View of Kotzebue at sunset with rainbow

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

FAST FACTS

  • Northwest Alaska is not on Alaska’s road system – it’s accessible only by air and water.
  • Our communities are: Ambler, Buckland, Deering, Kiana, Kivalina, Kobuk, Kotzebue, Noatak, Noorvik, Selawik and Shungnak
  • In 2009, Red Dog Mine paid approximately $6.7 million as payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) to the Northwest Arctic Borough.
  • Red Dog Mine provides 500+ jobs, 56% of which are held by NANA shareholders,
  • It is 61% more expensive to live in Kotzebue than in Anchorage – mostly due to energy costs.
  • Teacher turnover is 30-35%
  • 87 percent of residents are Iñupiat – the indigenous people of the area (2010 Census)
  • Major industries are health care, education and mining
  • Rural Alaskans spend as much as 47 percent of monthly income on energy.
  • Gasoline can cost as much as $10 per gallon or more, in Northwest Alaska villages.

Our Focus Areas

As we work toward building a better tomorrow for our people and region, we seek the participation and support of state and federal officials and agencies. We are confident that together, with state and federal partners, we can make a meaningful difference in the lives of our people.