LIVING ON THE OUTER KENAI PENINSULA (continued)
A People Few in Number
Alexander Walker, a British soldier and fur trader, provides one of the earliest descriptive accounts of the Chugach.
Walker's observations, made while on a voyage with James Strange to Prince William Sound in August 1786, supported the claim that the Chugach were few in number.
The population size of the Chugach at the time of Russian contact is unknown, though Oswalt estimated that by 1800 there might have been only 600 inhabitants on the southern Kenai Peninsula.  The number of inhabitants along the coast fluctuated depending on who conducted a census at the time. Russian ethnographic studies, a by-product of the numerous censuses taken in the 1800s by the Russian-American Company and the Russian Orthodox Church, tended to count the Kenai inhabitants as one and the same with the Chugach. Perhaps this tendency represented an association with Chugach Bay or the many variations in name given for the people who traveled along the coast of the Gulf of Alaska. The practice may also have been the result of the relatively low number of inhabitants on the Kenai Peninsula coast in addition to the Russian practice of consolidating peoples and forming large hunting crews from many coastal areas. It may also have been simply a matter of convenience. When Ludwig von Hagemeister, the Russian Navy captain, ordered a census in the early half of the nineteenth century there were 477 Native Chugach and Oughalentse in the Prince William Sound region as compared to 1,471 people along Cook Inlet.  Teben'kov reported in the Notes to his 1852 atlas that "The Native population of Kenai Bay amounts to 1,000 souls of both sexes, they consist of a separate tribe, belonging to the Chugaches or to the Kad'iaks."  This surprisingly high number of inhabitants for the years following the smallpox epidemic is counterbal-anced by Wrangell's earlier estimate in the 1830s that the Chugachiks, "as they called themselves," consisted of approximately 100 families. 
Late nineteenth century studies conducted under the auspices of the U.S. Department of the Interior also categorized the people of the Prince William Sound area as Chugach. In 1875, Dall enumerated the Chugach and observed that their living conditions were in a state of decline. He noted, "Being in localities where there is less fishing practicable, these tribes live principally by hunting and trapping. These are amiable and harmless, but in a savage condition." 
Last Updated: 26-Oct-2002