Kijik (Qizhjeh) National Historic Landmark and Archeological District

Aerial view of lake surrounded by mountains.
Aerial image of K'q'uya Vena (Kijik Lake), which flows into Qizhejeh Vena (Lake Clark) via the Ch'ak'dałtnu (Kijik River).


Qizhjeh Vena is the ancestral homeland of the Dena’ina people. Long before this lake was part of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve, it was known as Qizhjeh Vena, 'a place where people gather lake.' The Qizhjeh (Kijik) area includes K'q'uya Vena (Kijik Lake) and the portion of the Ch'ak'dałtnu (Kijik River) that flows into Lake Clark. These areas hold great cultural importance to local Dena'ina people.

Kijik (Qizhjeh) National Historic Landmark and Archeological District contains more than a dozen archeological sites including a village abandoned at the beginning of the 20th century. It is one of only three areas in Alaska with both of the designation as a National Historic Landmark and an Archeological District. The word Kijik is an English language spelling of Qizhjeh, which roughly translates to 'place where people gather' in Dena'ina.

Students sit at table with cardboard sign reading "Dena'ina Alphabet"
Students of the Quk' Taz'un, 'The Sun Is Rising' Dena'ina outdoor learning camp practice the Dena'ina alphabet. This camp was created to support a safe environment that offers tools for well being and promotes a relationship with the younger generation.

NPS Photo

Qizhjeh (Kijik Village)

Historical texts as old as 1818 mention Qizhjeh (Kijik) village, but the first residents may have moved there decades earlier. The community contained many houses and, according to elders from the village of Nondalton, a Russian Orthodox church was built around 1889.

For approximately 900 years, Qizhjeh village thrived on the shores of Qizhjeh Vena (Lake Clark). Here abundant firewood, strong salmon runs, hunting, and fishing supported the village year-round. The Dena’ina people established strong cultural connections to the land, water, and wildlife.

Qizhjeh became one of Alaska's largest village sites and sprawled throughout nearly a millennium of occupancy. Well established routes between Qizhjeh and villages to the west, north, and east connected local communities in the region and facilitated trade. Today, hikers still walk along the Telaquana Route that once connected Qizhjeh to Telaquana Lake in the northern part of what is now Lake Clark National Park.

Qizhjeh residents initially weathered a number of diseases introduced by outsiders, but by 1902 residents of Qizhjeh fell victim to a flu-measles epidemic. Survivors began to leave for Old Nondalton, twenty-five miles to the southwest. By 1909, residents had completely abandoned the village. Evidence from other archeological sites in the Kijik (Qizhjeh) Landmark indicates that Dena'ina people were in the area for many generations before Russian contact in the late 1700s. Scientists have tested and radio-carbon dated only a few sites in the area, leaving the duration of Dena'ina presence in the area a mystery.

Young boy sits on ground holding tool.
A young student of the Quk' Taz'un, 'The Sun Is Rising' Dena'ina outdoor learning camp learns the uses and values of traditional tools. This camp takes place in the ancestral home of Qizhjeh (Kijik).

NPS Photo

A Sacred Place

The Dena’ina people have continued to live, fish, and hunt in the same areas as their ancestors who lived at Qizhjeh. Qizhjeh is still considered a sacred and highly respected place. In recent summers, Quk' Taz'un, 'The Sun Is Rising', a Dena'ina outdoor learning camp is held in Qizhjeh. At this camp, students learn from and honor the knowledge of ancestors, and are provided the tools and encouragement to engage with Dena'ina history and culture.
Map of Lake Clark National Park and Preserve with Kijik National Historic Landmark, marked in yellow.
Kijik National Historic Landmark, Lake Clark National Park and Preserve.

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Last updated: February 4, 2019

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