It’s a village that serves as a volcanic rock graveyard, but also hosts hundreds of migratory waterfowl as Chefornak lies within the Clarence Rhode National Wildlife Refuge. While visiting Chefornak, one might notice large blocky igneous rocks from past heavy volcanic activity in the Region or get a glimpse of Tern Mountain, an extinct volcano off in the distance.
The village has historically been occupied by Yup’ik Eskimos. In the 1950s, Alexie Amakigcik moved to the site from a village on the Bering Sea to escape potential floodwaters and opened a small general store. Others soon followed, and the village was incorporated in 1974. It is now home to just over 400 residents (2010 U.S. Census).
Chefornak is located on the south bank of the Kinia River, which provides access to fishing and hunting areas. The majority of the residents practice a subsistence lifestyle, like that of their ancestors, with their primary staples being halibut, herring, salmon and a variety of berries. Most employment within the village is seasonal, the highest employer being Coastal Villages Seafood, Inc. where halibut and salmon are processed.
A popular activity in Chefornak is Yup’ik dancing. The high school has a Yup’ik dance team that visits other villages for feasts and festivals, including the annual Cama-i Dance Festival in the spring.
Chefornak was originally settled due to floodwaters at the former site, and saltwater intrusion has become a problem again. Residents are currently unable to drink treated water from the local plant and instead rely on drinking melted ice cut from a local pond in the winter and rain catchment the rest of the year.