Shungnak is located on the west bank of the Kobuk River, about 150 miles east of Kotzebue. The original settlement was 10 miles further upstream at Kobuk. Shungnak is located in the Kotzebue Recording District. The area encompasses 8.4 sq. miles of land and 1.3 sq. miles of water. The community is located in the transitional climate zone. Temperatures average -10 to 15 °F during winter and 40 to 65 °F during summer. Temperature extremes have been recorded from -60 to 90 °F. Snowfall averages 80 inches, with 16 inches of total precipitation per year. The Kobuk River is navigable from the end of May to mid-October.
Founded in 1899 as a supply point for mining activities in the Cosmos Hills, this Inupiaq village was forced to move in the 1920s because of river erosion and flooding. The old site, 10 miles upstream, was renamed Kobuk by those who remained there. The new village was named “Kochuk” but later reverted to Shungnak. This name is derived from the Inupait word “Issingnak,” which means jade, a stone found extensively throughout the surrounding hills. The city government was incorporated in 1967.
It is a traditional Inupiaq village with a subsistence lifestyle. The sale or importation of alcohol is banned in the village. High School students from Kobuk attend school in Shungnak.
Shungnak subsists mainly on fishing, seasonal employment, hunting, and trapping. Subsistence food sources include sheefish, whitefish, caribou, moose, ducks, and berries. Most full-time employment is with the school district, city, Maniilaq Association, two stores, and a lodge. BLM provides seasonal employment in firefighting, hiring over 30 residents each year. Shungnak also has a strong arts and crafts industry; residents make and sell finely-crafted baskets, masks, mukluks, parkas, hats, and mittens. The community wants to develop a visitor center, mini-mall, post office, and clinic complex at Dahl Creek.
Borough Assembly Member
Miles Cleveland, Sr.
P.O. Box 105 Ambler, AK 99786