[Brief] A Small Cultural Reservoir
Published 8-9-2021 | Last updated 8-9-2021
[Unofficial name, no GNIS Entry]
The story of Chishkatnu’s transition to Thunder Bird Creek has been traced back to the Anchorage Camera Club visiting the waterfalls along the Glenn Highway in 1935. The preservation of that name Chishkatnu in a format which is accessible to everyday Alaskans is largely thanks to the efforts of Dr. Jim Kari, James A. Fall, and the contributors to Shem Pete’s Alaska, an atlas of Dena’ina place names first published in 1987. The first and second editions introduced many Alaskans to the universe of Dena’ina culture including Stu Grenier, a lifelong resident of Anchorage.
‘Chishka Pond,’ an unofficial name for a minor feature in a quiet corner of Chugach State Park, is not an original Dena’ina name but was proposed in 2005 by Grenier in a trip report to the Mountaineering Club of Alaska describing swimming and packrafting in the pond on various trips beginning in the 1980s. Due to collaborations between the Club and visiting cartographers the name is now displayed on maps of the Chugach State Park made by Imus Geographics and National Geographic, and others influenced by those two. In Grenier’s own words:
“We know now from the most recent addition of Shem Pete's Alaska, a book that details Native names and facts about Upper Cook Inlet, that the ridge along the south side of Eklutna Lake was called Nuhdaltunt or the ridge that extends across. And that Thunder Bird Creek, which dates back to 1942 when it was registered as a local name for the falls near the highway, was called Chishkatnu by the Natives which means big ocher creek. Come to think of it, the earth in the upper reaches of Thunder Bird Valley is unusually red in places. Taking into consideration the descriptive Native name for Thunder Bird Creek I would like to propose the name Chishka Pond for the above mentioned tarn which is rather unique in the area and a noted swim hole.” - Stu Grenier, 2005
Expanding on the topic in 2019, he added:
“Back in the early days of packrafting we took packrafts from Eklutna Lake over the ridge to Peters Creek and packrafted out or all the way to Eagle River. I loved reading about how the local Natives related to the land and how distinguished members of the Mountaineering Club of Alaska, Rodman Wilson and Art Davidson, have struggled to include Dena’ina names in local peak names. I like to think of my effort to get a Dena’ina name on this pond as a continuation of that tradition.” - Stu Grenier, 2019