Tyonek, Cook Inlet

The village of Tyonek is on the northwest shore of Cook Inlet about 43 miles (69 km) southwest of Anchorage. The community was historically a Dena'ina Athabascan village, with various settlement sites between Beshta Bay and the Chuitna River.

The village was first documented by Captain James Cook in May 1778 who anchored the ships Discovery and Resolution off the West Foreland. Cook's journal provides a description of the Upper Cook Inlet Athabascans who possessed iron knives and glass beads that were likely traded with the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company, a Russian fur trading venture. A trading post was described in the village in May 1794 by Lieutenant Joseph Whidbey who led a detachment of the Vancouver Expedition.

A smallpox epidemic between 1836 and 1840 killed about half of the Athabascans. By 1875, the Alaska Commercial Company had a major outpost at the village, and in 1880 Ivan Petroff first recorded the Athabascan village name "Tu-i-u'niik" reportedly meaning "marsh” or “beach” people. When gold was discovered at Resurrection Creek in Turnagain Arm in the 1880’s, Tyonek and Seldovia became major staging areas for people and supplies. A post office named "Tyoonok" was established in 1896, the same year a saltery was built at the mouth of the Chuitna River north of Tyonek. The “Spanish” influenza epidemic of 1918-19 decimated the remaining Dena'ina Athabascans leaving few survivors.

In the early 1960s, oil companies arrived in Cook Inlet and purchased leases on Tyonek lands. In 1968, the leaders of Tyonek supported and helped fund the Alaska Federation of Natives who spearheaded the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) in 1971. In 1973, Tyonek formed the federally recognized Tyonek Native Corporation. Read more here and here. Click here to download or open the CoastView app and explore more of Tyonek and upper Cook Inlet.