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Wells Fargo to repatriate traditional Dena'ina land

Nathaniel Herz

Wells Fargo is donating a 143-acre tract of land near the village of Eklutna for conservation.

The land, on the north side of the Glenn Highway northeast of Anchorage, is the site of traditional Dena'ina dwellings and storage caches and will be transferred to a nonprofit affiliated with the local Native corporation, Eklutna Inc., said CEO Curtis McQueen.

The property, which extends to the Knik Arm shoreline, is almost completely undeveloped and has been used by Wells Fargo primarily for employee picnics and customer appreciation days, said regional president Joe Everhart.

Eklutna doesn't plan to make any changes, McQueen said.

"We're going to leave it in the exact state that we're getting it in right now," he said in a phone interview, adding that village residents will now be able to hunt there.

The property has been held by Wells Fargo or affiliated banks since 1924, Everhart said, and it was originally part of a 160-acre homestead.

Everhart said the transfer hews to a bank tradition of valuing cultural heritage. In its building off Northern Lights Boulevard, Wells Fargo maintains a museum that includes Alaska Native artifacts.

Over the years, Wells Fargo had discussed developing the parcel, but ultimately the bank began discussions with McQueen about a donation.

"The current economic value is far outweighed by the historical and cultural significance of that property," Everhart said in a phone interview.

Wells Fargo is donating the land to an organization called The Conservation Fund, which will set up an easement for the property before it's transferred to a nonprofit affiliated with Eklutna Inc.

McQueen said Eklutna Inc. has about 180 shareholders, with about 500 relatives and others who spend time in the Eklutna village area.

A donation ceremony will take place Sunday afternoon at Eklutna's biennial potlatch.

Reach Nathaniel Herz at nherz@adn.com or 257-4311.


By NATHANIEL HERZ
nherz@adn.com