The present community of False Pass came into being in about 1915 when a few families established their homes here. However, when the first school building was built in False Pass, the construction workers found artifacts from a small Aleut settlement that had probably been abandoned at the time of the arrival of the Russians in about 1775. Before the Russians arrived the native Aleuts called this area "Isannakh", meaning "The Pass". This name was changed by the Russians into "Isanotski". Today the name Isanotski Strait is used for the pass in front of the village, separating Unimak Island from the Alaska Peninsula. People soon forgot what Isanotski meant. The name "False Pass" apparently came about when early sailing vessels heard of "The Pass" in this area. When they tried to go through Isanotski Strait into the Bering Sea their deep draft sailing vessels could not maneuver the channel, so they called it "False Pass". They did not know that there is indeed a good navigable channel which today is marked by navigation buoys and used by hundreds of boats. So, even though the name is officially False Pass, most people in the area still call it "The Pass".
Early Villages and the Local Economy: The Aleut people have lived in the Aleutian Islands and along Isanotski Strait for thousands of years and have always had fishing as the basis of their subsistence economy. The Russians arrived in Isanotski Strait in 1761. Violent conflicts erupted between the Russian invaders and the local Aleuts and most Aleut villages were destroyed. After what the Russians called "pacification" occurred, they soon started a commercial trade in sea otter pelts that were shipped to Russia and China. By the time the Americans acquired Alaska in 1867, the sea otters had been nearly exterminated.
During the Russian and early American period, Morzhovoi Village, located on the east side of Isanotski Strait in Trader's Cove, was the main village in the area. It was established by the Russians as a sea otter trading station and its inhabitants were pulled from the villages that had been destroyed in the area. Morzhovoi Village had several stores, a Russian Orthodox Church and several hundred inhabitants. The Village was abandoned in about 1965 when the last residents moved to False Pass to live year around.
In the late 1890's new immigrants began to settle in this area, coming mostly from Scandinavia. These new immigrants also settled in Sanak and other nearby places and brought with them commercial fishing technology to create a new fishing industry oriented towards an export economy. The transition from a subsistence fishing economy to a commercial one was rapid. By the turn of the century salt codfish and salt salmon were being produced locally. In 1911 the Pacific Fisherman reported that Codfish stations had been established at Company Harbor, Moffets Cove, Pavlof Harbor and Johnson Harbor, all on Sanak Island. On the Ikatan Peninsula there was a codfish station at Dora Harbor. By the year 1912 salmon canneries had been built by the Pacific American Company on the Alaska Peninsula at King Cove and Port Moller. In 1917 a new PAF cannery in Ikatan produced its first canned salmon pack. Floating processors canned fish while anchored near Morzhovoi Village before the False Pass Cannery was built.
The False Pass Cannery: In 1917, a new cannery that had been built in Morzhovoi Bay by the Sockeye Salmon Co. had its first salmon pack. However Morzhovoi Bay proved to be a poor location because the dock was not protected from the storms, so the cannery was physically moved to False Pass in 1919 and purchased by the P.E. Harris, Co. This cannery, which was later renamed Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc., functioned until 1981 when it burned. Some of the original buildings that came from Morzhovoi Bay are still in use today. Peter Pan still provides service to the salmon fleet during the summer from the old cannery site.
The Isanotski Corporation operates a crab pot and fishing gear storage business near the City Dock. It is also encouraging the establishment of fisheries support businesses in that area. A new business is being established by the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Community Development Association (APICDA) in cooperation with a Norwegian fishing company. The new company is called the Bering Pacific Company and began building a fish camp in the fall of 1999 near the new City Dock. False Pass is still a community of fishermen and most work revolves around the harvesting of fish and the maintaining and servicing boats.
Population and the School: The building of the cannery in 1919 attracted workers who came from the nearby villages of Morzhovoi, Pauloff Harbor, Company Harbor, Belkofski and Ikatan. Some of these workers came here with their families to stay. All of these older villages have since been abandoned. The majority of the residents of False Pass are of Russian-Aleut extraction with Scandinavian influence, but various other ethnic groups are represented. Population size has never been large and has varied from 59 in 1930 to 88 in 1940 to 61 today. A school was established in False Pass in 1921 in a small building at the cannery. The present school facility includes a primary school, a high school and gym and is modern in every respect. The school has a modern computer system with a dedicated satellite connection to the Internet and to other schools in the Aleutians East School District.
City of False Pass: The community officially became a 2nd class city in 1990. It did this primarily so it could generate income to help support the school. At about the same time a borough (county) was formed and the community is now part of the Aleutians East Borough. The City is governed by an elected Council and Mayor. Electric and water services for the community are provided by the City. There is a 3% sales and use tax within the City limits. There are no property taxes. There is a Village Public Safety Officer trained by the Alaska Troopers who is a local resident and performs all the normal duties of a policeman.
Community Services: The Isanotski Corporation is the for-profit organization of the Native Americans in False Pass. Since the Isanotski Corporation owns nearly all the land in the area, it will play a vital role in the future development of the community. The health and welfare needs of the Native American residents of the community are represented by the False Pass Tribal Council. The Council helps administer a medical clinic staffed with a health aide for the community.
The Community Center has programs for adults and children throughout the week. There is a small public library which focuses on historical and cultural materials specific to our area and books for children. A new library and Post Office building was built by the City during the summer of 1999.
Transportation and Communications:
Air Transportation:There is regularly scheduled air passenger service with Peninsula Airways and mail arrives three times per week from Cold Bay. From Cold Bay there are regularly scheduled flights to Anchorage via Peninsula Airways.
Sea Transportation: The Alaska State Ferry has scheduled service once a month starting in April and ending in October. The Ferry carries passengers and vehicles and is a great way to see all the country and communities between here and Seward. Since this is a fishing community, there are several docks for various needs and sizes of vessels. Peter Pan operates a fuel dock, a small boat slip and a general cargo dock. The City has a large dock for general cargo and for docking the Alaska State Ferry. Plans are being finalized for a new Small Boat Harbor which should be built in the year 2002. Sea freight service from Seattle is provided by two freight companies: Western Pioneer, Inc. and Coastal Transportation, Inc.
Telephone and TV: The community has regular telephone service and also a new digital long distance satellite dish with GCI. Many people have their own TV satellite dishes, but the community also has a small TV transmitter which broadcasts the State ARCS channel.
Stores: Peter Pan Seafoods will be closing their general store on July 1, 2004. A new general store called the Isanotski General Store will open the first of July, 2004.
The False Pass Community from the Air:
This photograph was taken in the month of May as the vegetation was just turning green. During the summer everything is lush green. In this photograph several main parts of the village can be seen. On the right top is the City Dock and beyond it is the Crab Pot Storage and site for the new Boat Harbor. The area along the beach in the upper right is the "Old Town" where most people originally had their homes. To the south of that is the Cannery site of Peter Pan Seafoods. South of that, just in from the beach, is the airport. The newer part of town is in Round Top Valley. Most new residential construction and community services buildings are located in this area.
A thorough descriptive profile of the False Pass community that includes census and economic statistics, is available from the Alaska Department of Community and Regional Affairs on their web site. Please see the Links Page for a complete listing of web sites that have information on our community and the surrounding area.
False Pass Community Contacts:
(For Internet links outside the community, please see "Links" Web Page)
Isanotski Corporation: 101 Isanotski
Drive, False Pass, AK 99583
City of False Pass: P.O. Box 50, False Pass,
False Pass Tribal Council: P.O. Box 29
False Pass, AK 99583
False Pass Health Clinic: False Pass,
False Pass School: False Pass, AK 99583
False Pass Post Office: False Pass, AK
Fisheries Related Services in False Pass:
Isanotski Crab Pot & Gear Storage: near Small Boat Harbor and City Dock
Isanotski Grocery Store: located at entrance to City Dock
Isanotski Package Liquor Store: located across from City Hall
Peter Pan Seafoods, Inc. P.O. Box 70,
False Pass, AK 99583
Peninsula Airways: Air transportation between
False Pass and Cold Bay
Coastal Transportation, Inc.: Sea freight service
from Seattle to False Pass. Service to False Pass is usually weekly for
any size shipment.
Alaska Marine Highway System: Passenger
& vehicle Ferry service to False Pass