Last Stop on the Yukon
Nearly 200 people call Kaltag home. The village, located in Koyukon Athabascan territory, was traditionally the site of a cemetery for surrounding villages. It was located on an old portage trail which led east through the mountains to Unalakleet and was also served as an Athabascans camp to support the hunters during the herd migration.The village was named by Russians for the Yukon Indian named Kaltaga.
The area was struck by a smallpox epidemic, the first of several major epidemics, in 1839. A military telegraph line was constructed along the north side of the Yukon around 1867 which increased activity, and missionary activity was particularly intense along the Yukon, culminating with the establishment of a Roman Catholic Mission and school opening upriver from Nulato in 1887.
During 1900, food shortages and a measles epidemic decimated the area and nearly one-third of the Native population perished. Kaltag was established shortly thereafter, when survivors from three nearby seasonal villages moved to the area to regroup and rebuild. It was tough going, as a post office opened for a year in 1903 only to close in 1904, and the Gold seekers left the mid-Yukon after 1906. Commerce returned by 1919 with the opening of the Galena lead mines, and as a downriver village on a major transportation route, Kaltag witnessed rapid economic change. The post office reopened in 1909 and operated until 1920. Kaltag's first school opened in 1925. The post office reopened again in 1933.
The old cemetery that had stood for generations caved into the River around 1937. A watering point, airport and clinic were constructed during the 1960s. The City government was incorporated in 1969.
Today, this picturesque village is the "Last Stop on the Yukon" for the famed Iditarod Dog Sled Races. It is also the site of a week long Stick Dance (memorial Potlatch) every two years that draws visitors from many neighboring villages. This Potlatch is sponsored by relatives of the recently deceased, in appreciation of those who helped during their time of mourning.
Subsistence is an important part of the local economy. Salmon, whitefish, moose, bear, waterfowl and berries are harvested. Most cash jobs are with the tribe, school, local government, BLM fire fighting, commercial fishing or fish processing. The State-owned 5,000 foot lighted gravel airstrip provides Kaltag with year-round air service. Barges typically deliver heavy cargo three times a year while snowmachines, ATVs and riverboats are used for local transportation. The frozen river, local trails and the 90-mile Old Mail Trail to Unalakleet are used during the winter for woodcutting and trap lines