Native Place Names of the Fairbanks Area

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 Athabascan Ch'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.'


  • Lower Tanana Athabascan Place Names (Buy it here)
  • Athabaskan Place Names in the Fairbanks Area by James Kari (Read it here)
  • Lower Tanana Place Names by James Kari (Read it here)
  • Lower Tanana Athabaskan Listening and Writing Exercises, by James Kari (Buy it here)