About Tanana



Tanana Alaska, formerly known in the Athabascan language as “Nuchalawoyya;” meaning “where the two rivers meet” is located at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon River. It was a traditional trading settlement for the Athabascan Natives, because of it’s convenient location of the merging rivers.

For thousands of years, Athabascan leaders gathered at Nuchalawoyya to discuss tribal matters and to trade. This has been a tradition that has held true today. People from around interior Alaska still travel to Tanana for the “Nuchalawoyya” celebration. They participate in native games, social events, potlatches and native dancing. It brings people together to celebrate the past, present and future.

Tanana’s history consists of a sight of bartering for native goods, Ft. Gibbons an army signal Corp. which maintained a telegraph line to Nome, an air base for refueling military planes, a hospital sight serving villages along the Yukon River and also a historical sight for the St. James Episcopal Mission.

The St. James Episcopal Mission was constructed in the late 1800’s. It created a lot of services to the people local to the area and also caused a lot of changes to happen along the river. There became a point where the town was segregated. The Native people lived up river near the Episcopal Church while the Caucasian settlers lived down town near the local trading posts and post office.

In 1898 Fort Gibbons was founded at Tanana. It maintained a telegraph line between Fairbanks and Nome. In 1923 Ft. Gibbon was abandoned, while the St. James Hospital which was built there was still up and running it was turned over to the Bureaus of Indian Affairs administration in the 1920’s.New Hospital facilities were built in 1949 and during the 50’s the administration duties were transferred to the U.S. Public Health Services. The Hospital closed down in 1982.
The City of Tanana was established in 1961; and is still one of the main employers in the rural community.

Erickson History

Cynthia and Dale Erickson bought Tanana Commercial from the Alaska Commercial Co. in 1985 with a loan they received from Denali State Bank in Fairbanks. Cynthia had grown up in the grocery business in Ruby, where her parents, Harold and Florence Esmailka, managed the store and an air service for more than four decades.

The family lives above the store and their three children have all worked in the business. They all started by stocking shelves, and then progressed to operating the cash register and learning to provide good customer service. As teenagers they are able to manage opening and operating the store without their parents’ supervision.

The business has grown steadily over the years as they have added services. They added a fuel system, a restaurant and a bed and breakfast to their name. The consistent hard work of the Erickson family has established Tanana Commercial as a successful enterprise. The proprietors are always thinking about the business and how to accommodate the local people and those who are just passing through.