Denali 2013 Centennial Climb

Dana Wright, great-grandnephew of Walter Harper, the 21-year old Athabascan who was the first to summit Denali, speaks during a press conference for the "Denali 2013 Centennial Climb" Tuesday morning, February 5, 2013 at St. Matthew's Episcopal Church. The team of descendants of the original expedition who first successfully climbed Denali 100 years ago will attempt the same climb this summer.

A statue of Walter Harper, the first man documented to have summited Denali in 1913, will be placed outside of Doyon headquarters in downtown Fairbanks, according to an announcement by Doyon, Limited.

Harper, who was Koyukon Athabascan, lived much of his childhood in Tanana, later living in Interior village of Fort Yukon. Harper and his wife, Frances Wells, died in 1918, along with 350 others in the sinking of the Princess Sophia off the southeast coast of Alaska. 

Earlier this year the Alaska Legislature approved Senate Bill 144 declaring June 7 as Walter Harper Day. 

Fairbanks area state Sens. Click Bishop, R-Fairbanks; John Coghill, R-North Pole; and Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, co-sponsored the bill, along with a number of other state senators. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.

The Walter Harper Project will work in conjunction with the Fairbanks Native Association to raise funds through donations for the statue project and will soon be issuing a proposal for Alaska artists to submit ideas for the statue. 

“It is an honor to recognize the accomplishments of our ancestors and to share their legacy with our youth,” said Tanya Kaquatosh, senior VP of administration for Doyon, Limited and a member of the Walter Harper Project.

More information can be found at

Contact staff writer Erin McGroarty at 459-7544. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.