Yakutat was originally populated by eyak-speaking people from the copper river. They were assimilated by the tlingits when they migrated into the area. In 1795, the shelikhov-golikov company built a fort in Yakutat to begin trade in sea otter pelts. It was known as new Russia, Yakutat colony, or slavorossiya. The fort was destroyed by Tlingits when they attacked it after the Russians cut off access to nearby fisheries. Gold mining began in the area in 886, after Alaska was purchased by the US. In 1903, the stimson lumber company established a cannery, sawmill, store and railroad. During this time, many people began to inhabit Yakutat in order to be closer to the cannery which was in operation until 1970. During the second world war, the US air ford built an aviation garrison near Yakutat with a paved runway. After the war, the troops withdrew but the runway is still in use as the Yakutat airport.