The Athapaskan cultures are likely related to microblade tool horizons, which appeared in Alaska from Asia around 8000 B . C . By 4800 B . C ., this culture had expanded over much of Alaska and northwestern Canada, areas subsequently occupied by the Northern Athapaskans. Linguistic and cultural evidence suggests that the Proto-Athapaskan language was that of an interior hunting people, probably centered in the eastern Alaskan, upper Yukon River, and northwestern Canadian cordilleran region. Between 500 B . C . and A . D . 500, Athapaskans expanded into western Alaska and languages began to differentiate. Athapaskan core cultural elements included an emphasis on upland, big-game hunting, a matrilineal Descent system, commemorative feasts for the dead, semisubterranean dwellings, and use of snowshoes and toboggans. Fishing was of secondary importance. As the ancestors of the Ingalik moved into riverine areas of southwestern Alaska, they came into contact with Eskimos. Exposure to the Cultures of these efficient coastal sea-mammal hunting and fishing specialists led to considerable Eskimoization of the Athapaskan core culture, with the Ingalik adopting a fishing economy and a bilateral kinship system. By 1900, through Intermarriage with Eskimo, the Kuskokwim Ingalik had ceased to exist as a cultural entity, and by 1980, Holy Cross village on the Yukon was at least 50 percent Eskimo.
Situated between Athapaskans and Eskimos, the Ingalik traded with both. Following Russian contact, the Ingalik occasionally visited posts such as Nulato on the middle Yukon to trade. Not as warlike as other groups, the Ingalik's traditional enemies were the Koyukon, although there was occasional friction with Eskimo and the Kolchan.