Nelson Island has been inhabited by the Qaluyaarmiut, or "dip net people," for 2,000 years. The area was relatively isolated from outside contact, and has kept its traditions and culture.
The island has three villages, all located on the Bering Sea coast in the southwest part of the island: Tununak in the west, Toksook Bay southeast of Tununak, and Nightmute in the east. See a larger map of Nelson Island
Left: Nelson Island from the air. (Alaska Sea Grant)
(pop. 249) Nightmute is a traditional Yup'ik Eskimo village, active in subsistence. The economy is a mixture of both subsistence and cash-generating activities. Employment is primarily with the City, school, services, commercial fishing and construction. Trapping and crafts also provide income. Almost all families engage in either commercial or subsistence fishing, and most have fish camps. The Native Village of Nightmute, a federally-recognized tribe, is located in the community. Find out more about Nightmute, Alaska
(pop. 605) Toksook Bay was established in 1964 along the Tuqsuk River by residents of Nightmute. It is a traditional Yup'ik Eskimo community with a reliance on fishing and subsistence activities. Commercial fishing, the school, City and Tribal Council are the primary income producers. Subsistence activities supplement income and provide essential food sources. Coastal Villages Seafood, Inc., processes halibut and salmon in Toksook. The Nunakauyarmiut Tribe, a federally-recognized tribe, is located in the community. Find out more about Toksook Bay, Alaska
(pop. 332) Tununak is a traditional Yup'ik Eskimo village, with an active fishing and subsistence lifestyle. Employment is primarily with the school district, village corporation, stores and commercial fishing.
Trapping and Native crafts also generate cash for many families, and subsistence activities are an important contributor to villagers' diets. Seal meat, seal oil and herring are the staples of the diet. Beluga whale and walrus are also hunted. Residents participate in a lottery to hunt musk-ox on Nelson or Nunivak Islands.
Coastal Villages Seafood, Inc. processes halibut and salmon in Tununak. The Native Village of Tununak is located in the community and is a federally-recognized tribe. Find out more about Tununak, Alaska
We will work with elder experts in five Bering Sea communities, non-Native scientists, and younger community members to document their unique natural history and cultural geography, including traditional place names, weather and ice conditions, harvesting patterns, animal and plant communities, and related oral traditions.
Residents recognize that they must document unique aspects of their traditional knowledge in the near future or not at all: the present generation of elder experts are the last to have received a traditional education in the qasgi (communal men’s house) before the advent of organized religion and formal education.
Community members of all ages are also deeply concerned about the changes in climate and ecology occurring along the Bering Sea coast. Community members feel strongly that elders' perspectives on past periods of resource scarcity, storm surges, and unusual ice and weather conditions, as well as their views on ongoing changes in the Bering Sea ecosystem, will be invaluable in preparing them for the future.