An Age-Old Tradition
From time immemorial, the Inupiat people of Northwest Alaska have relied on the land to sustain them. The mighty caribou herd and salmon runs provided enough food to see their dogs and them through the long, lean months of winter. They hunted seals and belugas in wood frame boats covered with sealskins and weathered the harsh Arctic winters in parkas made of caribou hide. Food was stored in baskets made from wild beach grass, and during the dark days of winter, stone lamps full of seal oil provided the only light. To the Inupiat, the far North was a land of plenty.
Along the beach ridges stretching back from the coast, evidence of 4,000 years of seasonal subsistence camps is preserved. 200 generations of people have hunted marine animals and fished along the Chukchi Seas, and that tradition continues today. Much has changed since Otto von Kotzebue first sailed along the coast of Cape Krusenstern in 1816, but subsistence – noncommercial, customary and traditional use of wild resources – remains an important part of Inupiaq culture today. Wild salmon, whitefish, seal and caribou are staples for many Inupiat Eskimos living along the Chukchi Sea, just like they have always been.