 housing units at an average density of 52.7 per square mile (20.3/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 28.72% White, 0.23% Black or African American, 60.58% Native American, 0.12% Asian, 0.81% from other races, and 9.53% from two or more races. 3.60% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 300 households, out of which 33.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.3% were married couples living together, 12.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.3% were non-families. 22.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 5.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.83 and the average family size was 3.34.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 29.2% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 26.5% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 7.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 112.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 115.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $39,028, and the median income for a family was $45,125. Males had a median income of $37,083 versus $23,958 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,097. About 14.3% of families and 16.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.1% of those under age 18 and 10.4% of those age 65 or over.

The old fish cannery, which ceased operations in the 1950s, located near Icy Strait, was obtained by the Huna Totem Corporation (HTC), the village ANCSA Corporation. The road to the site, Cannery Road, was paved in 2000 and the site was converted into a tourism destination for cruise ship passengers. From May to September, cruise ships anchor off Icy Strait Point, and visits from ship passengers enhance Hoonah's warm-weather economy weekly. The former Hoonah Air Force Station, once a White Alice Communications System facility during the Cold War, which closed in the mid-1970s, is now the start point of a zip-line, one of the longest in the world, which ends at the cannery site. The cruise ship passengers, visiting fishing vessels, and summertime boaters who dock in the Hoonah city small boat harbor, all bring revenue to the city. The closing of the logging industry in southeast Alaska hurt the town economically in the early 1990s, but limited logging, tourism and fishing have helped to replace the void.

Hunters, hikers, campers, boaters and fishers all visit Hoonah as tourists throughout the year. The mild weather, much like that of Seattle, attracts tourists to the city.


The fishing vessel Reluctant. Photo courtesy of US Coast Guard Sector Juneau
The John F. Middleton rescued the crew of the stranded fishing vessel Reluctant on September 23, 2020.

Hoonah, being an island community, is only accessible by boat or plane.


The Alaska Marine Highway serves Hoonah with the M/V LeConte with recent gaps in coverage due to state funding and needed repair work. The ferry service has traditionally offered residents a slower but more dependable and cheaper option to travel to and from Hoonah to Juneau.

The city of Hoonah operates a small boat harbor, a large vessel mooring harbor and a new boat haul-out facility. The Alaska Department of Transportation built a new ferry facility that opened in early 2001 in Hoonah.


The Hoonah Airport was expanded in 2011 and now has a 3,000-foot (910 m) runway. The airport is planned for expansion to better allow military C-130s from the Coast Guard and Air National Guard to land in Hoonah.

The airport offers service via bush carrier Alaska Seaplanes which offers multiple flights a day between Hoonah and Juneau and other local communities. Connections can be made in Juneau with Alaska Airlines for regional and interstate travel or to other bush carriers traveling to remote villages or communities from Juneau.


Hoonah has 8 churches:

  • Dombrowski, Kirk (2001) Against Culture: Development, Politics, and Religion in Indian Alaska. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Hoonah para niños

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