Influenced by the weather and storm patterns of the Bering Sea, Napaskiak is a traditional Yup’ik village located on the east bank of the Kuskokwim River, just seven miles southeast of Bethel. Because of the village’s close proximity to a regional hub, residents have access to healthcare and shopping through short flights and boat travel.
The village is laid out in one long line with a well-maintained boardwalk extending from one end of the village to the other—perhaps a mile—with houses one or two deep on either side of the boardwalk. The school, store and clinic are located within the center of the village, with two Russian Orthodox churches on each end. Approximately 150 students attend the community’s one school.
The population of Napaskiak has varied greatly for over a century, but has doubled in numbers since first recorded. The 1880 U.S. Census reported a population of 196. By 1890, the population had dropped to 97 and was as low as 67 in 1939. The city was incorporated in 1971, and in 2011, the Alaska Department of Labor estimates its population at approximately 420 residents.
A federally recognized tribe is located in the community – the Native Village of Napaskiak. The residents of the village are dependent upon fishing and subsistence activities to provide for their families. The school, local businesses and commercial fishing provides employment while subsistence activities supplement cash earnings.
The village of Napaskiak has a state-owned gravel airstrip and seaplane landing area west of the village that provides charter and general aviation access year-round. Although there are no docking facilities, many residents have fishing boats. Skiffs are used in the summer for subsistence fishing and travel to Bethel or nearby villages. Snow machines and ATVs are used in winter to navigate the main boardwalk as well as the surrounding areas.