• 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:  

    FNA/Walter Harper Project

    615 Bidwill Avenue, Suite 400, Box 13

    Fairbanks, AK 99701-7587

  • Funding Information

    "Together we will reach our summit."

    $175,000 Goal

    Funds Received: $131,000









  • Corporate Sponsors



    ▴ ▴ ▲ DENALI SUMMIT ▲










    Kinross Fort Knox




    Tozitna, Ltd. Conoco

    ConocoPhillips Alaska*




    Baan O Yeel Kon Corporation

    Mt. McKinley Bank



     ▴ BASE CAMP ▴ 


    Ghemm Company

    Lynden Transport

    Teamsters Local 959

    Great Northwest, Inc.
    Plumbers & Pipefitters Union, Local 1375
    ▴ The Kantishna ▴
    IBEW Local 1547
  • Thank you

    to each individual who has supported the Walter Harper Project. Give now to join the efforts of these supporters.



    Rohn & Chris Abbott
    Joan Antonson

    Margaret Asbury

    Linda S. Belarde

    Laura Elliott Bender

    Sherry Bestard

    John & Judy Binkley

    Darlene & Click Bishop

    Dan Bishop

    John Bitney

    Doug & Dianne Blumer

    Brandon Boylan

    Julius Brecht

    Julius BrechtJohn & Peggy Bryant

    Kate Bull

    Winston & Glenda Burbank

    Catherine Call

    Michael and Margaret Carey

    Kathy Cline

    Tim Cline

    Jeff & Sue Cook

    Sue Harper Courtillet

    John Curran

    Diann Darnell

    Kent Dawson

    Sam Demientieff

    Mary Harper Denton & Family

    Mary and Lars Ehrlander

    Nicole Eiseman

    Jennifer Fate

    Randy & Georgianne Frank

    Steve Frank & Linda Anderson

    Betty Ruth George

    Geraghty Family

    Bill Gordon

    Hillary Gularte

    Steven Haagenson

    Daryl & Karen Haggstrom

    Jan Harper (Petri) Haines

    Karl & Nancy Hanneman

    Nancy Hanson

    Jane Harper

    Ella Harper

    Johanna Harper

    Michael & Jane Harper

    Gail & Richard Hattan

    Diane Holmstrom

    Garry & Diane Hutchison

    Annie Huntington-Kriska

    Ronald Inouye

    Amy Russell-Jamgochian

    Diane Kaplan

    Tanya Kaquatosh

    Carol Kasza

    Kris Knauss

    Inez Larsen

    Gen. Jake Lestenkof

    Angela Linn

    Karen Lopez

    George Lounsbury

    Antoinette Mallot

    Jamie Marunde

    Jerry & Jenifer McBeath

    Katie McCaffrey

    Pat & Patty Miller

    Marie Nash

    Beth Denton Nelson

    Emil Notti

    Jeanne Ostnes

    Timothy Benintendi

    Lance Parrish

    Susan Paskvan

    Jim Plaquet

    Karen Perdue

    Doug Pope

    Cathryn Rasmuson

    Al & Ann Renfroe

    Margaret Rich

    Marilyn Richards

    Maxine Harper Richert

    Stephanie Rivet

    Thomas & Jo Roberts

    Jim Sampson

    Katie & Phil Sanders

    Elizabeth Schaffhauser & Gerald Walker

    Rick & Cheryl Schikora

    Angela Schmidt

    Julie Fate Sullivan

    David Tilman

    Tsigonis Family

    Linda Van Houten & Bill Joiner

    Natasha & Rudi Von Imhof

    Jimmy Vining

    Tom Walker

    Andy & Judy Warwick

    Ronald & Nancy Whitten

    Richard & Sally Wien

    Gary & Susan Wilken



    “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.


    Photos: Gary Lee Price with Joan (courtesy of Gary Lee Price) and the 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 Last Living 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.

    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.

    More to Come...

  • 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