History of Tyonek

The Native Village of Tyonek (NVT) is a Dena’ina Athabascan village located 43 miles southwest of Anchorage. Tyonek has long been home to the Tebughna, or “Beach People.” Today there are about 190 residents in Tyonek; however, the Tyonek Native Corporation (TNC) has over 800 shareholders that can practice subsistence hunting, fishing, and gathering within the District. The community has one school that currently educates about 35 students in grades K-12. The community is accessible by plane or boat, but is not connected by road to Anchorage.

Dena’ina Athabascans arrived in the Cook Inlet region between 500 and 1000 AD. In pre-contact times, it is estimated that 4-5,000 people were living in West Cook Inlet within the TTCD boundaries. Russian fur traders moved into the area in the 1700s, followed by Euro-Americans in the 1800s. In the 1950s and1960s, oil and gas companies began exploring the Cook Inlet region, and when gas deposits were found several gas companies moved into the area, many of which are still in operation today. From the 1970s to the early 2000s sporadic commercial logging occurred on the lands surrounding Tyonek. Extensive road building has occurred to facilitate the logging of trees and access to drilling sites.

The rapid development that occurred in Tyonek during the 1900s, as well as the history of interference from Russians and Euro-Americans for the past three centuries left an impact on the community of Tyonek and the natural resources in the region. In the early 2000s, leaders in Tyonek began looking for ways to take a greater role in determining their own natural resource future, instead of having this be decided for them. At about this time, Tyonek leaders learned about a type of organization known as a tribal conservation district which had been in existence since the 1950s in the lower 48, but did not yet exist in the state of Alaska.