Fairbanks Area Place Names in the Lower Tanana Language

Although the modern city of Fairbanks was founded in 1901, the region in which Fairbanks is located has long been occupied by speakers of the (Lower) Tanana Athabascan language. The Native placenames of the region reveal a long history of use by Athabascan speakers. In fact, many common English names derive ultimately from Athabascan. For example, Chena from Tanana AthabascanCh'eno', literally 'river of something (game)' -- an oblique reference to the presence of caribou herds in the lower Chena valley; and Chatanika from Dradlaya Nik'a, literally 'round whitefish river.' Other names reveal an intimate connection with the land of the Chena and Tanana River valleys. Thus, Clear Creek Butte on the Tanana Flats is Ch'eyona' T'wx, 'bald eagle nest'; and the Little Salcha River is Tso' Ten No', 'beaver trail creek.'

In 2012 the Lower Tanana name Troth Yeddha' was adopted by the US Board of Geogrpahic Names as the official name for the ridge on which the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus is located. This name has also been adopted by the University as the name for Troth Yeddha' Park. The name Troth Yeddha' may well be the first official Indigneous place name located on a university campus in the United States and spelled correctly in the official orthography. 

Troth Yeddha

Native Placenames of the Fairbanks Area
Imagery \xa92008 TerraMetrics, Map data \xa92008 Tele Atlas - Terms of Use
50 mi
100 km
Center: 64.08556,-148.38751
Map created at GPSVisualizer.com

View these placenames in Google Earth: fairbanks.kmz

The names in the map above were compiled from the following sources:

  • Athabaskan Place Names in the Fairbanks Area by James Kari [ANL Archive manuscriptTN981K1984b]
  • Lower Tanana Place Names by James Kari [ANL Archive manuscript TN981K2003]
  • Lower Tanana Athabaskan Listening and Writing Exercises, by James Kari [ANLA Archive manuscript TNMN981K1991c] (Also available for purchase from ANLC)


Alaska Range Mountains

To the south of Fairbanks the snowy peaks of Deghiloyi (the Alaska Range) rise to more than 20,000 feet in elevation. Many of these peaks can be viewed from the vantage point of Troth Yeddha' on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. This annotated watercolor by Todd Sherman (Dean, UAF College of Liberal Arts) shows the view looking south from Troth Yeddha'.


# LT Name English Literal meaning
  Deghiloyi Alaska Range objects suspended in a row
1 Khosrotl'odi Mt. Hayes sun comes up at headwaters
2 Deba Ddhela' ridge at base of Mt. Hayes sheep mountain
4 Notuzrakh Mts. Hess & Deborah water forks downward
5 Ch'eyona' T'wkh Clear Creek Butte bald eagle nest
9 Dinadhi Denali (Mt. McKinley) the tall one
10 Dinadhi Be'ot Mt. Foraker the tall one's wife
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