The village of Ouzinkie is located on Spruce Island, approximately 12 miles north of the city of Kodiak. The modern village of Ouzinkie founded 150 years ago, derived its name from the Russian term “uzen kii”, meaning “rather narrow”.
The Ouzinkie Narrows separates Spruce Island from Kodiak Island. The village is part of the ancient homeland of the indigenous Alutiiq people who have continuously occupied the Kodiak Archipelago for at least 7,000 years. Ouzinkie is only accessible by air and water.
Ouzinkie has a very special relationship with Saint Herman of Alaska, North America’s first Russian Orthodox Saint. Saint Herman arrived as a young monk from Russia in the late 1700s. He brought his skill as a gardener with him and introduced farming and gardening as practiced in Northern Russian. He established a hermitage on Spruce Island and took in Alutiiq children orphaned through disease and Russian exploitation and taught them gardening. He is beloved throughout our Alutiiq homeland. And faithful from around the world travel to venerate him during the annual pilgrimage to Monk’s Lagoon on Spruce Island.
Ouzinkie in the late 19th and for most of the 20th century relied on commercial fishing as a primary source of income for its extended fishing families. However, fishing has declined due to large financial barriers to entry created through the limited entry and Individual Fishing Quota programs that began in the late 1970s.
Our Ouzinkie community is committed to working together to build a brighter future starting on the foundation of our ancestors and elders. This effort is possible because of the cooperation within our region’s communities and the collaborative efforts led through the Kodiak Archipelago Leadership Institute, KALI.
Looking at what’s happening now, we are all working together to support food security through Spruce Island Farms and workshops on our local native plants. We have worked with KALI to add hydroponics to Spruce Island Farms to provide for year-round food production. We hold events at the farm such as potato picking to encourage our Elders and youth to become involved.
We are also excited to share a win for the entire community, The Ouzinkie Holding Company, our communities Community Quota Entity (CQE), has purchased halibut Individual Fishing Quotas. These very expensive purchases were made possible through the donation of timber sale revenues by the Ouzinkie Native Corporation. These timber sales were generated through the clearing timber for the new airport project. All the timber sales revenue for the airport project were donated to the halibut quota share program. In addition to this, the Native Village of Ouzinkie has recently made $1 million dollars available to the CQE for the purchase of additional quota. These quota shared will be leased to our Ouzinkie fishermen. This will enable our community members to continue the tradition of supporting their families through commercial fishing, a tradition that is in jeopardy due to the loss of our fishing fleets in our villages through limited access.
Currently, the population of Ouzinkie includes approximately 125 year-round residents, mostly of Alutiiq ancestry.