The city of Kodiak, located on Kodiak Island, the largest island in the
archipelago, has a population of about 15,000. Ouzinkie is located on the
west coast of Spruce Island, a small island off the northerly coast of Kodiak
Island and approximately 10 air miles from the City of Kodiak. Ouzinkie
Narrows, that separates Spruce Island from Kodiak Island, gives Ouzinkie
its Russian based name. Our own Sugpiaq/Alutiiq name of Ouzinkie is Usenkaaq.
Our community is part of the over 4,000-year-old homeland of the indigenous
Sugpiaq/Alutiiq people. Currently, the population of Ouzinkie includes 200
year round residents, mostly of Alutiiq ancestry.
We are a people deeply rooted in our heritage of Sugpiaq/Alutiiq culture
and Ouzinkie has close ties with other Sugpiaq communities such as Afognak
and Karluk. We work to continue our traditions of dance, regalia, carving
and the revitalization of our language through the Native Village of Ouzinkie
and the regional Alutiiq Museum. However, like Native Americans everywhere,
we have a history of loss since European contact from disease and enforced
educational practices that discouraged us from speaking our language and
living our traditional ways.
Our climate in the Kodiak Archipelago is dominated by a strong marine influence
characterized by little freezing weather, moderate precipitation, and frequent
cloud cover and fog. This weather pattern results in interrupted aircraft
service to Ouzinkie, as aircraft visual flight minimums are often not met.
Severe storms with high winds are common from December through February.
Our Ouzinkie people are master readers of the local weather, as we have
depended on the sea for our living through both subsistence hunting and
fishing and commercial fishing.
Ouzinkie is only accessible by water or air, not by road. Round trip airfare
to Kodiak costs approximately $100, and consists of a 15 minute ride by
small aircraft that utilizes a large gravel airstrip owned and maintained
by the State of Alaska. Water access is only by private boat for individuals
as there is no commercial, passenger marine transportation service. Small
barge or commercial carrier vessels bring in groceries, fuel, building supplies
and other necessities, as the community’s dock is old and not deep enough
to accommodate today’s larger, deeper draft marine vessels. As a result,
cost of living is high, primarily due to transportation costs.
Our community organization is complex, due to the enactment of the Alaska
Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) along with our recognized Tribal governments
and local governments. Under ANCSA in 1971, Alaska was divided into twelve
regions. Each region is served by a regional health non-profit corporation
that provides the Native peoples of that region with medical and behavioral
health care services. Ouzinkie is part of the Koniag Region, and we are
served by the Kodiak Area Native Association (KANA). KANA provides a small
clinic in Ouzinkie with locally trained health aides, and a larger, regional
clinic in Kodiak that is staffed by medical personnel such as doctors and
dentists. Ouzinkie residents have to take a plane or boat to access regional
Within our Koniag region, we have 10 federally recognized tribal governments,
each representing a specific village. We do not have the equivalent of a
tribal government for our entire region. Rather, we are recognized on a
village by village basis. The Native Village of Ouzinkie is our federally
recognized tribal government that has its offices here in the community.
As part of ANCSA, Alaska Natives were required to organize into “corporations”
in order to receive the settlement of land and money. They organized into
twelve Alaska-based regional corporations. Within our region each village
organized into its own village corporation. Koniag, Inc. is our regional
Native corporation (with main offices in Kodiak) and Ouzinkie Native Corporation
is our local village corporation, whose main offices are in Ouzinkie. Ouzinkie
Native Corporation owns the majority of land on Spruce Island.
We are also a second-class City organized under the State of Alaska and
have a City Council that is responsible for community infrastructure such
as water, sewer and electricity. Ouzinkie is within the Kodiak Island Borough
(KIB), a second-class Borough organized under the State of Alaska. KIB provides
minimal services to Ouzinkie residents.