Perched on the east bank of the Kuskokwim River just north of the Holitna River junction behind low rolling forested hills is the tiny village of Sleetmute. According to the 2010 Census, 80 people currently reside there, almost 25 percent less than the population just 10 years ago. Sleetmute, which has also been known as Steitmute, Steelmut and Sikmiut, means “Whetstone People.” The name refers to the slate deposits found nearby.
Originally settled by Ingalik Natives, Sleetmute once experienced a considerable amount of traffic. In the 1830s, Russians built a trading post just 1.5 miles upriver at the junction. Ten years later, the post was relocated farther downriver, but a new trading post was established there in 1906. Though not in rapid succession, a post office, a Russian Orthodox church and a school followed. Today, though the school is the highest employer in the village, most cash income is acquired from seasonal work in trapping, BLM firefighting or cannery work in other communities.
The people of Sleetmute rely on subsistence activities for their diet; the majority of their food is derived from the hunting of moose, bear, porcupine, rabbit, salmon, waterfowl and berry harvesting. A state owned and operated airstrip supplies weekday scheduled flights, but the majority of deliveries and transportation to and from the village is done via the river in the summer; snowmachines are used generally from October to May.