Archaeological evidence suggests that areas within Togiak National Wildlife Refuge have been continuously occupied for at least 2,000 years. Historically, three different groups of people lived within Togiak Refuge: the Kuskowogamiut Eskimos, who occupied the area from the Kuskokwim River south to Chagvan Bay, the Togiagamiut Eskimos, who lived in the area from Nanvak Bay east to Cape Constantine, and the Alegemiut Eskimos, who lived in the Nushagak Bay area. The people of Nanvak, Osviak, and Chagvan Bays were known as Chingigumiut or Cape people, and were considered a branch of the Togiagamiut.
Today the Native peoples of Togiak Refuge are collectively known as Yup'ik Eskimos. Many native people in this region continue the traditional ways of their ancestors, living a subsistence lifestyle and maintaining their cultural beliefs. Subsistence users rely on the plants and wildlife of Togiak Refuge as a source of food, clothing, and raw materials. A main purpose of Togiak Refuge is to continue to provide subsistence opportunities. Salmon, smelt, and other fish are subsistence staples, along with moose and caribou, waterfowl, wild berries, and marine mammal meat and oil.
Other cultures have been incorporated into the local customs to varying degrees. Russian Orthodox and Moravian missionary groups were present in the area in the 1800s, and these religions as well as many others are practiced in the region today. Scandinavians, Germans, and other European peoples, as well as Japanese and other Asian peoples, came to the area to pursue trapping, mining, and commercial fishing. Many people continue to move to rural Alaska from other areas to pursue 'the call of the wild.' As these people have lived here, they have contributed to the rich and diverse color of the Southwest Alaskan way of life.
The following links provide additional information on local culture. These links will take you outside the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge website.
- Alaska Native Heritage Center has information on indigenous cultures throughout Alaska, as well as an extensive list of links to other sources.
- "Agayuliyararput: Our way of Making Prayer" allows you to view Yup'ik masks, explains their significance, and gives insight into Yup'ik beliefs.
- Alaska Geographic offers an online bookstore, including books on history and culture in Alaska.
Or, visit our pages on area history or the establishment of Togiak National Wildlife Refuge for more information.
Last updated: May 9, 2011