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Archive for the ‘Inupiat artwork’ Category

At the top of the world

Wednesday, December 24th, 2008

Barrow, Alaska is the northernmost community of the United States, lying inside the Arctic Circle and north of North Pole, Alaska. It is flat, treeless, white, and wonderful!

Compared to the world capitals that I have come to love, Barrow is a bit, well, barren.  But while the town doesn’t have that much to commend it (except for some distinct and delightful “characters,” the Inupiat (Eskimo) people sure do! They combine playfulness and joie-de-vivre with a serious intentionality to do the right thing. It was a joy to spend two days with them last week, and I hope to return in February.

In earlier posts, I  promised a bit more background on the consulting project I am working on, but here’s the gist: it’s with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation Federal Holding Company (see, a subsidiary of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (see  ASRC was established as part of the Alaskan Native Settlement Claims Act (ANSCA) that appropriated native land in exchange for money to develop 12 regional corporations throughout Alaska.  ASRC, on the North Slope, is the largest. Its mission is to serve its shareholders — the Inupiat people of the North Slope — with dividends through business proceeds as well as supporting new educational and employment efforts.

The Federal Holdings company is the only ASRC subsidiary outside Alaska; a minority-owned business, it supports federal agencies with technical and support services.  As you might imagine, many of the employees of ASRC Federal have never been to Alaska and have limited knowledge of the Inupiat culture and values.  My effort is to develop a Cultural Awareness Program to educate them on the rich traditions, customs, and moral underpinnings of the people of the North Slope.

In short, I get to travel to amazing places, meet wonderful people, and learn about their history, art, language, and values.  And so, here are a few pictures:

The sun doesn’t rise or set in Barrow for 2 months in the winter. These photos were taken in mid-day in mid-winter with a background flash.  There is a deep twilight from about noon-2:00 pm.

Note, there is no “hitching post” for horses, but the Ford Broncos and other motorized vehicles hook up to electric plugs for engine block heaters.  When it’s really cold, people leave the cars running all night.

The Inupiat artwork is amazing. This basket is constructed from threads of whale baleen, with a handle of walrus ivory.