Tanana is located in Interior Alaska about
two miles west of the junction of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers, 130 air
miles west of Fairbanks. It lies at approximately 65░ 10' N Latitude,
152░ 04' W Longitude (Sec. 17, T004N, R022W, Fairbanks Meridian). The
community is located in the Ft. Gibbon Recording District. The area
encompasses 17 sq. miles of land and 5 sq. miles of water.
to its location at the confluence of the Tanana and Yukon Rivers, Tanana
was a traditional trading settlement for Koyukon and Tanana Athabascans
long before European contact. In 1868, a trading station that was
initially named Mercier was founded by a French Canadian company. In
1880, Harper's Station, an Alaska Commercial Company Trading Post, was
established 13 miles downriver from the present site. In 1881, Church of
England missionaries from Canada built a mission 8 miles downriver.
Between 1887 and 1900, an elaborate school and hospital complex, the St.
James Mission, was constructed. It became an important source of
services and social change along both rivers. In 1898, Fort Gibbon was
founded at Tanana to maintain the telegraph line between Fairbanks and
Nome. A post office was also established, and several other trading
posts developed around the turn of the century. Gold seekers left the
Yukon after 1906. Ft. Gibbon was abandoned in 1923. The St. James
Hospital was transferred to the BIA administration in the 1920s.
During World War II, an air base was established near Tanana as a
refueling stop for the lend-lease aircraft program. New hospital
facilities were built in 1949; and during the 1950s, hospital
administration was transferred to the U.S. Public Health Service.
The City of Tanana was incorporated in 1961. The hospital complex was
a major employer during this period, employing 54 persons with a payroll
of $1.6 million, but was closed in 1982. During 1982, Tanana
incorporated as a First Class City in order to assume control of the
local school system. The hospital facilities were remodeled for use as a
health clinic, nurse's quarters, tribal office, and day care center.