Ikatan village was established around a salmon cannery that was built in 1917. This cannery was built by Pacific American Fisheries (PAF) out of Bellingham, Washington. PAF had other canneries in the area at King Cove, Shumagin Islands and Port Moller. It turned out that the location chosen for the cannery offered no protection from strong northerly winds that are frequent in this area. Since the cannery boats could not be protected adequately, the cannery was eventually closed in 1934. The local people who had built houses here stayed, however, because they could take their skiffs and small boats up onto land with rollers or a boat ways.
"The Ikatan cannery was located on Unimak Island, off the very tip of the Alaska Peninsula, opposite the southern entrance to False Pass, 40 miles west of the company's cannery at King Cove. Ikatan was a fish trap operation, and Arthur Lindstrom put the cannery into operation in 1917. The Norwood carried the construction crew north and the cannery was built and made operational in one season. PAF maintained Ikatan as a cannery until the early 1930s. After that, the company continued to fish the Ikatan trap locations but processed the fish at the King Cove cannery."1
The layout of the Ikatan cannery is shown in the survey plat on the upper right. These early canneries were quite self-sufficient and had docks, machine shop, carpenter shop, boat ways, net maintenance area as well as a store, bunkhouses and messhall for the workers, most of whom were brought in seasonally from the Seattle area. However, a few immigrants did settle here and they built houses near the cannery, some of which are still standing. Click on survey plat for larger version.
A photograph of the Ikatan cannery can be seen here.
Codfish station at Ikatan village site: A codfish station had been established at Ikatan before the salmon cannery was established. "In 1886 James Madison and associates of San Francisco, fitted out the schooner Francis Alice, and also started a small station at Ikatak, on Unimak Island. The venture lived but one season, the station being taken over by the McCollam Fish and Trading Co."7 Another reference says: "The <codfish> station situated near the southern entrance of False Pass, suspended for a number of years, was operated in the season of 1903".4 "In the fall of 1905 the Pacific States Trading Co., of San Francisco, which had just recently started in business, established stations on Herendeen Island, Northwest Harbor, and at Ikatak, on Unimak Island, and operated them continuously until 1909. The latter station was not reopened, but operations were resumed at the former in the fall of 1911, and it was operated until early in 1916, when the company suspended operations and sold the station to the Union Fish Co. The Ikatak was a summer station, while the one at Northwest Harbor is a winter station."3 At this time the primary fishery in the area was codfishing and there was a lot of speculation and experimentation in the cod fishery and codfish shore stations were established in many locations.3
It is not clear if the Ikatan codfish station buildings and dock survived to merge with the new Ikatan PAF salmon cannery. The canned salmon industry did not take off locally until the PAF King Cove cannery was established in 1911, the Ikatan cannery was built in 1917 and the False Pass cannery in 1919. Salt salmon, however, was being produced at Thin Point and other locations in the area, starting in the 1890's and it isn't clear if this was happening at Ikatan. "Small salteries have been operated at different places.... The plants have usually been rude and primitive affairs and were operated whenever the price of salted salmon was high enough to justify same. As the ownership, and the location in many instances changed frequently, no attempt has been made even to list them". 5
The population of Ikatan village originally depended upon the cannery built by Pacific American Fisheries in 1917. When the cannery closed in 1934, a few people stayed here and built substantial homes or occupied buildings left by the cannery. After the cannery closed, some people fished for salmon nearby or worked in the False Pass cannery. Trapping foxes during the winter supplemented their income.
The official population of Ikatan in 1920 was only 5 although the summer salmon season worker population was probably around 125. The 1930 census data for Ikatan was included on the "Unimak Village" sheet and it is clear from the names that about 15 of these people actually lived in Ikatan.
The 1940 census put the Ikatan population on the Unimak Village enumeration sheet, but a side note indicated which people lived in Ikatan and this data is depicted on the graph to the left. The graph shows that the village had a total population of 38 people with 14 workers, all in the salmon business. Five of these workers were foreign born.
The last official population data for Ikatan was for 1950 when 29 people were reported by the State of Alaska as living in Ikatan.2 The last residents to live in Ikatan were the George Kochuten family and they moved away in the early 1960s, leaving the village abandoned. The old cannery site property is now in private hands.
The June red salmon run was the reason for the original PAF cannery being built at the Ikatan site . When the cannery was closed in 1934, salmon traps continued to operate along the Ikatan Bay shoreline and salmon fishermen fished the entire area as usual.
The Ikatan site is an especially good place for salmon set netting and local fishermen fished this site from dories and skiffs. Nearly every season a salmon setnetter sets up operations here and boat drift gillnetters fish nearby.
The City of False Pass boundaries now encompass the old village site at Ikatan.
Ikatan village is located in a spectacular natural setting. This view from the air is towards the west-northwest, with Ikatan Peninsula behind the camera. Several buildings from the old village can be seen on the point of land at the lower left. To the right is Ikatan Bay. To the left is Otter Cove, locally known as Banjo Bay. The neck section of the broad flatland is the isthmus of Ikatan, connecting Ikatan Peninsula with Unimak Island. This isthmus was created only in about 1890; see the False Pass/Isanotski Strait page on this website for details. Before that, Ikatan Peninsula was actually an island called Ikatok. The community of False Pass is located on Unimak island about 7 miles to the northwest, on Isanotski Strait.
The volcanoes on Unimak Island in the background, starting on the left, are Shishaldin at 9373 ft (2857 m), Isanotski Peaks (known as Ragged Jack locally) at 8104 ft (2470 m) and Roundtop at 6138 ft (1871 m). Shishaldin is still a very active volcano and fumes can be seen arising from the summit in this photo, but Isanotski Peaks and Roundtop are dormant.6
1) Radke, August C. & Barbara S. Radke;
Pacific American Fisheries, Inc.: History of a Washington State Salmon Packing Company, 1890-1966; McFarland & Co., Jefferson, North Carolina, 2001, pg. 98
2) Alaska, Division of Community & Regional Affairs, Ikatan.
Cobb, John Nathan; Pacific Cod Fisheries, "History of Alaska Shore Fishing Stations", Gov. Printing Office, 1916, Google Books
Reports of the Dept. of Commerce and Labor, 19O4, "The Pacific Coast Cod Fishery.", Washington, GPO,1905. pg. 591
Report of the United States Commissioner of Fisheries for the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 1921. Washington, GPO, 1921, pg. 56-57, Google Books
6) Alaska Volcano Observatory, Fairbanks, AK.:
7) Cobb, John Nathan; Pacific Cod Fisheries, "History of Alaska Shore Fishing Stations", Gov. Printing Office, 1916, pg. 38, Google Books