Marys Slough is a river channel at the mouth of the Unalakleet River on Norton Sound, about 46 miles (74 km) northeast of Saint Michaels and 1.1 miles (1.8 km) south-southeast of Unalakleet, Alaska. The local name is for Sinrock Mary, an Iñupiat woman famed for her part as an interpreter in the first reindeer purchase for Alaska from Siberia.
The community of Unalakleet is located at the north end of the Unalakleet-Kaltag Portage, an important winter travel route between Norton Sound and the Yukon River. Unalakleet has long been a major trade center between the Athabascans who lived in the interior of Alaska and the Iñupiat who live on the coast. The Russian-American Company built a trading post here in the 1830s. In 1898, Sami reindeer herders from Lapland were brought to Unalakleet to teach animal husbandry and reindeer herding practices.
Sinrock Mary was a Russian-Iñupiat who became one of the richest women in Alaska due to her work in the reindeer industry. The reindeer herd imported from Siberia was originally based around a small settlement called Sinuk, also called “Sinrock”, at the mouth of the Sinuk River about 26 miles (42 km) northwest of Nome, from which Mary took her nickname. She sold reindeer meat to a U.S. Army post that was established in Nome following a nearby gold discovery. A documentary titled “The Reindeer Queen: Once the Richest Woman in Alaska – The True Story of Sinrock Mary” was released in 2000 (see a preview here). In 2009, Mary was inaugurated into the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame. Read more here and here. Explore more of Sinuk and Marys Slough here: