O'Brien Creek Burial Grounds: Native Village Of Chitina Begins Cultural Work With State

Chitina Native Village Requests Road Closure As Studies Are Completed Of Gravesites Near O'Brien Creek   PRESS RELEASE, SPRING 2024:  Th...

Chitina Native Village Requests Road Closure As Studies Are Completed Of Gravesites Near O'Brien Creek  


The Native Village of Chitina (NVC) is urgently calling for the protection of ancestral burial sites discovered within and adjacent to the Copper River Road state right-of-way which passes through Chitina Native Corporation (CNC) privately-owned lands. Recent cultural resource investigation surveys concluded by the State of Alaska have revealed multiple Ahtna ancestral burial sites in the O'Brien Creek area, part of the Deyighil'aade (Wood Canyon) Cultural District.

Chitina rock cut (Photo by Copper River Country Journal) 

These gravesites, integral to the heritage and identity of the Ahtna people, are under threat due to frequent use of the area by fishers, recreationists, and others. Compounded by the proximity of some sites to the roadway, they have endured decades of vehicle and foot traffic. Corina Ewan, NVC president, emphasized the sacred nature of these burial grounds, stating, "We never disturb or move graves. This is engee (taboo) in our culture." 

"We owe it to our Tribe's ancestors to honor their resting places with utmost respect and protection." 

In light of these findings, the Native Village of Chitina has requested that the State of Alaska implement a road closure until all Tribal graves along the road are protected and further cultural studies have been completed to ensure the preservation of these sacred sites.

Corina Ewan emphasized the necessity of the road closure until cultural studies are completed, stating, "Graves have been discovered, and we are working to find a respectful solution. We are collaborating with the State of Alaska to remedy the situation."

The Native Village of Chitina implores the public to respect these cultural resources and adhere to state laws protecting artifacts and sites on federal, state and Native lands. The NVC asks all individuals to leave artifacts undisturbed and report their findings to the NVC at (907) 823-2215. 


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