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Chefornak

Cevvʼarneq / Caputnguaq
Chefornak (9703826823).jpg
Location of Chefornak, Alaska
Location of Chefornak, Alaska
Country United States
State Alaska
Census Area Bethel
Incorporated 1974
Area
 • Total 5.99 sq mi (15.51 km2)
 • Land 5.24 sq mi (13.56 km2)
 • Water 0.75 sq mi (1.95 km2)
Elevation
0 ft (0 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 506
 • Density 96.64/sq mi (37.31/km2)
Time zone UTC-9 (Alaska (AKST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-8 (AKDT)
ZIP code
99561
Area code 907
FIPS code 02-12680
GNIS feature ID 1400188

Chefornak (Central Yupik: Cevvʼarneq ) is a city in Bethel Census Area, Alaska, United States. At the 2010 census its population was 418, up from 394 in 2000.

Geography

Chefornak is located at 60°9′33″N 164°16′10″W / 60.15917°N 164.26944°W / 60.15917; -164.26944 (60.159070, -164.269437) on the south bank of the Kinia River 16 miles (26 km) upriver from its mouth in Etolin Strait, an arm of the Bering Sea. It is within the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.4 square miles (16.6 km2), of which 5.7 square miles (14.8 km2) is land and 0.66 square miles (1.7 km2), or 10.56%, is water.

Local geology

Located in a region where the arctic tundra meets and interacts with the Bering Sea, as well as being in a region impacted by past volcanism, Chefornak has many interesting local landmarks.

An extinct volcano, Tern Mountain, is visible in the distance to the south. Large, blocky, igneous rocks are a common sight in the village and the surrounding tundra.

The Kinia River (Urrsukvaaq) and its many tributaries are important to the people of the village, because of water travel to hunting and fishing areas, as well as because of difficulties presented by flooding and erosion.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1950 106
1960 133 25.5%
1970 146 9.8%
1980 230 57.5%
1990 320 39.1%
2000 394 23.1%
2010 418 6.1%
2020 506 21.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

Chefornak first appeared on the 1950 U.S. Census as an unincorporated village. It formally incorporated in 1974.

As of the census of 2000, there were 394 people, 75 households, and 63 families residing in the city. The population density was 68.8 people per square mile (26.5/km2). There were 82 housing units at an average density of 14.3 per square mile (5.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 93.40% Alaska Native, 2.03% White, and 4.57% from two or more races.

There were 75 households, out of which 60.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.3% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 16.0% were non-families. 14.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and none had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 5.25 and the average family size was 5.98.

In the city, the age distribution of the population shows 45.2% under the age of 18, 9.9% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 4.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 21 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 113.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $35,556, and the median income for a family was $36,042. Males had a median income of $15,000 versus $20,833 for females. The per capita income for the city was $8,474. About 21.3% of families and 25.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 36.0% of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.

Cultural activities

Yup'ik dancing is popular in the village. The high school has an Yup'ik Dance Team which often visits other villages for feasts and festivals. Often the village hosts a dance festival in April, and the large Camai-i festival in Bethel attracts many from Chefornak and the surrounding villages to display their dances and to see the dances of other regions.

Subsistence living

Many of the villagers live a subsistence lifestyle, which means that they continue to carry out the traditional hunter-gatherer activities of their ancestors. One of the foods that they rely on is fish such as halibut, salmon, and herring, which are dried and eaten like jerky. Berries such as salmonberries (cloudberries), black berries (crowberries), and blueberries (bog bilberries) are also gathered and used to prepare akutaq. Other native foods that are gathered include mousefood, Labrador tea, and greens such as sourdock.

Village buildings

Catherine of Siena church Alaska
St. Catherine of Siena Church

Beside houses, there are only a handful of buildings in the village:

  • Avugiak's Store
  • The post office
  • The town hall/bingo hall
  • The school (elementary and high school are in one building)
    • Chaputnguak High School
    • Amakigcik School (primary school, named after the Yup'ik elder who selected the village site)
  • The Old School (formerly B.I.A. school)
  • The power plant

Transportation

CFK-b
Aerial photograph of Chefornak Airport (FAA: CFK) in Chefornak, Alaska, United States.

Transportation into the village of Chefornak occurs primarily by small aircraft, although in the winter the village can be reached by snow machine as well. Goods and mail are brought into the village by plane, and during the summer months are brought up the Kinia River by barge. Chefornak's airport is in the process of being moved further from the village due to concerns with its proximity to the school. The new airstrip has been constructed, but the gravel must settle for several years before the airstrip is usable. Within the village, transportation options include four-wheel, bicycle, snow machine, and on foot.

Education

Chefornak snowball fight
Kids recreating in the school playground

The Lower Kuskokwim School District operates the Chaputnguak School, an elementary school, and Amaqigciq School, a high school, which share a building.

The Chaputnguak School was named for Chaputnguak, the original name for Chefornak and a Yup'ik word referring to an object or thing obstructing a pathway. The Amaqigciq School is named after Alexie Amaqigciq, a Yup'ik elder who selected the village site and first inhabitant of Chefornak, .

Notable people

  • Paul John: elder and fisherman

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