Nunivak History Timeline

Nuniwar history extends back many generations and is recorded in oral accounts passed down by generation after generation of elders. Some of our narrative history (also called oral history) can be read on the Historical and Cultural Narrative Page.

Western Contact History 1821-1920

Outside Interests, Anthropological Research and Accelerated Change1920-1970

ANCSA, the Modern Era and Language and Cultural Revitalization 1971 - present

Western Contact History 1821 - 1920

Russian discovery of Nuniwar by Captain Mikhail S Vasilev of the ship Otkrytie (Discovery). Vasilev applied the name Otkrytie to Nuniwar and the name Otkrytie is recorded on early Russian maps, however, the name did not stick. Vasilev is reported to be the first Westerner to make contact with the Nuniwarmiut.
Russian ships Golovnin and Baranov commanded by Vasilii S. Khromchenko and Adolph K. Etolin visit. Etolin made contact with Nuniwarmiut on two separate occasions. Etolin is remembered in the place names Cape Etolin, the northermost point of Nuniwar and Etolin Strait the body of water that separates Nuniwar from mainland Alaska.
Khromchenko and Etolin return on the ship Golovnin and made several landings for trading purposes. The Nuniwarmiut reportedly traded fox, caribou and muskrat skins and bows & arrows, wooden vessels and walrus teeth artifacts for hoop iron, nails, Aleut hatchets, blue bangles and beads.
Willliam H. Dall conducted limited geological survey.
Shipwreck of American ship Timandra stranded eight crew members for over two months near the settlement of Tacirrarmiut. Oral tradition records that two white crewmembers murdered three Nuniwarmiut.
Crew members of the United States Revenue-Steamer Corwin, captained by C.L. Hooper went ashore at Kangiremiut and contacted "one man, three women and three children." The residents were reportedly frightened and had little or no previous contact with Whites.
First U.S. Census of Nunivak Island, conducted by Ivan Petroff reported 15 settlements with a population of 745. These numbers are questioned by academic researchers and Nuniwarmiut alike.
Kuskokwim River Moravian missionary John H. Kilbuck made a brief visit. Kilbuck observed that the Nuniwarmiut were "a different tribe" and spoke a "slightly different dialect" than Kuskokwim peoples.
A limited U.S. Census was conducted by Alanson Weeks, ships Surgeon on the USS Manning. Weeks counted only 110 people.
George B. Gordon with the Pennsylvania Free Museum of Science and Art conducted limited grammar and vocabulary work.
A limited U.S. Census was conducted by agent L.L. Bales. In ten settlements he counted only 131 people.
A limited U.S. Census recorded six settlements with a population of 189 people.

Outside Influences, Anthropological Research and Accelerated Change 1920 - 1970

Year Events
Government introduced reindeer herd - U.S. Biological Survey, U.S. Bureau of Education, Lomen Reindeer Company
1924 Establishment of first school and arrival of first teacher at Nash Harbor Village (Ellikarrmiut/Qimuglugpagmiut)
1927 Archaeological and Anthropometric research conducted by Henry B. Collins of the Bureau of American Ethnology and T. Dale Stewart of the U.S. National Museum resulted in mass removal of human remains, funerary and ceremonial object from gravesites.
1927 June 30 - November 6th, Cyril Guy Harrold representing the California Academy of Sciences, conducted biological studies on Nunvivak, specifically with birds and mammals. Read environmental description. (2)
1927 Edward S. Curtis conducted research that resulted in first published ethnographic description of Nuniwarmiut, and detailed photo documentation.
1928 Establishment of Nunivak Island (wildlife) Reservation.
1934 June 18 - Indian Reorganizaton Act, establishment of Nunivak IRA Council
1935 Introduction of Musk Oxen.
1936 Establishment of Evangelical Covenant Church in Mekoryuk (Mikuryarmiut). Arrival of Jacob Kenick, Mekoryuk's first ordained minister (Lee 199_:7). Church prohibited dancing, singing, mask making, and the shamanistic ceremonies connected to them (Lantis 1946:161).
1936 - 37 German Ethnologist Hans Himmelheber conducted ethnographic and psychological studies that resulted in several publications on Nuniwarmiut art, culture and social life.
1939 - 40
American Anthropologist Margaret Lantis conducted extensive ethnographic research that resulted in the most thorough Western analysis of Nuniwarmiut social life and culture. Lantis conducted additional fieldwork on Nunivak in subsequent years.
1952 Archaeologist James W. VanStone conducted archaeological survey that resulted in several published works.
1967 Michael Nowak began archaelogical investigations and subsistence economy studies continuing into the 1990s

ANCSA, the Modern Era and Language and Cultural Revitalization 1971 - present

1971 Passage of Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA)
  Nunivak Island Mekoryuk Alaska Corporation (NIMA) established
  Establishment of Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge including Nunivak Island, later Nunivak Island National Wildlife Refuge
  Federal Wilderness designation for southern half of Nunivak Island lands.
1986 Bureau of Indian Affairs, ANCSA 14(h)(1) historical places and cemetery site investigations. Further investigations conducted in 1991.
1996 One hundred and sixty eight catalog numbers of human remains were repatriated to Mekoryuk in 1996. (3)
1999 Establishment and federal recognition of NPT, Inc.
2002 Major grant Award from Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans for Cup'ig Language Materials and Curriculum Development Project for immersion program, grades K-3.
2002 Cup'ig dance, drum and song revitalization. Nuniwarmiut Kassiyurtait (Nunivak Traditional Dancers) formed. Qusngim Kevga - First public dance performance and Messenger Festival in 65 years.
2004 Major grant Award from Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Native Americans for Cup'ig Language Skills Training and Materials Development.

1. 1995 Bureau of Indian Affairs, ANCSA Office. Nunivak Overview, Report of investigationf for BLM AA-9238 et al. Calista Corporation, Volume 1: Cultural and Historical Background, pages 9 - 18.
2. Birds of Nunivak Island by Harry S. Swarth, Curator of Ornithology and Mammology, California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco California. Published by the Cooper Ornithological Club, March 31, 1934
3. Annual Report on Repatriation Office Activities at the National Museum of Natural History June 1997 to May 1998 Report Prepared May 30, 1998 by Gillian Flynn Repatriation Review Committee Coordinator (


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