Dena'ina Ełnena | Anchorage
Leg 8: Tok, Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska
10 July 2022
On our final day of driving, we woke up to a very smoky, overcast day and could smell the burning in the air as we packed the car. Similar to the rest of the world, Alaska has been experiencing a very dry and hot summer and therefore, hundreds of wildfires. As of July, around 3 million acres have burned in Alaska which is more than the total number of acres that burn throughout a typical summer.
As we drove the last 200 miles, we saw Mt. Sanford rising majestically in the distance (the sixth highest peak in the U.S.) and briefly stopped to gaze at the Matanuska Glacier.
The Matanuska Glacier is the largest glacier that can accessed by a vehicle in the United States with a length of 27 miles.
After a mere five hours of driving, we arrived in Anchorage or Dena’ina Ełnena, the homelands of the Dena'ina Athabascan people, which consist of the K’enaht’ana, Eydlughet (Eklutna), and K’enakatnu (Knik) tribes, many of whom still live in Anchorage and the surrounding areas today. This information was easy for me to access as facts about the native people who lived in Alaska is on the first page of the Visit Anchorage website and while I'm sure it has not always been accessible, I'm glad that there is public recognition.
All of the United States and Canada originally belonged to the indigenous people, but unfortunately the traces of those groups have often been erased or relegated to fourth grade textbooks that told me that the Lenape, Shawnee, Iroquois, Susquehannock and others that used to inhabit the land where I lived growing up in Pennsylvania. On our drive north, I appreciated that as a white couple traveling through the land now known as: British Columbia, Yukon, and Alaska, we saw many signs, cultural centers, and other aspects that actively promoted the communities who were here first and still inhabit, work, and enjoy the land. These groups included the Tligit, Haida, Carcross/Tagish, Kluane, Champagne, Aishihik, Ahtna Nenn', Dea'ina Ełaina, among many others which you can view on a full map of native land. And although I know that we, as settlers, have a very, very long way to go in recognizing, appreciating, and bringing equity to the cultures that we marginalized, it is a small step.
Thank you for joining us on our journey to Alaska. I am very grateful that we arrived safe, albeit with a few bumps along the way. In the coming weeks, I'll be occasionally posting more about our adventures as we explore this land with reverence, awe, and love.
Sneak Peek at Our First Week in Anchorage:
Flattop Sunnyside Hike
This was the windiest hike of our lives with views of the Cook Inlet & the Turnagain Arm.
Two DIFFERENT Bull Moose on what we though was a leisurely walk through Kincaid Park
Marveling at Portage Bay Glacier after hiking 1.5 hrs in torrential rain to reach it all the while singing and yelling to keep the bears at bay.