Mike Alex, a Dena’ina Indian chief, and his sons built the new Saint Nicholas Church just to the south of the old Saint Nicholas Church in Eklutna, a Dena’ina village roughly 30 miles from downtown Anchorage (although it is technically recognized as part of the Anchorage Municipality). The church has the same size and general form as the old one: a rectangular main block, gable roof, vestibule, and bell tower. The gable-roofed vestibule and tower support a belfry and onion dome. Both are hewn from spruce and are faithful to the style that Russian missionaries brought to the region. On the inside, the church has some icons from the abandoned Aleutian village of Unga, as well as nineteenth-century processional banners.
The new Saint Nicholas Church reveals the way in which Russian colonization shaped the built environment of the village. Arriving in the area as early as the 1840s, the Russian Orthodox Church played an intimate role in the colonial process. Today, one may view its legacy by spending time at the new Saint Nicholas Church, the Russian Orthodox Eklutna Cemetery, and the adjacent Dena’ina Eklutna Spirit Houses. Before the proliferation of the Alaska Railroad in 1915, there existed eight Dena’ina villages, some of which dated back over eight hundred years. However, with the influx of white colonists and the establishment of Anchorage, the Village of Eklutna is now the only remaining Indigenous village within the limits of the municipality.
Kari, James, and James A. Fall, eds. Shem Pete’s Alaska: The Territory of the Upper Cook Inlet Dena’ina. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2003.
Jones, Suzi, James A. Frall, and Aaron Leggett, eds. Dena'inaq' Huch'ulyeshi: The Dena'ina Way of Living. Fairbanks: University of Alaska Press, 2013.