Northwest Alaska

Northwest Arctic Leadership Team is so named because our cooperating member organizations all serve and work in Northwest Alaska, in an area mostly above the Arctic Circle, and just larger than the state of Indiana. The congruent boundaries of the NANA region and Northwest Arctic Borough outline a total area of 40,762 square miles, about twelve percent of which is water. Within these boundaries live most of the shareholders of NANA Regional Corporation and the more than 7,000 residents of the Northwest Arctic Borough.

The southernmost village in the region is Deering, on the Seward Peninsula. Kotzebue Sound carves into the region, from east to west, and is a locally-important body of water. The Chukchi Sea washes onto the eastern shores of our region, and is at its narrowest near Cape Blossom, not far from Kotzebue, before it opens up, further north, into the Arctic Ocean. Other principal waterways, used for transportation and subsistence hunting and fishing, are rivers such as the Noatak River and the Kobuk River, and lakes and inlets such as Selawik Lake and Hotham Inlet. Toward more northern villages - Noatak and Kivalina - lie the De Long Mountains, which form the westernmost end of the Brooks Range.

Most of the people living in Northwest Alaska are Iñupiat, and descendants of the people who have lived and thrived in this area for thousands of years. Our traditional language is Iñupiaq, and our culture as deep and rich as the flavor of uqsruk (seal oil) - a key part of niqipiaq (real food). Technologies such as toggle-head harpoons, the ulu, and bola for hunting birds were ingeniously used and improved upon over centuries, while garments such as ugruk-soled mukluks and caribou skin pants kept people warm.

Today, after generations of evolution, change and challenge, Iñupiat culture remains strong. We hunt and fish for the same animals our ancestors did, though our tradition of adaptation means we now use rifles. People know how to sew fancy fur parkas, but wear Gore-Tex in daily life. After years of "contact" through educational and religious institutions, we have to work hard to maintain and teach some of our traditional knowledge to younger people.