Alaska Native Heritage and the Inupiat Heritage Center

Image of a tan colored building. The building is mostly one level, but there is a small section that appears to be two floors.
Iñupiat Heritage Center

Photo Credit: Karen Brewster

Within the traditional homeland of the Iñupiat in northernmost Alaska is the North Slope Borough’s Iñupiat Heritage Center, a National Park Service Affiliated Area, located in Utkiagvik (formerly known as Barrow).

Iñupiat and Yupik people of northern Alaska and the Bering Strait had been whaling for a thousand years when Yankee whalers arrived in the Arctic during the late nineteenth century. More than 2000 commercial whaling voyages sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts, center of the global whaling industry, into Arctic waters during the following decades. Many Alaska Natives played a direct role in the commercial whaling enterprise and all experienced its effects. They joined Yankee whaling crews, supplied local food to the whalers, shared traditional clothing designs adapted to Arctic conditions, and sheltered many shipwrecked whaling crews. Following their ancestors, today’s Alaska Native people continue to practice subsistence whaling.

Visit the Iñupiat Heritage Center and learn more through an “Iñuit Cultural Orientation.”

Learn more about the Iñupiat language and traditions through the Junior Ranger activity booklet.

Visit the Iñupiat Heritage Center Affiliated Area website and the New Bedford Whaling Park National Historical Park website for more information.

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    Last updated: January 17, 2024