Hoonah is a close-knit family-oriented place where people are friendly and caring. Some people call it “The Little City with the Big Heart.”
Hoonah has been the home of the Huna Tlingit since the last advance of the great ice masses into Glacier Bay, their ancestral homeland. Since the area was used each summer for subsistence harvesting, it was a natural place for settlement. Hoonah (“the place where the north wind doesn’t blow”) currently has a population of 841 and is a small, rural community with a rich heritage. Hoonah is the largest Tlingit village in Alaska. Approximately 70% of the population is Alaska Native or part Native. Most residents maintain a subsistence lifestyle, which is an important component of Hoonah’s culture. Salmon (king, silver, sockeye, chum and pink), halibut, shellfish, deer, waterfowl and berries are harvested.
The maritime climate is characterized by cool summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures average 52 to 63 degrees Fahrenheit; in winter the range is 26 to 39 degrees. Precipitation averages 100 inches annually with 71 inches of snowfall, Hoonah experiences up to 19 hours of sunlight in high summer and as little as 6 hours in the dead of winter. Hoonah is in the Alaska Time Zone, which is one hour earlier than Pacific Time.
The Northwest Trading Co. built the first store in Hoonah in 1880. In 1881, the Presbyterian Home Mission and school were constructed. 450 to 500 people were wintering in the village by 1887. In 1912, the Hoonah Packing Co. built a large cannery one mile north of town, which is now the site of Icy Strait Point, the city’s cruise ship tourism destination.
In 1944, a fire destroyed much of the town and many priceless Tlingit cultural objects. The federal government assisted in rebuilding the community with war housing diverted from Hawaii.
Hoonah maintains one of southeast Alaska’s best small boat harbors. The area provides many opportunities for the active outdoor person. There is an extensive logging road system with approximately 250 miles of roads to provide access for such diverse activities as photography, hunting, fishing, hiking and berry picking. The Alaskan brown bear population is two per square mile. The open waters of Port Frederick and Icy Strait provide limitless opportunities for fishing, wildlife observations and kayaking. Glacier Bay National Park is just 25 miles across Icy Strait.
The Tongass National Forest, which includes Chichigof Island on which Hoonah is located, is named for the Tongass Clan of the Tlingit people. It is the largest National Forest in the US, about the size of Indiana.