Old Kukak Village, Devils Cove

Old Kukak Village, Devils Cove

by | Mar 18, 2023

Old Kukak was a historical Sugpiaq Alutiiq village located on Kukak Point that forms the northern shore of Devils Cove on the Alaska Peninsula in Katmai National Park and Preserve, about 94 miles (152 km) southwest of King Salmon and 74 miles (119 km) northwest of Kodiak, Alaska. Between 1827 and 1836, the shoreline of the entire Alaska Peninsula was carefully surveyed by the Russian-American Company. The 1831-1832 surveys by Ivan F. Vasiliev charted the Shelikof Strait coast from Cape Douglas south to Chignik Bay and first reported the village location. The name was published in 1847 as ‘Selenie Kukak’ on Russian hydrographic charts. Devils Cove extends west for 4 miles (6.5 km) from the mouth of Kukak Bay and is formed by volcanic rocks of the Aleutian arc that consist of breccia, lava flows, sills, and pyroclastic tuff.

Beginning in the 1760s, Russian fur hunters moved eastward from the Aleutian Islands into the upper Alaska Peninsula. At the time of the first contact with the Russians, the indigenous Sugpiaq Alutiiq of the Katmai coast were living in settlements along the coast at Katmai Bay, Kukak Bay, and the interior village of Savonoski. Kukak Bay, which provided one of the most promising harbors on the Pacific coast of the peninsula, was mentioned as a settled locality in Russian documents dating before 1800. A more specific description is in the report by Georg von Langsdorff which details a visit in 1806 to a settlement of ‘summer huts’ somewhere on the bay and known then as Tonjajak. By 1880, after the Alaska Purchase, there was a Russian Orthodox chapel at the bay, and in 1891, the Alaska Commercial Company opened a post; however, by 1895, presumably because of better opportunities for trade, the few remaining inhabitants reportedly moved farther northeast to the settlement known by then as Douglas.

The Russian-American Company initially incorporated the Sugpiaq Alutiiq people into their fur trading activities primarily through coercive means. The promyshlenniki used the same methods of conscripting labor and holding hostages as they had with the Aleutian people to force the Sugpiaq Alutiiq to acquire sea otter furs. In 1794, the first Russian Orthodox Church missionaries arrived on Kodiak and within two years they were active on the Alaska Peninsula. During the first half of the 1800s, the Kodiak parish of the Russian Orthodox Church included all the Katmai coastal villages. The missionaries were critical of the Russian-American Company for its ill-treatment of the Sugpiaq Alutiiq people, which included the practice of taking hunters far away from their homes, and the subsequent depopulation of traditional villages. The Katmai Wilderness Lodge now occupies the old village site, built on land still owned by the Russian Orthodox Church. Read more here and here. Explore more Old Kukak Village and Devils Cove here:

About the background graphic

This ‘warming stripe’ graphic is a visual representation of the change in global temperature from 1850 (top) to 2021 (bottom). Each stripe represents the average global temperature for one year. The average temperature from 1971-2000 is set as the boundary between blue and red. The color scale goes from -0.7°C to +0.7°C. The data are from the UK Met Office HadCRUT4.6 dataset. 

Credit: Professor Ed Hawkins (University of Reading). Click here for more information about the #warmingstripes.

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