Selawik is located at the mouth of the Selawik River, about 70 miles southeast of Kotzebue. It lies 670 miles northwest of Anchorage. The village, known as Akuligaq in Inupiaq, is near the Selawik National Wildlife Refuge, a key breeding and resting spot for migratory waterfowl.
Selawik is an Iñupiat Eskimo community active in traditional subsistence fishing and hunting, depending on whitefish, sheefish, caribou, moose, ducks, ptarmigan and berries. The population of Selawik is 828.
Selawik is an Eskimo name for a species of fish. In the 1840s, Lt. L. A. Zagoskin of the Imperial Russian Navy first reported the village as “Chilivik.” In an 1880 census, 100 residents were counted and around 1908, the site had a small wooden schoolhouse and church.
The largest employers in the community include the school, the city, the I.R.A. council, Maniilaq Association and three grocery stores. Handicrafts are made and sold locally and at gift shops in larger cities. Seasonal work is also found outside of Selawik at the Red Dog Mine and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) firefighting.
Selawik is accessible by plane and boat. Daily scheduled flights are available to and from Kotzebue and area villages. Boardwalks have been constructed for walking and driving around the village. The village lies on three banks of the Selawik River, and bridges link the different section. Boats, ATV’s and snow machines are the main forms of local travel. Winter snow machine trails connect Selawik to Kotzebue and nearby villages.
The city has a mayor/council form of government. It employs a city administrator, police officer, and also has a volunteer fire department. Public facilities include a post office, community hall, a National Guard Armory, city office, jail, pool hall, three stores, a community laundry, and a K-12 school. Selawik also has the recently constructed Maniilaq Association village clinic, which replaced the old clinic and provided additional space and a cleaner environment. This is now the largest clinic in the Borough. A much needed, new K-12 school was recently built, greatly increasing the size and quality of the facility. A housing project was also recently completed, offering many modern, well-built homes to the residents of Selawik. A central treatment and washeteria facility pumps water from the Selawik River, providing running water to many homes.