The oral history of Glacier Bay, Alaska recounts the eviction of the Huna Tlingit from their ancestral homeland during the late 17th to early 18th century advance of the glacier that filled the Bay. Tree-ring records of both climatic conditions and ice advance add annual chronological resolution to this story. These details include the rate of ice advance down the Bay, major cooling events linked to volcanic eruptions and other forcings that influenced the region and may have been recounted in oral histories reported as “winter following winter”. Other oral history records related to the traditional use of Alaska yellow cedar trees, around Glacier Bay, can be complemented by tree-ring analysis which proves how crucial this resource is to Tlingit culture and livelihood. The linkages of the tree-ring and oral histories is open for interpretation and thus provides a unique opportunity to investigate the meshing of the stories. Initial results of this work, along with previous tree-ring data from the region, have generated even more questions about the local climatic history inferred from tree rings. Due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, the TRAYLS group interviewed residents of Hoonah about their traditional use of Alaska Cedar. These independent perspectives on the Glacier Bay story and forest resource use could benefit from the shared knowledge of tree-ring science and its intersection with the native Huna Tlingit culture. Future collaboration will enrich the cultural and scientific experiences of both the TRAYLS group as well as other undergraduate researchers. This paper answers the question: How does the Glacier Bay Story inform the relationship between Tlingit Natives and Glacier Bay National Park from the 17th century to today? This paper is situated chronologically, as it best fits the nature of the story and events that impacted the relationship between Tlingit and Glacier Bay National Park (GBNPP). As for the results of this study, it has been determined that from tree ring analysis, the glacier in Glacier Bay moved and forced the Tlingit to relocate between 1700 CE and 1750 CE. Additionally, oral stories told by the Tlingit help inform this event in geologic history. The relationship between the Tlingit and GBNPP today is complex and currently evolving through reparations and support of the culture within the park. Strides to improve this relationship include changes made within laws as well as supporting local Tlingits within the National Park. As a recommendation, continuing to work with TRAYLS could help rebuild the relationship as well as provide further insights that connects oral history with geologic data. Finally, future work regarding geologic histories should include voices of those impacts, such as the Tlingit, as their oral histories can improve the results of studies.


Wiles, Greg




Forest Biology | Geology | Glaciology | Human Geography | Nature and Society Relations | Other Environmental Sciences | Other Forestry and Forest Sciences | Paleobiology | Physical and Environmental Geography | Place and Environment | Social Justice

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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