Human habitation in Cook Inlet first occurred around 5,000 BC. Cook Inlet is a large tidal estuary that varies from 78 miles wide at its southern mouth to less than 9 miles at its northern extremity. The first inhabitants were Eskimo, who were later displaced by the Athabaskan Dena'ina people.

The Athabaskan Dena'ina people were called “Kenaitze” by the Russian fur traders who first made contact in 1741. At that time, an estimated 1,000 Dena'ina inhabited the Kenai River area alone. European contact with the Athabaskan Dena'ina first occurred about 1756. In 1778, Captain Cook sailed Cook Inlet looking for the Northwest Passage. A Russian trading post was established in Kenai in 1791. The relatively mild winters of Cook Inlet and abundance of wildlife both onshore and offshore made human habitation very viable. Consequently, its shoreline is literally filled with historical and cultural sites.

Other villages or cities of note within Cook Inlet include Anchorage, Tyonek, Ninilchik, Homer, Seldovia and Port Graham, many of whom continue to maintain a subsistence lifestyle.

Cook Inlet Spill Prevention & Response, Inc. (CISPRI) provides oil spill response for the entire Cook Inlet;, a pristine piece of south-central Alaska with over 1300 miles of shoreline.

A significant potential problem identified with oil spill recovery efforts involves the identification and protection of sensitive historical and cultural sites. To lessen any potential impact to these areas, CISPRI, in conjunction with Alaska Clean Seas, SERVS, Alaska Chadux and SEAPRO, have produced an 8 minute video tape demonstrating how to identify potential sensitive areas. It then directs appropriate actions to take until experts can be consulted to further direct methods of lessening impact.

The narrative was developed by a local expert in cultural resources, and representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska State Historic Preservation Office, and native organizations who represented their individual concerns. The video tape has been well-received by CISPRT's member companies and agencies and has been recognized as a good “get acquainted” tool for anyone involved in protecting cultural and historic resources during spill response.

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