Shungnak, or Issingnak in Iñupiaq, is located on a bluff rising above the west bank of the Kobuk River, about 10 miles downstream from the village of Kobuk and 150 air miles east of Kotzebue.
Residents of Kobuk who migrated downstream along the winding Kobuk River to escape massive flooding established Shungnak in the 1920s. The new village was originally named Kochuk but its name was later changed to a derivative of the Iñupiaq word for jade, a gemstone found extensively in the surrounding hills. The city government was incorporated in 1967.
Shungnak is a traditional Iñupiat village based on a subsistence way of life. Residents depend on natural food sources including moose, caribou, berries, whitefish, sheefish and ducks. The 1970 census recorded 165 individuals living in Shungnak. By 2000 its population had increased 64 percent to 256. There are currently about 262 Shungnak residents, 94.3 percent of whom are Iñupiaq.
Shungnak has a mayor-council form of government, incorporated under the laws of the State of Alaska. It is one of the villages of the Northwest Arctic Borough.
CLIMATE AND TOPOGRAPHY
Shungnak is located a transitional climate zone. Temperatures average 10 degrees below zero to 15 degrees above Fahrenheit in the winter and 40 to 65 degrees during summer. Temperature extremes have been recorded from 60 degrees below zero to 90 degrees above. Snowfall averages 80 inches per year, rainfall 16 inches. The Kobuk River is navigable from the end of May to mid-October. Shungnak’s topography consists of river highlands with spruce and birch trees.
TRANSPORTATION SERVICES AND FACILITIES
Air – There is a state-owned, 4,000’ long by 60’ wide gravel airstrip lined with beacon lights in Shungnak. Flying weather is best in late winter and early spring, worst in late summer and fall. Scheduled regional passenger air carriers fly back and forth from daily Shungnak to Kotzebue and Kobuk and weekly to Ambler. A round-trip ticket from Shungnak to Kotzebue costs around $400, Kobuk $190 and Ambler $200.
Land – Residents travel overland by all-terrain vehicle, snowmachine and dog sleds, depending on the season. A dirt road network extends throughout the village and connects to a trail system paralleling the Kobuk River that is used for hunting and inter-village travel.
Water/Marine – Small boats are used on the Kobuk River for inter-village travel, cargo transport and subsistence activities.
LOCAL GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES
The City of Shungnak provides the following services:
Water – The public water supply in Shungnak is drawn from a 200,000-gallon steel storage tank. The reservoir is intermittently filled with water from the Kobuk River via 1,110’ of buried arctic pipe. The storage tank and pump house are located atop the river bluff and pump water to more than 50 nearby houses. The great majority of homes in Shungnak have running water, as do the school, the health clinic and the community building.
Sewer – Shungnak has 4,500 feet of six-inch underground gravity sewer lines connected to most homes and facilities by four-inch service lines. A sewer mainline drains sewage to small lake one-half mile northwest of the city. A dike surrounds the lake, creating a 4-million gallon waste stabilization lagoon. Effluent is chlorinated prior to discharge.
Solid Waste Disposal – A new city landfill was completed in recent years. It’s maintained with a trailer and full-tracked tractor.
Public Safety – Shungnak has a Village Public Safety Officer (VPSO) employed by Maniilaq Association. The village has the use of a Paktrak fire vehicle for fire protection.
OTHER SERVICES AND UTILITIES
Community Facilities – Shungnak has two stores, a pool hall, a National Guard Armory (defunct), a city office building, a public safety building, a post office, a community building and a village health clinic, plus three churches: Friends, Baptist and Seventh-Day Adventist.
Health Services – Operated by Maniilaq Association, the Shungnak health clinic is staffed by two certified health aides who are on call 24 hours a day. Routine medical serves are provided daily from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Health aides and patients have direct access to the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, which offers doctor consults via teleconferencing. Maniilaq Association transports emergency patients to Kotzebue via its own Medivac plane.
Electricity – The Alaska Village Electric Co-Op provides electricity to Shungnak via diesel generations with a peak capacity of 1,248 killowats. Monthly residential rates factoring in the Power Cost Equalization (PCE) subsidy are $0.222 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-500 kWh, $0.6792 per kilowatt-hour for 501-700 kWh per month and $0.5792 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700. Small commercial rates are $0.6792 per kilowatt-hour for the first 1-700 kWh per month and $0.5792 per kilowatt-hour for every kWh per month over 700.
Telecommunications – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides in-state telephone service to Shungnak residents and businesses, and long-distance service is provided through a combination of AT&T, Anchorage-based GCI and Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone. Internet service is provided through Inutek.net, a cooperative effort between OTZ, Maniilaq Association and Anchorage-based GCI Communications.
|Basic local service (single landline) - Includes taxes, fees. Additional charges for optional features||
Access Line/Residential: $16.55
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $6.50
Inside Wire Charge: $1.60
Universal Single Line: $0.01
Federal Tax: 3%
Business Phone (Access) Line: $24.50
Federally Mandated Per Access Line: $9.20
Inside Wire Charge: $2.25
Universal Single Line: $0.20
Local Tax: 6%
Federal Tax: 3%
|Long distance||$.07/minute + $5 monthly fee||$.09/minute no monthly charge|
|Cellular phone service||OTZ cell service does not work in Shungnak. (GCI cell service does)|
64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan
|*Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.|
The Shungnak School, a combined elementary, middle and high school, educates about 83 students per year from pre-Kindergarten through 12th grade. The school employs 9 teachers. It has five classrooms, a lecture hall, a gymnasium, a library and a woodshop.
Post-secondary education is available via online classes provided by Chukchi Campus, a rural division of the University of Alaska.
Shungnak residents receive KOTZ-AM, a public radio station broadcast from Kotzebue, and the Arctic Sounder, a regional newspaper. The City of Shungnak provides cable television.
About 50 residents work year-round jobs for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, the City of Shungnak, Maniilaq Association, two private stores and a lodge that caters to sportsmen and visitors to Gates of the Arctic National Park. The Bureau of Land Management offers seasonal firefighting employment to more than 30 residents every year for seasonal firefighting. Shungnak also has a strong arts and crafts industry; residents make and sell finely crafted baskets, masks, mukluks, parkas, hats, and mittens.
There are roughly 77 occupied residential structures in Shungnak. The average family household size is 4.5 persons. The median occupied home value is $131,800. The median rent is $1,225. The Northwest Iñupiat Housing Authority, based in Kotzebue, provides construction services based on HUD contracts.