This is a Yup'ik community located 12 air
miles east of Bethel on the Kwethluk River at its junction with the
Kuskokwim. The village is the second largest along the Lower Kuskokwim
River, following Bethel. It lies at approximately 60░ 49' N Latitude,
161░ 26' W Longitude (Sec. 05, T008N, R069W, Seward Meridian). The
community is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area
encompasses 10 sq. miles of land and 2 sq. miles of water.
evidence from a nearby site indicates that the area has been occupied
since prehistoric times. The name Kwethluk is derived from "Kwikli,"
meaning "river." In the late 1800s, families from four villages on the
Kwethluk River joined others living at the site. In 1889, an Eskimo lay
worker for the Moravian Church was stationed at the village. A measles
epidemic struck the village in the late 1890s. The Moravian Church built
a chapel in 1896, followed by a Russian Orthodox Church in 1912.
Discovery of gold in nearby creeks in
1909 attracted prospectors to the area, but the finds proved
disappointing and most were gone by 1911. One placer deposit, discovered
on the upper Kwethluk River, delivered a small yield and was worked
until World War II. A Moravian orphanage was established three miles
upriver. A BIA school with teacher's quarters was built in 1924. In
1939, the villagers owned 31,000 reindeers, used for food and skins. A
tuberculosis epidemic at this time tragically reduced the population. A
post office was established in 1947, and a Native-owned store opened in
1948. An airstrip was cleared in 1956. Snowmachines replaced dog teams
in the 1960s as the principal form of winter transportation.