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History of Bethel

The Yupik people had made southwestern Alaska their home for several thousand years. Their village is called Mamterillermiut, and it translates to the “Smokhoue People”, and they named after their closeby fish smokehouse. During the 19th century, it was a trading post for a company, and it had a small population of just over 40 people in the late 19th century.

A mission was set up there by the Moravian Church in 1885, and a Reverand did a lot of work in working with the real Yupik people there. He learned Ypuik, and it dramatically enhanced his effectiveness as a missionary. He used Yupik as the official language of the church in the region and community, and he translated the scripture into Yupik. He took moved the city to its current spot on the west side of the river. A post office was set up there in 1905.

The native Alaskans have long had a Christian history, and it comes from Moravian, Catholic, and Russian Orthodox roots. Just like in lots of Alaskan Native cities, Christian traditions have become a big part of the fabric of their traditional culture.

After and during World War II, there was a lot of development in the area, and it caused some social disruption amongst the natives

Bethel founded a local radio in 1971, and it has had a big influence in revival and redevelopment of the Yupik culture. It was a radio station that was operated and owned by the Yupik people. There were other stations that were soon set up in Kotzebue, and there were ten stations in cities that had less than 3500 by 1990.

In 2012, someone in town put up signs everywhere that said Taco Bell was going to be coming to Bethel soon, and it was really just crazy hoax, and there wasn’t a Taco Bell coming at all. Taco Bell heard about the hoax, and they airlifted a “taco truck” into town to serve about 10,000 tacos to the people. The response was then seen in a Taco Bell commercial.