Tyonek lies on a bluff on the northwest
shore of Cook Inlet, 43 miles southwest of Anchorage. It is the only
community in the Kenai Peninsula Borough that is not located directly on
the Peninsula. It lies at approximately 61░ 04' N Latitude, 151░ 08' W
Longitude (Sec. 01, T011N, R011W, Seward Meridian). The community is
located in the Anchorage Recording District. The area encompasses 22 sq.
miles of land and 3 sq. miles of water.
is a Dena'ina (Tanaina) Athabascan Indian village. Various settlements
in this area include Old Tyonek Creek, Robert Creek, Timber Camp, Beluga
and Moquawkie Indian Reservation. Captain Cook's journal provides a
description of the Upper Cook Inlet Athabascans in 1778, who possessed
iron knives and glass beads. He concluded that the Natives were trading
indirectly with the Russians. Between 1836 and 1840, half of the
region's Indians died from a smallpox epidemic. The Alaska Commercial
Company had a major outpost in Tyonek by 1875. In 1880, "Tyonok" station
and village, believed to be two separate communities, had a total of 117
residents, including 109 Athabascans, 6 "creoles" and 2 whites.
After gold was discovered at
Resurrection Creek in the 1880s, Tyonek became a major disembarkment
point for goods and people. A saltery was established in 1896 at the
mouth of the Chuitna River north of Tyonek. In 1915, the Tyonek
Reservation (also known as Moquawkie Indian Reservation) was
established. The devastating influenza epidemic of 1918-19 left few
survivors among the Athabascans. The village was moved to its present
location atop a bluff when the old site near Tyonek Timber flooded in
the early 1930s.
The population declined when Anchorage
was founded. In 1965, the federal court ruled that the Bureau of Indian
Affairs (BIA) had no right to lease Tyonek Indian land for oil
development without permission of the Indians themselves. The tribe sold
rights to drill for oil and gas beneath the reservation to a group of
oil companies for $12.9 million. The reservation status was revoked with
the passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971. Beluga,
a site near Tyonek, is owned by Chugach Electric Association and
provides some electricity for Anchorage.