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Title: Inupiaq  
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Subject: Silap Inua, Walrus ivory, Nome, Alaska, Shishmaref, Alaska, Ambler, Alaska, Kotzebue, Alaska, Selawik, Alaska, Marshall, Alaska, Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, Igloolik
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For other uses, see Inupiat (disambiguation).
Noatak, Alaska, 1929.
Total population
Regions with significant populations
North and northwest Alaska (United States)
Inupiat language, English
Related ethnic groups
Inuit, Yupik peoples

The Iñupiat[pronunciation?] (plural) or Iñupiaq[pronunciation?] (singular) and Iñupiak[pronunciation?] (dual) (from iñuk 'person' - and -piaq 'real', i.e., 'real people') or formerly Inyupik,[2][3] Inupik[pronunciation?] are the people of Alaska's Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region. Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, is in the Inupiat region.

The Iñupiat were divided into two regional hunter-gatherer groups: the Taġiuġmiut (formerly Tareumiut) («people of sea»), living on or near the north Alaska coast, and the Nunamiut («people of land»), living in interior Alaska.


Ethnic groups

The Iñupiat people are made up of the following communities.

  • Bering Strait Inupiat
  • Interior North Inupiat.[1]
  • Kotzebue Sound Inupiat
  • North Alaska Coast Inupiat (Tareumiut, people of the sea)
  • Siberian Yupik people

Regional corporations

To equitably manage natural resources, Iñupiat people belong to several of the Alaskan Native Regional Corporations. These are the following.


Their language is known as Iñupiaq. There is one Inupiat culture-oriented institute of higher education, Iḷisaġvik College.


Iñupiat people are hunter-gatherers, as are all Eskimo peoples. Iñupiat people continue to rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. Depending on their location, they harvest walrus, seal, whale, polar bears, caribou, and fish.[1] Both the inland (Nunamiut) and coastal (Taġiumiut, i.e. Tikiġaġmiut) Iñupiat depend greatly on fish. Ducks, geese, rabbits, berries, roots, and shoots are also food staples throughout the seasons where they are available.

The inland Iñupiat also hunt caribou, dall sheep, grizzly bear and moose. The coastal Iñupiat hunt walrus, seals, beluga whales and bowhead whales. Polar bear is also cautiously hunted.

The capture of a whale benefits each member of an Inupiat community, as the animal is butchered and its meat and blubber allocated according to a traditional formula. Even city-dwelling relatives thousands of miles away are entitled to a share of each whale killed by the hunters of their ancestral village. Maktak, which is the skin and blubber of Bowhead and other whales, is rich in vitamins A and C.[4][5] It contributes to good health in a population with limited access to fruits and vegetables.

Since the 1970s, oil and other resources have been an important revenue source for the Inupiat. The Alaska Pipeline connects the Prudhoe Bay wells with the port of Valdez in south-central Alaska. However, because of the oil drilling in Alaska’s arid north, the traditional way of whaling is coming into conflict with one of the modern world’s most urgent priorities: finding more oil.[6]


Inupiaq groups in common with other Eskimo (Inuit and Yupik) groups, often have a name ending in "miut," which means 'a people of'. One example are the Nunamiut, a generic term for inland Inupiaq caribou hunters. During a period of starvation and an influenza epidemic (carried by American and European whaling crews,[7]) most of these people moved to the coast or other parts of Alaska between 1890 and 1910. A number of Nunamiut returned to the mountains in the 1930s.

By 1950, most Nunamiut groups, like the Killikmiut, had coalesced in Anaktuvuk Pass, a village in north-central Alaska. Some of the Nunamiut remained nomadic until the 1950s.

Current issues

Inupiat people have grown more concerned in recent years that climate change is threatening their traditional lifestyle. The warming trend in the Arctic affects their lifestyle in numerous ways, for example: thinning sea ice makes it more difficult to harvest Bowhead Whales, seals, walrus, and other traditional foods; warmer winters make travel more dangerous and less predictable; later-forming sea ice contributes to increased flooding and erosion along the coast, directly imperiling many coastal villages. The Inuit Circumpolar Council, a group representing indigenous peoples of the Arctic, has made the case that climate change represents a threat to their human rights.

As of the 2000 U.S. Census, the Inupiat population in the United States numbered over 19,000; most live in Alaska.

Iñupiat territories

North Slope Borough : Anaktuvuk Pass (Anaqtuuvak, Naqsraq), Atqasuk (Atqasuk), Barrow (Utqiaġvik, Ukpiaġvik), Kaktovik (Qaagtuviġmiut), Nuiqsut (Nuiqsat), Point Hope (Tikiġaq), Point Lay (Kali), Wainwright (Ulġuniq)

Northwest Arctic Borough : Ambler (Ivisaappaat), Buckland (Nunatchiaq), Deering (Ipnatchiaq), Kiana (Katyaak, Katyaaq), Kivalina (Kivalliñiq), Kobuk (Laugviik), Kotzebue (Qikiqtaġruk), Noatak (Nuataaq ), Noorvik (Nuurvik), Selawik (Siilvik, Akuligaq ), Shungnak (Isiŋnaq, Nuurviuraq)

Nome Census Area : Brevig Mission (Sitaisaq, Sinauraq), Diomede (Inalik), Golovin (Siŋik), Koyuk (Quyuk), Nome (Siqnazuaq), Shaktoolik (Saqtuliq), Shishmaref\ (Qiġiqtaq), Stebbins (Tapqaq), Teller (Tala), Wales (Kiŋigin), White Mountain (Natchirsvik), Unalakleet (Uŋalaqłiq)

See also

  • Kivgiq (Messenger Feast)
  • Maniilaq
  • Qargi (men's community house)


Further reading

  • Heinrich, Albert Carl. A Summary of Kinship Forms and Terminologies Found Among the Inupiaq Speaking People of Alaska. 1950.
  • Sprott, Julie E. Raising Young Children in an Alaskan Iñupiaq Village; The Family, Cultural, and Village Environment of Rearing. West, CT: Bergin & Garvey, 2002. ISBN 0-313-01347-0
  • Chance, Norman A. The Eskimo of North Alaska. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1966. ISBN 0-03-057160-X
  • Chance, Norman A. The Inupiat and Arctic Alaska: An Ethnology of Development. Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1990. ISBN 0-03-032419-X
  • Chance, N.A. and Yelena Andreeva. "Sustainability, Equity, and Natural Resource Development in Northwest Siberia and Arctic Alaska." Human Ecology. 1995, vol 23 (2) [June]

External links

  • Iñupiat of Arctic Alaska

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