The native name of Nulato is Noolaaghedoh, ‘before the dog salmon’. It was called this because it was the place where people gathered on the Yukon and made camp before the dog salmon run. Nulato is also called Tlaakeyeet, ‘in the shelter of rocks’, because the village is located next to a bluff, which juts out to the river. There are two townsites, the original (downtown) site and the new site on the hillside two miles back from the river. It is located 310 air miles west of Fairbanks.
A few of the 240 people now living in Nulato came from up the Koyukuk River but the majority came from the Kaiyuh region (spelled Kkaayeh in the Koyukon orthography). The people of Nulato speak the lower dialect of Koyukon. The village is well known for its Stick Dance, which is held only there and Kaltag.
Father Loyens says of Nulato that it was “the last trading post to be founded by the Russian-American Company in the interior Alaska (1838).” And at the same time it was their furthest upriver venture in the competition for the interior fur trade. The location of the Russian trading post and its American successor in Koyukon territory influenced the Catholic missionaries in their choice of Nulato as the first mission on the Yukon (1887). In the wake of missionary activity came a school taught by the Sisters of St. Ann (1899). These factors in turn contributed to the governmental decisions of establishing at Nulato a hospital, a telegraph station, a U.S. Commissioner and Marshall’s office with a territorial jail. More traders also followed the precedent set by the Russians in influencing the Koyukon economic world. (Loyens, 1966)
Another critical event in history of the village was the Nulato Massacre of 1851. A war party from up the Yukon and Koyukuk Rivers attacked Nulato, leaving only a few survivors.
If you would like to learn more about the history of Nulato, a good book to read is The Changing Culture of the Nulato Koyukon Indians by Father William Loyens (1966, University Microfilms, Ann Arbor, MI.)
Well-known people from Nulato Include: Martha Joe, respected elder and story teller, Poldine Carlo, Author of An Indian Life on the Yukon, Edna and Wally Stickman, Charlie Brush, Martha Brush, and Eddie Hildebrand
YKSD Biography Series: Henry Ekada, Martha Joe, Simeon Mountain