Aniak


Aniak is a Central Yup'ik Eskimo village located on the south bank of the Kuskokwim River at the head of Aniak Slough, 59 miles southeast of Russian Mission in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. It lies 92 air miles northeast of Bethel and 317 miles west of Anchorage.


Aniak is a Yup'ik word meaning "the place where it comes out," which refers to the mouth of the Aniak River. This river played a key role in the placer gold rush of 1900-01. In 1914, Tom L. Johnson homesteaded the site and opened a store and post office. The location became a trading post for mining camps developing along the Kuskokwim River. It was also visited earlier in the 18th century by Russian explorers.


A federally-recognized tribe is located in the community, the Village of Aniak. Aniak's population was 539 in 2011, according to Alaska Department of Labor Estimates. Its people are primarily Yup'ik Eskimos and Tanana Athabaskans.


The economy of Aniak is based on government, transportation, and retail services. As the largest city in the area, Aniak is a service hub for surrounding villages. Subsistence activities supplement part-time wage earnings in government, transportation and retail services. Some commercial fishing occurs. Many families travel to fish camps each summer. Salmon, moose, bear, birds, berries, and home gardening provide food sources. Some Roman Catholic parishioners of Aniak have their roots in the Holy Cross and Paimiut Missions. Baptisms were administered at Aniak long before a permanent mission was established. The year 1939 marked the beginning of an official Catholic presence at Aniak when St. Theresa Catholic church was built. In 1968, Bishop Francis Gleeson, S.J., put together a construction crew for the purpose of building a new church.


For many years, Saint Theresa parish was staffed by Jesuits stationed in Bethel and , later, at McGrath, Kalskag or Holy Cross. In recent years, due to priest shortages, the church has been served by parish administrators to take charge of the day to day activities of parish life, and by pastoral coordinators to coordinate liturgies, marriages, and baptisms.. Presently the parish is served by visiting priests and ministers from the Diocesan Yukon-Kuskokwim Subregion B.