Qutekcak (Seward)

The Qutekcak Native Tribe is an incorporated, non-profit, 501c3, Tribal organization. It is multi-ethnic and serves the Native community of the Seward area through a variety of social, cultural and community, and economic development programs. The Qutekcak Tribal council receives its direction from the Qutekcak Native Tribal members. Although the Native population was informally gathering for many decades, the organization was formalized in 1972 with the election of a seven person Tribal Council, which has existed to this date as the governing body. Council members serve three year elected terms.

Seward is located on the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula; Seward is at the north end of Resurrection Bay. At the time of European contact in the 18th century, this area was inhabited by Alutiiq speaking people known as Unegkurmiut. These people were the ancestors of Native people now living in the communities of Port Graham and Nanwalek. The territory of the Unegkurmiut embraced the entire south coast of the Kenai Peninsula including Resurrection Bay (de Laguna 1956:34). According to the anthropologist Frederica de Laguna, (1956:35) three villages existed in the immediate vicinity of Seward. The village of Kangiaq was located at Day Harbor and belonged to a local group known as the Kaniaymiut or “Bay People.” A second village, called the Qutatluq in Alutiiq, was located at or near the present town of Seward while a third village, located somewhere in the same vicinity, was called Kani lik or “Two Boys.” In the Alutiiq language the site of Seward is known as Qutekcak, or “big beach.”

In 1872, Resurrection Bay became the site of a Russian artel or trading post and shipyard. After European contact, the Unegkurmiut population declined to the point that by 1911 no indigenous communities survived along the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula. Native people eventually left the area because they were either persuaded or forced to leave by the Russians.

The history of the modern Native community in Seward begins when Frank Lowell and his wife Mary, a Native woman from Nanwalek, settled at the head of Resurrection Bay in 1884. The modern Native population is composed of people from diverse cultures- Inupiat, Athabascan, Aleut and Alutiiq- who came to Seward for a variety of reasons and remained to make Seward their home. Despite their diverse cultural backgrounds, Seward Native people have developed and maintained various forms of association by utilizing institutions and creating new ones to gain needed services and express their sense of community.

In 1972, members of the Seward Native community began the Mount Marathon Native Association. By forming the association, the Seward Native community formalized its governance which had developed prior to the passage of ANCSA. In 1993, the name was changed to the Qutekcak Native Tribe. The 2000 Census lists Seward as having over 700 Native residents. This number represents approximately 17% of the population base of Seward and fringe areas. The Qutekcak Native Tribe reflects this diversity, having members of varied Native heritage and operating a social service agency serving Natives from all cultural entities.

Seward is Alaska’s only deep-water, ice-free port with rail, highway and air transportation to Alaska’s interior and major urban population centers. It lies 125 miles southeast of Anchorage. The Seward and Sterling Highways provide paved year round access to Anchorage. The Seward Highway was designated an All American Road in 2000 for its historic and scenic qualities. It is one of only 15 All American Roads in the United States.

Seward is a unique end of the road community dealing with issues associated with both rural and urban communities.