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behtel began as a yup'ik village named mamterillermiut, meaning "smokehouse people" after the nearby fish smokehouse. in the late 19th century, it was a trading post for the alaska commercial company. in 1885, the moravian church established a mission in the area under reverand william weinland and caroline and john henry kilbuck, jr and edith. development did not come to the area until during and after world war ii, which caused a big social disuption among the native alaskans. in 1971, it established its first community radion, which became the first native-owned and operated radio station. it was a strong influence to redevelop and revive the yup'ik culture.
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