• Join us in the Commemoration of

    an Alaskan & American Icon


    The Walter Harper Project


    Help us build a life size bronze statue to commemorate Walter Harper, the first person to reach the summit of Denali.

    " ... I was ahead all day and was the first ever to set foot on Mt. Denali."
    — Walter Harper climbing journal, 1913.

  • About Us:

    The Walter Harper Project

    Alaskans representing the Walter Harper Project have launched a drive that will culminate in a life-size bronze statue of Walter Harper, the first person to summit Denali. The statue will be placed in Fairbanks, where the 1913 expedition began. Episcopal Archdeacon Hudson Stuck and the rugged outdoorsman Harry Karstens co-led the expedition. The Koyukon-Athabascan Harper, along with Tennessean Robert Tatum, completed the four-member ascent team. Athabascan youths John Fredson and Esaias George provided vital support, including transporting supplies and equipment to the base camp. Fredson manned the basecamp while the ascent team members scaled the mountain. The Walter Harper Project will recognize Harper’s critical role in the pioneer ascent team’s success, which was long unrecognized. Harper’s expert subsistence skills, superb athlete condition, courage, and cheerfulness moved the team forward under the most trying conditions. On summit day, Harper, the team member in the best condition, took the lead position and thus reached the peak first. For several years, Harper served as Archdeacon Stuck’s trail guide, riverboat pilot, interpreter, and right hand man, as they traveled among the Episcopal missions, Native communities, and mining camps of Alaska’s northern Interior. Wherever they stopped, Harper’s subsistence skillset, integrity, magnetic personality, and ability to navigate in both his Athabascan culture and in mainstream American society won him admirers. He planned to become a medical missionary to Interior Alaska Natives. Tragically, when he was just 25 years old, he and his wife of seven weeks, Frances Wells Harper, drowned in the 1918 sinking of the Princess Sophia.






    On Sunday, June 7, 2020, Alaska celebrated the first annual Walter Harper Day, in recognition of the Koyukon Athabascan man who on June 7, 1913 was the first person to stand atop Denali, North America’s tallest mountain and the dominant landmark of Alaska’s Interior, Harper’s homeland. Fairbanks Senator Click Bishop introduced Senate Bill 144 “An Act establishing June 7 of each year as Walter Harper Day.” Alaska’s Senate and House of Representatives both passed the bill unanimously, and Governor Dunleavey signed the bill on April 29. The act recognizes not only Harper’s critical role in the success of the pioneer summit of Denali, but his “superb subsistence skills, his integrity, his strong sense of identity and purpose, and his ability to navigate comfortably in both the Athabascan culture and other cultures of the United States.”


  • Be a Part of the Project

    Click here to donate online



    Make checks payable to: “FNA / Walter Harper Project”

    Mail to:

    Doyon, Limited

    Attn: Tanya Kaquatosh

    FNA/Walter Harper Project

    1 Doyon Place, Ste. 300

    Fairbanks, AK 99701

  • Funding Information

    "Together we will reach our summit."

    $250,000 Goal

    Funds Received: $216,000






  • Thank You Sponsors


    ▴ ▴ ▲▲ DENALI SUMMIT ▲








    ▲ ▲ HARPER GLACIER ▲ ▲

    Kinross Fort Knox



    ConocoPhillips Alaska

    Marathon Petroleum Corp.

    Tozitna, Limited



    Golden Heart Community Foundation

    Mt. McKinley Bank

    Darlene & Click Bishop

    In honor of Bishop William & Shirley Gordon

    Mary Harper Denton & Family

    Jeanne Ostnes & Timothy Benintendi

    Lance & Karen Parrish

    Tsigonis Family



    ▴ BASE CAMP ▴

    Baan O Yeel Kon Corporation

    Ghemm Company

    Lynden Transport

    Teamsters Local 959

    CSG, Inc.

    John & Judy Binkley

    Steve Frank & Linda Anderson

    Dan Gavora

    Betty Ruth George

    The Geraghty Family

    Michael & Jane Harper

    Gail & Richard Hattan

    Anna Huntington-Kriska

    George H. Lounsbury

    Cathryn Rasmuson

    Margaret Rich

    Maxine Harper Richert

    Rick & Cheryl Schikora

    Natasha & Rudi von Imhof

    Andy & Judy Warwick

    Gary & Susan Wilken




    Great Northwest, Inc.

    Plumbers & Pipefitters Union, Local 1375

    Koniag, Inc.

    Beatus Kaquatosh Family

    Doug & Dianne Blummer

    John & Peggy Bryant

    Winston & Glenda Burbank

    Diana Campbell

    Lorraine Cutler

    Jennifer Fate

    Randy & Georgianne Frank

    Bill & Bonnie GordonDiane Kaplan

    Gen. Jake Lestenkof

    Jamie Marunde

    Stephen & Sarah Obed

    Rick & Cherie Solie

    Doug Pope

    Carol & Jack Wilbur


    ▴ The Kantishna ▴


    IBEW Local 1547

    Rohn & Chris Abbott

    Linda S. Belarde

    Gary & Laura Elliott Bender

    Sherry Bestard

    Dan Bishop

    John Bitney

    Brandon Boylan

    Julius Brecht

    Catherine Call

    Michael & Margaret Carey

    Tim & Kathy Cline

    Jeff & Sue Cook

    Sue Harper Courtillet

    Diann Darnell

    Kent & Jenny Dawson

    Sam & Mary Demientieff

    Ernest L & Lillian S Demoski

    Mary and Lars Ehrlander

    Steven Haagenson

    Jan Harper (Petri) Haines

    Daryl & Karen Haggstrom

    Karl & Nancy Hanneman

    Nancy Hanson

    Ella Harper

    Jane Harper

    Johanna Harper

    Diane Holmstrom

    Garry & Diane Hutchison

    Ronald Inouye

    Clare Jaeger

    Kris Knauss

    Angela Linn

    Jim & Deanna Linzer

    Karen Lopez

    Antoinette Mallot

    Marie Matsuno

    Jerry & Jenifer McBeath

    Pat & Patty Miller

    Emil Notti

    Susan Paskvan

    Hild & Guy Peters

    Steve & Shannon Planchon

    Jim Plaquet

    Al & Ann Renfroe

    Tom and Jo Roberts

    Jim Sampson

    Katie & Phil Sanders

    Angela Schmidt

    Rick & Cherie Solie

    Julie Fate Sullivan

    Gene Therriault & Jo Kuchle

    Linda Van Houten & Bill Joiner

    Jimmy Vining

    Tom Walker

    Ronald & Nancy Whitten

    Richard & Sally Wien

    Daphne & Frank Wright


    ▴ Other

    Joan Antonson

    Margaret Asbury

    Alan Batten

    Kate Bull

    John Curran

    Nicole Eiseman

    Andrea Gelvin

    Hillary Gularte

    Carol Kasza

    Inez Larsen

    Katie McCaffrey

    Marie Nash

    Karen Perdue

    Marilyn Richards

    Stephanie Rivet

    Thomas & Jo Roberts

    Amy Russell-Jamgochian

    Elizabeth Schaffhauser & Gerald Walker

    David Tillman

    Ronald & Nancy Whitten

  • ▲▲ In Kind ▲▲

    Fairbanks Native Association

    Doyon, Ltd.

    Design Alaska



    Thank you

    to each corporate and individual who has supported the

    Walter Harper Project.


    Give now to join the efforts of these supporters.



    “Twenty-one years old and six feet tall, he took gleefully to high mountaineering, while his kindliness and invincible amiability endeared him to every member of the party." — Hudson Stuck

  • Artist

    Gary Lee Price


    Gary Lee Price visiting Alaska with WHP member Darlene Bishop.

    Gary Lee Price

    "Lifting the Human Spirit Through Sculpture"

    The Walter Harper Project Team is pleased to announce our selection of renowned sculptor Gary Lee Price as the artist for the Walter Harper sculpture.

    Learn more about him here.

    Gary Lee Price visiting Alaska with WHP member Darlene Bishop.

    Artist Selected to Draft Statue of First Man to Summit Denali

    Gary Lee Price: Honoring Walter Harper

    Read announcement here at the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.



    Gary Lee Price with Joan (courtesy of Gary Lee Price)

    •Artist visiting Fairbanks with WHP member Darlene Bishop.


  • Walter Harper Project Team Members

    Michael Harper

    Anchorage, AK

    Relative of Walter Harper

    Bill Gordon

    Fairbanks, AK

    Life Long Alaskan; Former Staff Assistant to Governor Jay Hammond

    Mary Ehrlander

    Olympia, WA/Fairbanks, AK

    Author of Walter Harper, Alaska Native Son; UAF Professor of History

    Darlene Bishop

    Fairbanks, AK

    Retired teacher, Breast Cancer Detection Center board of director

    Tanya Kaquatosh

    Fairbanks, AK

    Sr. VP of Administration- Doyon, Limited

    Diana Campbell

    Fairbanks, AK

    Relative of John Fredson, first ascent team.

    Angela J. Linn

    Fairbanks, AK

    Senior Collections Manager, UA Museum of the North

    email the team

    Email the team directly to learn more!

  • In the News ...

    Learn more about the project or Walter Harper.

    Fairbanks Native Association

    501C3 Partnership

    September 30,2019

    We are excited to announce our partnership with the Fairbanks Native Association (FNA).

    Walter Harper Day

    Alaska State Senator Click Bishop

    October 2, 2019

    Senator Click Bishop and staff are working with the Walter Harper Project to have a state day of recognition on June 7th for Walter Harper and the expedition.

    Walter Harper: Alaska Native Son

    Author talk with Mary Ehrlander

    Introduction by Harper relatives Toni Mallott and Tom Paddock. Watch here on KTOO 360TV.

    State of Alaska Legislative Session 2020

    Walter Harper Day

    January 21, 2020

    A special thanks to Senator Click Bishop and Darwin Peterson for putting together the legislation to create a Walter Harper Day. Sponsor statement here. 

    The Cordova Times

    Walter Harper Day News

    Feb. 24, 2020

    Read story here.


    The Walter Harper Day Bill Passes Senate & House!

    Walter Harper Day Approved!


    The State of Alaska Senate and House of Representatives passed SB144 creating Walter Harper Day. The bill now awaits the Governor Dunleavy's signature.

    Walter Harper Day is Official

    Governor signs SB144

    April 29, 2020

    Governor Dunleavy signed SB144 into law, officially designating June 7 as Walter Harper Day.

    Sculpture Site Chosen

    Harper Statue to be placed at Doyon, Ltd headquarters

    July 24, 2020

    Doyon, Limited announced that when completed, the Walter Harper statue will be housed outside of the Doyon Plaza in downtown Fairbanks. Thank you to the Doyon board of directors who approved this request.

    First Alaskans Institute Supports Project

    Elders & Youth Conference Passes Resolution

    October 14, 2020

    The 2020 Elders and Youth Conference of the First Alaskans Institute passed a resolution of support for the Walter Harper Project. See the full resolution here.

    AFN Supports Project

    AFN Board Passes Resolution

    December 8, 2020

    The AFN Board of Directors passed a resolution in support of the Walter Harper Project . Stay tuned for the link to the resolution!

    Walter Harper Day

    By Robyne: Interview with Mary Ehrlander and Sarah Obed.

    Radio Host David Pruhs: 1913 Denali Expedition

    Hear from expedition descendants and WHP team members.

    Interview with Walter Harper's great grand nephew, Mike Harper, and Johnny Fredson's granddaughter, Diana Campbell. Listen here.

    Sept. 2, 2020

    PBS "Molly of Denali" The Great One, Bonus Episode

    For the kids ... young and old!

    Learn about climbing Denali, then and now.

    Harper's Niece

    Mary Harper Denton, 93.

    Mary Harper Denton, of Bickley, Georgia recently donated $2,500 to the Walter Harper Project. This is significant as she is Walter Harper’s niece and the last living descendant of that generation. WHP Committee Member, Michael Harper, spoke to his Aunt Mary recently to share the progress of the Walter Harper Project. At age 93, Mary was pleasantly surprised and delighted to hear of the statue’s progress and how her donation will help.


    June 3, 2022

    We mourn the loss of Walter Harper's last living niece, Mary Harper Denton, fondly remembered as Aunt Toots by WHP members Mike Harper and Johanna Harper. She passed at home in Bickley, Georgia at the age of 94.

    From the Desk of Mary F. Ehrlander:

    Reflections on the Appeal and Value of Biography

    Blog from Ms. Ehrlander in celebration of Native American Heritage Month, Ms. Ehrlander.

    Athabascan in the Spotlight:

    Walter Harper

    Koyukon Athabascan blogger, Angela Gonzalez, speaks with Mike Harper and writes about Walter Harper Day here.

    WHP Update

    October 2021

    ... the latest news here.

  • Download Now!

    Alaskan Singer & Songwriter Ben Balivet created this song to commemorate Walter Harper and support the Walter Harper Project.

  • Visit WHP on Facebook

    Learn more about the man behind the project through our Facebook page