Galena is a predominantly Koyukon Athabaskan Indian community located on the north bank of the Yukon River, 45 miles east of Nulato and 270 air miles west of Fairbanks. It lies northeast of the Innoko National Wildlife Refuge. The community was established around 1918 near a fish camp called Henry's Point. It became a supply point for miners of rich deposits of galena (lead ore) discovered nearby.
The Galena Air Field was constructed during World War II and the Galena and Campion Air Force Bases established in the 1950s. Though closed in the 1990's the bases brought growth and development to Galena and helped the community become a transportation, government, and commercial center for the western Interior, which it remains today.
Due to a severe flood in 1971, a new community site, colloquially referred to as "New Town," was developed at Alexander Lake, about 1.5 miles east of the original town site.
Galena's first church was a saloon building barged downriver from Ruby in 1921. The church was named "St. John's Catholic Church," in honor of St. John Berchmans. It was served by visiting priests from Nulato at first, but became an independent parish in 1952. The saloon church suffered flood damage in the 1970's but the weather-beaten building still served the community into the 1980's. Finally a new octagonal church was begun at the new town site in 1984. The new St. John Berchmans Church, with an attached residence built out of logs, was formally dedicated by Bishop Michael Kaniecki, S.J., on May 22, 1988.
The Jesuit Community served Saint John Berchmans parish for a good part of its history. In recent years Diocesan priests and priests from other Orders have been serving. Franciscan Friars have also served the parish since 1986.
In addition, several Catholic Sisters have taken leadership roles in service to the Galena community. They include Sisters of St. Ann; Sisters of Notre Dame; Sisters of St. Dominic; Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary; and Sisters of St. Joseph.
In the fall of 2002 two religious sisters took up residency in Galena, there to start and staff a Native Interior Ministry Study and Training Center. This, the Kateri Tekakwitha Center, was dedicated on August 31, 2003. Both sisters have since retired and the center awaits new personnel to carry on the vision.