Local Culture

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Yukon Delta NWR has a deep and rich cultural history that predates European settlement by almost 9,000 years.  These lands were once part of the continental-scale land mass called Beringia (commonly referred to as the Bering Land Bridge) which during the Pleistocene glaciation connected Alaska to Siberia allowing the first people to cross over into the Americas. Today, modern reflections of these Paleo-Indians can be seen in Native people living in villages scattered across the refuge.  Even though much has changed since the time of their early ancestors, these people are still rich in culture and heritage and have retained close ties to the lands and wildlife they depend on.

Most prominent on the refuge today are groups of indigenous people known as the Yup’ik and Cup’ik Eskimos whose early native culture revolved around harvest and distribution of subsistence resources.  Even today, they rely heavily on local natural resources like Pacific salmon as primary food sources which are still prepared using traditional methods and tools such as the ulu knife.  

Another group of indigenous people inhabiting the refuge are the Athabaskans. Similar to the Yup’ik and Cup’ik, these people still depend heavily on local natural resources; however Athabaskans traditionally lived in more interior regions of Alaska and are thus less represented within the refuge.