The City and Borough of Yakutat is a borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. Incorporated as a non-unified Home Rule Borough on September 22, 1992, Yakutat was previously a city in the Skagway-Yakutat-Angoon Census Area (afterwards renamed the Skagway-Hoonah-Angoon Census Area). The name is Tlingit, Yaakwdáat ("the place where canoes rest") but it originally derives from an Eyak name diyaʼqudaʼt and was influenced by the Tlingit word yaakw ("canoe, boat").
The U.S. Census Bureau has defined the former City of Yakutat as a census-designated place within the borough. The only other significant population center in the borough is the community of Icy Bay, the site of the Icy Bay Airport, in the west-central part of the borough.
The original settlers in the Yakutat area are believed to have been Eyak-speaking people from the Copper River area. Tlingits migrated into the area and assimilated the Eyaks before the arrival of Europeans in Alaska. Yakutat was only one of a number of Tlingit and mixed Tlingit-Eyak settlements in the region, although all the others have been depopulated or abandoned.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, English, French, Spanish and Russian explorers came to the region. The Shelikhov-Golikov company, precursor of the Russian-American Company, built a fort in Yakutat in 1795 to facilitate trade in sea otter pelts. It was known as New Russia, Yakutat Colony, or Slavorossiya. When the Russians cut off access to the fisheries nearby, a Tlingit war party attacked and destroyed the fort.
By 1886, after the Alaska Purchase by the United States, the black sand beaches in the area were being mined for gold. In 1889 the Swedish Free Mission Church opened a school and sawmill in the area. A cannery, another sawmill, a store and a railroad were constructed from 1903 by the Stimson Lumber Company. Many people moved to the current site of Yakutat to be closer to the Stimpson cannery, which operated through 1970. During World War II, the USAAF stationed a large aviation garrison near Yakutat and built a paved runway. The troops were withdrawn after the war but the runway is still in use as Yakutat Airport, which offers scheduled airline service.
Fishing is currently the largest economic activity in Yakutat.
Yakutat Tlingit Tribe (YTT) received a Language Preservation Grant from the Administration for Native Americans in 2004. With this, they have reinvigorated their efforts to teach the Tlingit language to middle-aged and young people. YTT received another ANA grant in 2007 and is expanding its role in the schools. All the YTT Tlingit language revitalization work focuses on using communicative approaches to second language teaching, such as TPR and ASLA.
While working at a local cannery from 1912 to 1941, Seiki Kayamori extensively photographed Yakutat and its area. A large set of prints of his work is held by Yakutat City Hall.