Tununak is located in a small bay on the
northeast coast of Nelson Island, 115 miles northwest of Bethel and 519
miles northwest of Anchorage. It lies at approximately 60░ 35' N
Latitude, 165░ 15' W Longitude (Sec. 28, T006N, R091W, Seward Meridian).
The community is located in the Bethel Recording District. The area
encompasses 4 sq. miles of land and 0 sq. miles of water.
Island was named after Edward Nelson in 1878, a Smithsonian naturalist
who noted 6 people, including 1 non-Native trader, living in Tununak. In
1889 the Jesuits opened a small chapel and school. The villagers were
difficult to convert due to the migratory nature of the traditional
culture, and because the shamans were still quite powerful. The mission
closed in 1892. In 1925 a government school was built, and a Northern
Commercial Co. store was opened in 1929. From 1934 to 1962, a missionary
named Father Deshout lived on Nelson Island. His long-standing
relationship and work with the people in the area had a great influence.
The 1950s brought great changes to the Islanders lifestyle, through
their involvement with the Territorial Guard, work in fish canneries,
high schools, and health care treatment for tuberculosis. For many, this
was their first exposure outside the community. By the 1970s,
snowmobiles were replacing dog sled teams, and the last qasgiq (men's
community houses) was abandoned. In 1997, the City government was
dissolved in favor of traditional council governance.