The History of Mary's Igloo

Mary's Igloo is located on the northwest bank of the Kuzitrin River, on the Seward Peninsula, northeast of Nome. It lies 40 miles southeast of Teller. It lies at approximately 65 09' N Latitude, 165 04' W Longitude (Sec. 17, T004S, R031W, Kateel River Meridian). The community is located in the Cape Nome Recording District. The area encompasses 11 sq. miles of land and 1 sq. miles of water.

Natives of "Kauwerak," as the village was originally called, were Inupiaq Eskimos known as Kauweramiuts. This village was originally located about 15 miles downriver. By 1900, Kauwerak was abandoned, and most Natives moved to Teller or Nome because of the schools and employment opportunities. Some settled at the present site, which they called "Aukvaunlook," meaning "black whale." During the gold prospecting boom, non-Natives renamed the village "Mary's Igloo," after an Eskimo woman named Mary, who welcomed miners, trappers and other newcomers into her home for coffee. Supplies for the gold fields upriver were transferred onto river boats here. A post office and store were opened in 1901. By 1910, Mary's Igloo became a large mixed community of Eskimos, white traders, miners, innkeepers, missionaries and support crews for barges. The flu epidemic of 1918-19, and a tuberculosis epidemic two years later, devastated the community. A Catholic orphanage, "Our Lady of Lourdes Mission," was opened at nearby Pilgrim Springs, and a Lutheran orphanage was build at nearby New Igloo. The BIA school closed in 1948 and the Alaska Native School was closed in 1952 for lack of students. The post office and store also closed in 1952.


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History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development