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 (Iñupiat Heritage Center | The North Slope Borough (, 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( Iñupiat Heritage Center | The North Slope Borough ( and learn more through an “Iñuit Cultural Orientation” (PowerPoint Presentation (

Listen to interviews – hear from Iñupiaq elder and educator Martha “Ikayuaq” Stackhouse from Utqiagvik (Project Jukebox | Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program (, who grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle and offers observations on environmental changes.

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

Visit the Affiliated Area Iñupiat Heritage Center (U.S. National Park Service) (

and the New Bedford Whaling Park National Historical Park New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park (U.S. National Park Service) (

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    Last updated: November 2, 2021