red salmon drying on a rack
Salmon drying on fish rack at a subsistence camp at Cape Krusenstern National Monument.

NPS Photo/Doug Demarest

“For our children and their children, we know how important it is to feed from our land... Our foods define who we are, connect us to the land and keep our culture alive.” – Julia Jones Anausuk Stalker, Kotzebue, Alaska

Community story

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.

Though much has changed since Otto von Kotzebue first sailed along the coast of Cape Krusenstern in 1816, subsistence – noncommercial, customary and traditional use of wild resources – remains an important part of Iñupiaq culture today. Wild salmon, whitefish, seal, and caribou are staples for many Iñupiat living along the Chukchi Sea, just as they have been for many generations.

Subsistence users on the coastline show NPS rangers how to process ugruk

NPS Photo

Seasonal Use

Subsistence defines the seasons as much as the weather in Northwest Alaska. Whitefish season gives way to salmon season, just as sure as summer is followed by fall, and people organize their lives accordingly. Many families leave their homes in the nearby villages and spend their summers at subsistence camps in the Monument, taking advantage of the long hours of sunlight to set nets for salmon and whitefish, and to pick wild greens and berries on the tundra. Visitors to Cape Krusenstern National Monument need to be sensitive to these activities and not interfere with the age-old subsistence harvests taking place in the monument, especially during the key seasons of summer and fall.

To learn more, watch this video, Respect the Land (Kamaksrił̣iq Nunam Irrusianik): Iñupiaq Values and Subsistence Management in Western Arctic National Parklands filmed and directed by Kristen Green, Anne Beaudreau, Savannah Fletcher made with support from: U.S. National Park Service--Western Arctic National Parklands, Ocean Alaska Science and Learning Center (Agreement # P17AC00303); Emmett Family Collaboration Grant, Stanford University; University of Alaska Fairbanks

berries in the tundra
Berry picking in the summer is an important time of year

NPS Photo/Emily Mesner

Laws and Subsistence in Cape Krusenstern

The Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA), the legislation that established Cape Krusenstern National Monument and many other Alaskan national parks, specifically protects subsistence harvest by local residents. Subsistence is vital to the everyday survival of many rural Alaskans. It preserves both the traditional way of life and generations of accumulated knowledge in Northwest Alaska.

Provisions in ANILCA established a Subsistence Resource Commission (SRC) for Cape Krusenstern National Monument, providing a venue for local subsistence users to participate in the management of their land.

Preserving food gathered during the summers on the coast remains essential to fulfilling nutritional needs during the winter months

NPS Photo/Emily Mesner

For the people of the Chukchi coast, subsistence is the lifeline of family, culture, conservation, diet, and more. Stores are often under stocked, and the food they do sell is expensive. Most families obtain 65-90% of their food through subsistence practices. The food provided by the sea, rivers, and tundra fulfills physical, spiritual, and cultural needs. Alterations due to climate change, coastal erosion, and development are felt by the coastal communities as they notice of changes to their environment, seasons, and are forced to alter their thousand-year-old subsistence practices.

Learn more:

Northwest Arctic Trade Fair (U.S. National Park Service) (

The Vulnerabilities of Cultural and Paleontological Resources to Coastal Climate Change Processes in Northwest Alaska (U.S. National Park Service) (

Last updated: August 4, 2023

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Kotzebue, AK 99752


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