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Refuge History

History The Alaska National Interest Land Conservation Act (ANILCA) established the 3.7 million acre Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge on December 2, 1980. Before that, the lands were part of the federal public domain. In 1983, the Fish and Wildlife Service decided to manage the Ugashik and Chignik units of the Alaska Peninsula National Wildlife Refuge, the Becharof Refuge, and the Seal Cape area of the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge as a "complex" because they shared resources and common issues.

The Refuge preserves a rich historical legacy. Fossils from the Refuge date from the Late Cretaceous period, the noted time when dinosaurs became extinct. Much more recently, the lands that now comprise the refuge served as a crossroads where prehistoric cultures from the Aleutian Islands, Kodiak, western Alaska coast and interior Alaska met and merged, creating unique local cultures. There are currently five Native villages within the refuge's boundaries, and numerous other known historical sites on the Refuge. The area was important in the early history of Alaska with Russian explorers and trappers active in the region. Later, the area played an important role in the early development of Alaska's commercial fishing industry and was the scene of some of the earliest scientific oil exploration efforts in the world. Despite all of the pre-refuge oil exploration activities, none of the wells were successful.

Past History

Eskimo culture has its origins along the Pacific Coast of the Alaska Peninsula and in the eastern Aleutians and Kodiak.  The colonization of the New World and the origins of Eskimo culture are important to arctic anthropology.  The earliest human occupation known on the Peninsula dates to 10,500 years ago.  Though the earliest known people were mobile caribou hunters at Ugashik Narrows, early inhabitants soon moved toward the coasts and began hunting marine mammals.  By eight thousand years ago early humans in Alaska were living in Kodiak and on islands in the eastern Aleutians.

By 6,000 years ago, Ocean Bay and early Aleutian traditions came into existence.  Ocean Bay people developed many of the tools associated with Eskimo culture including stone lamps for burning sea mammal oil, polished slate tools and elaborate bone tool technology.  The economy was based on exploitation of sea mammals, birds, and marine fish resources.

Although the coast of the Bering and Chukchi seas were occupied as early as the Alaska Peninsula, these areas did not exhibit a maritime adaptation until much later.  The earliest maritime adaptation on the Chukchi and Bering Sea coast is Old Whaling (1400 BC).  Old Whaling shows technological similarities to the Eastern Aleutians, Alaska Peninsula, and Kodiak cultures and may represent an expansion of these people to new regions.

Last Updated: Jul 23, 2012
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