Port Graham: A People of Perseverance
The ancestral inhabitants of the Kenai Fjords in Alaska, the people of Port Graham were a sophisticated native culture of hunters and anglers, named the Alutiiq, that thrived as maritime hunter/gatherers. The Alutiiq were relocated to Port Graham (called Paluwik) by Russian settlers in the late 1800’s.
Though subjected by the Russians to forced labor hunting sea otter for the fur trade, and having struggled for centuries to maintain ownership of the lands they inhabited for thousands of years, the Alutiiq people have maintained native language and traditions, continue to visit ancestral homelands in the Kenai Fjords, and often work jobs to support local industry while venturing every summer into Cook Inlet in Kayaks to hunt for food to sustain them through the harsh winters.
Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act
Under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA), the people of Port Graham selected 44,000 acres within the Kenai Fjords and reclaimed their birthright and ancestral homelands from the United States government. These selections were made in 1974, but it was not until 1995 that Port Graham Corporation (PGC) received title to these lands and could begin managing their land for their 200 shareholders.
However, in 1980, President Carter signed the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act and created the 500,000-acre Kenai Fjords National Park. Since 1980, the National Part Service has been managing Port Graham’s land until they could receive title. PGC and the Park Service are pursuing a co-management agreement, with PGC retaining the rights of full private ownership to manage and develop their lands to the benefit of their shareholders in perpetuity.
Port Graham Today
The population of Port Graham is around 178. After a fire at the fish cannery in 1998, a new $4.5 million cannery and hatchery was rebuilt and opened in 1999. The cannery continues to be the main economic activity in the community providing seasonal employment for 70 residents. The people of Port Graham still revere their link to their ancestral homelands by frequently visiting for subsistence purposes and seek to maintain their ties to the land and water of Kenai Fjords forever.
In 2014, PGG Services hired new leadership with a deep understanding of government contracting in order to forge high-value partnerships with businesses both large and small (see our 8 (a) sole-source contracting capabilities), to deliver outstanding services and products to the federal government, and to bring increased dividends to the shareholders and residents of Port Graham.