An Alaska Native and Russian Orthodox Cultural
Visitors to Eklutna Historical Park can take a guided tour to the old log Russian Orthodox Church, see the Spirit Houses, and visit the new Orthodox Church. You'll learn about the history, culture, and customs of the Dena'ina Athabascans in combination with Russian Orthodox traditions.
Thirty Minutes from Downtown Anchorage
Old Saint Nicholas Church
The old St. Nicholas church was
constructed in Knik around 1870 although it may have been done as early as
1830. It was moved in around 1900 to Eklutna where it was actively used until
it was replaced by the new church. The old St. Nicholas church is the oldest
standing building in the greater Anchorage area. It is kept up for historical
purposes and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
New Saint Nicholas Church
The new St. Nicholas church was built in 1962 by the people of Eklutna.
The project was headed by the Athabaskan Chief Mike Maxim Alex. It is still
used regularly; we hold weekly services Saturday at 5 pm, Sunday at 9 am and
Thursday evenings at 5 pm.
The interior of Alaska is
home to the Athabaskan Native Peoples. Specific to the Eklutna area are the
Danaina or Tanaina, Athabaskans. These colorful spirit houses are a uniquely
Athabaskan tradition; according to cultural beliefs. Spirit
houses were built by the family after the person’s death. A wonderful and unique mix
of this native tradition with the practices and beliefs of Orthodox
Christianity can be seen in the cemetery. The graves of the Athabaskan people
are marked not only with their traditional spirit houses, but also with an Orthodox Christian Cross. There are also graves marked only with crosses, honoring the
resting places of the Orthodox non- native members of the church.
The Three-Barred Cross existed very early in Byzantium, but was adopted
by the Russian Orthodox Church and was especially popularized in the Slavic
countries. The upper arm represents the inscription over Christ's head, and the
lower slanting bar represents His footrest. The origin of this slanted
footboard is not known, but in the symbolism of the Russian Orthodox Church,
the most common explanation is that it is the pointing upward to Paradise for
the Good Thief on Jesus' right who acknowledged Him and downward to Hell for
the Thief on His left (Luke 23). *
A peculiar feature of Russian Orthodox churches is the presence of
onion-shaped domes on top of the cupolas. Historians are not in agreement as to
the origin of this particular style, but some point to the possible influence
of Persia on this peculiar feature of Russian church architecture, while others
argue that since this style was more popular in the far North of Russia, it had
a practical application, in that the shape was particularly suited to shed the
large amounts of snow common in the region.*
Dates and Hours of
Eklutna Historical Park is open to the public from the
middle of May through September. The Park is open Monday through Saturday, 10am
12 to 18- $ 2.50
11 and under- Free
Group Rates Available Upon
Group tours may be available during and outside of the
regular hours. Call for more information.
(The walkways are gravel, so we recommend wearing walking
shoes and bringing a coat in case of rain. Also, we strongly recommend Bug Spray!)
* Excerpts taken from "These Truths We Hold - The Holy
Orthodox Church: Her Life and Teachings". Compiled and Edited by A Monk of
St. Tikhon's Monastery. Copyright 1986 by the St. Tikhon's Seminary Press,
South Canaan, Pennsylvania 18459.
Responsibility: Eklutna Historical
Park reserves the right to alter its schedule or price at any time without
notification. Eklutna Historical Park will not be responsible for and expense
incurred due to delays or unavailability, or any other conditions beyond their