PowerPoint Presentation - People of Alaska's North Slope

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					People of Alaska’s North
        ENVIR 450
       July 22, 2005
Who lives on the North Slope?

From Amy Gulick’s One Earth Adventures
  North Slope’s harsh climate
    limits human activities
Extreme cold winters (T<-18C, or 0F)
• Availability of resources
• Transportation and communication
• Incorporation of modern western culture
• Agriculture and gardening isn’t possible
• Forestry isn’t possible
   Travel and Transportation
• Tundra is difficult terrain for travel in
• Wetlands and ponds: also difficult in
• Most transportation is by air, snow
  machines in winter, and boats in
      North Slope Borough
• No connecting roads
• 70% Inupiaq, ~17% whites, ~7%
  Asians, ~2% other Alaska Natives
     North Slope Population

• Arctic Village (not in the NSB) had 152
  residents in 2000 (Alaska Natives,
     Cost of living is HIGH!
1998 typical market basket
• Anchorage ~ $122
• Barrow ~ $218
• Outlying villages ~$400

• The same high costs are generally true
  for most consumer goods
           Standard of Living
• NSB people must
  accept a lower
  standard of living,
  rely more on
  subsistence, or both
• Arctic Village per
  capita income was
  ~$10,761 in 1999
          Coastal Inupiat
• Archaeological evidence suggests that
  the Inupiat have occupied coastal
  region from Pt. Hope to Canadian
  border since ~1250 AD
• 1st contact with westerners was ~1850s
  (commercial whalers and Protestant
    Coastal Inupiat Economy
• 1850s: Whalers hired Inupiat as crew, then
  Inupiat captained their own whaling boats
• By 1915 commercial whaling in NSB region
  was over, but the cash economy was
• 1890s reindeer introduced by the US Bureau
  of Education
  – From start of 1,250 up to 600,000 by 1930s, down
    to <30,000 by 1950s due to overgrazing, growing
    population of predators, and escaped animals
   Coastal Inupiat Economy
• Trapping (Arctic foxes) was also short
  lived in the 1920s
• In the 1950s-60s, wage jobs were
  scarce, most people were engaged in
  subsistence living
   North Slope Subsistence

• Coastal areas: community identity
  closely tied to Bowhead whale hunting,
  sharing, and eating
  – caribou, birds,fish and plants are also
    valuable subsistence items
Subsistence isn’t just about food! It’s
 also about strong cultural and
 spiritual ties to resources

These patterns have
changed as Alaska
natives have established
fixed residential bases
and incorporated new
           Coastal villages
• Pre-contact expected 4 of 5 years to
  have adequate Bowhead harvests
  – If not, put more energy into obtaining other
    resources like caribou, moose, fish, birds,
             Inland villages
• Anaktuvak Pass (Inupiaq) and Arctic Village
  – Caribou most important; sheep, moose, fish and
    plants also taken
  – Arctic Village has especially strong ties to the
    Porcupine Caribou Herd and the coastal plain
  Subsistence is a way of life
“subsistence is more than the sum of harvest
  and resource procurement … it is idealogical,
  value-driven and value-laden … an idiom that
  defines self and community”

  – You’ll read more about tensions between Native
    and non-Native Alaskans surrounding subsistence
    issues in Frigid Embrace
                 The Oil Era
• Discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay in 1968 --
  North America’s largest oil field -- catalyzed
  change for North Slope communities
• Increasingly moved North Slope people into
  the mainstream economy
• It accelerated political processes for resolving
  complex issues of land claims and rights
  needed to allow development investments to
  go forward
   – Without settling unresolved land claims, oil
     development would have been impossible!
   Congress passes ANSCA
• The Alaska Native Claims Settlement
• Established the Arctic Slope Regional
  Corporation and the village corporations
  and led to the founding fo the North
  Slope Borough (NSB) in 1972
  – Also called for 80 million acres of Alaska’s
    Federal land to be protected as parks and
    wildlife refuges
        Alaska’s Boroughs
The nearest corollary in Alaska to the
  county form of government found in
  most other U.S. states is the borough.
  Alaska has 16 boroughs, which together
  cover less than 30 percent of the state.
  The remainder of the state's territory is
  divided into 11 census areas, which do
  not have organized borough
  governments due to sparse population.
    The North Slope Borough
• Larger than 39 states
• 70% of the people are Inupiat
• Taxes oil and gas facilities, and is responsible
  for education and public services
• The dominant economic force in NS
   – Expanded services, creating jobs, expanding
     education, capital improvements (local energy
     production in Barrow) … employs ~61% of the
     work force; only very small numbers of locals work
     in the oil fields
           More information
• Inupiat of Arctic Alaska
• Gwich’in: People of the caribou
• North Slope Borough http://www.north-
• Arctic Slope Regional Corporation
    “Cool” features of Arctic
• Permafrost, active layers, pingoes, ice
  wedges, polygon lakes …

• These features are dynamic
• ground that has remained frozen
  for at least two years. It forms
  where the winters are long and
  frigid and the ground is without a
  thick insulating layer of snow.
Distribution of

• small, cone-shaped hills with
  hearts of ice. Called 'pingoes,'
  these low mounds are the result of
  permafrost being forced upward by
  the pressure of subterranean
• a pitted land surface
  that forms as
  permafrost melts.This
  typically occurs
  following some
  disturbance of the
  overlying vegetation,
  which serves as an
  important insulator.
                          Circular thermokarst ponds in peatlands,
                          Hudson Bay Lowlands, Manitoba. Natural
                          Resources Canada
• View of the base-of-
  operations for British
  Petroleum in Prudhoe
  Bay. To prevent
  melting of soil
  permafrost, base
  infrastructure is built on
  stilts set in a 4-ft thick
  gravel pad.
Ecological regions and vegetation types

                                Dry prostrate dwarf-shrub   Shrub tundra and
                                Tundar and barrens          other shrublands
                                Moist sedge,                Wet sedge tundra
                                Dwarf-shrub tundra (na)     Water
                                Moist tussock-sedge         Ice
                                dwarf-shrub tundra (a, s)   Shadows, no data
                                Moist tussock-sedge,
                                shrub tundra (ns, na)

Also see
Key influences on North slope
• Topography
• Soils: acidity (pH) varies considerably, sand
  content and drainage varies
• Climate: varies with distance from the coast
  – Along the Beaufort Sea coast, July avg T ~4-7 ºC
  – Coastal plain (inland) July avg T ~7-9 ºC
  – Foothills July avg T ~9-12 ºC