Located at the summit of a broad and beautiful glacial valley which cuts through the heart of the Brooks Range, the village of Anaktuvuk Pass is home to the last of the Nunamiut – or inland Iñupiat. This is a community which holds many surprises for first time visitors and, if they are willing to take the time and effort, perhaps a few revelations as well.
Initial impressions are commonly a mixture of marveling at the remarkable beauty of the setting, amazement at the modernity of the community with its ranch style houses, state of the art health clinic, school and fire department, satellite TV dishes, transit busses and personal cars, followed by absolute wonderment at why any body would want to live here so isolated in the middle of nowhere.
Yet for all the surface appearances of permanence and modernity, the true nature of the community and its people – their commitment to a subsistence lifestyle and traditional values – runs far deeper and is more complex than might be evident at first glance.
Anaktuvuk Pass is a village of recent origin and home to a people with an ancient one. As recently as the 1950’s the Nunamiut were still much as they always had been: highly mobile, semi-nomadic hunters of caribou. Hunters by conviction as well as tradition, they knew no permanent home. Traveling by dog-team and sled in winter and on foot in summer, living in tents of caribou skin and houses built of moss, they roamed the land in pursuit of game: hunting, fishing and trapping throughout the mountain valleys of the brooks range and their northern foothills. They were, in fact, the last of North America nomadic peoples to settle into village life.
Below are some photographs of our community in Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska.