ANCHORAGE -

A land transfer this week to a Kuskokwim Bay community will protect subsistence resources and allow a large archeology project to continue.

On Tuesday the Bureau of Land Management transferred more than 2,400 acres to Qanirtuuq, Inc. the corporation representing the Native village of Quinhagak. The lands are part of the community’s entitlement under the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. The transfer brings Qanirtuuq’s ANCSA claim to 130,564 acres.

Qanirtuuq officials say the land contains significant cultural and natural resources, including non-navigable streams and the right of control of submerged lands. 

“It is a big deal in terms of being done with a promise made 43 years ago,” said Sam Fortier, legal counsel for Qanirtuuq.

With 80 percent of shareholders living in Quinhagak subsistence hunters and fishermen, Fortier said its “important to have control of lands and access to resources … and prevent trespass.”

The cultural artifacts on the transferred lands include “a huge old village” close to the existing village. It’s the focus of an archeological dig by Scotland’s University of Aberdeen. The dig has been recovering artifacts more than 700 years old, predating first contact by Columbus with the New World.

The artifacts, which include preserved skins and wooden tools—organic materials rarely found due to their tendency to rot or otherwise decompose —have been well-preserved due to the unique soil conditions in the area. However, rapid erosion and rising sea levels are threatening the project. Over a third of the resource has already been destroyed.