Chalkyitsik means "fish hooking place," and has traditionally been an important seasonal fishing site for the Gwich'in. Archaeological excavations in the area reveal use and occupancy of the region as early as 10,000 B.C. Village elders remember a highly nomadic way of life, living at the headwaters of the Black River from autumn to spring, and then floating downriver to fish in summer. Early explorers of the region refer briefly to the Black River Gwich'in Natives. Archdeacon MacDonald encountered them on the Black and Porcupine Rivers, as well as trading and socializing in Fort Yukon and Rampart, on a number of occasions from 1863 to 1868. Around the turn of the century, the Black River band began to settle in Salmon Village, about 70 miles upriver from the present site. The first permanent structure was built there by William Salmon, a Canadian Indian who married a Black River woman. In the late 1930s, a boat bound for Salmon Village with construction materials for a school had to unload at Chalkyitsik because of low water. The site was used as a seasonal fishing camp, and four cabins existed at that time. The decision was made to build the school there, and the Black River people began to settle around the school. By 1969, there were 26 houses, a store, two churches and a community hall in Chalkyitsik.
To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online
History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development