Toksook Bay, Nelson Island

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Toksook Bay, Nelson Island

by | Mar 7, 2020

Toksook Bay is a Yup’ik community on Nelson Island, in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, 6.3 miles (10 km) southeast of Tanunak, 13.5 miles (22 km) west-northwest of Nightmute and 112 miles (181 km) west-southwest of Bethel, Alaska. The village was established in 1964 when most of the population of Nightmute moved to this location. Almost the entire population are members of the Alaska Native Nunakauyarmiut (“People of Nunakauyaq”), who maintain a predominantly traditional diet from fishing, hunting musk ox, and caribou. The community was chosen as the site of the first enumeration for the 2020 U.S. Census due to the extreme remoteness and the necessity of collecting census data before the population disperses to seasonal fish camps.

Nelson Island was named in 1880 by Henry Gannett for Edward William Nelson, who spent about 5 years in this area as an observer for the U.S. Signal Service and collector for the Smithsonian Institution. The island is separated from the Alaska mainland to the north by the Ningaluk River, and to the east by the Kolavinarak River, and from Nunivak Island to the southwest by Etolin Strait.

Nelson Island has four other villages including Umkumiut which is 3 miles (4.8 km) southwest of Toksook, Tununak on the northwest coast, Nightmute near the eastern edge of the Island, and Mertarvik that was recently constructed on the northern shore of Nelson Island where the residents of Newtok moved to escape erosion. Snowmobile trails connect the communities in the winter. These three communities comprise the entire population of the island inhabitants. The rest of the island, over 77 percent of its area, is unpopulated. The village of Newtok, on the mainland across the Ningaluk River north of the island, is in the process of being moved to Nelson Island, due to erosion of the water table in the area where Newtok is currently located. Read more here and here. Explore more of Toksook Bay here:

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