Abstract The role of public health in a reformed health care system is currently a matter of great debate at the national and state levels. Many public health nursing leaders have expressed concern about changes in public health policy and funding sources that have led to the near demise of the generalist public health nurse. Generalist public health nurses may be an endangered species; however, the role is still in existence in rural Alaska. Will they be one more example of how “what we learn from history is that we don't learn from history?” Taking the discrete area of the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta of Alaska and studying the forces of geography, politics, economics, social factors and health issues, this article provides an historic account of the development of a unique health care delivery system and the role of the public health nursing structure within it, from earliest known records to present day. The long-standing efforts to document these data were spurred by the National Centennial of Public Health Nursing activities, celebrated in 1993.