Course in Iñupiaq Land Use Values and Resources

How To Use My Experiences in Your Classroom

My experience might help dispel the all-too common misconceptions and misunderstandings that outsiders have of the Inupiaq people.  

Not only did I participate in this experience as as a student on an educational level, but I also approached this with an outside perspective of an alternative culture.  I learned first-hand about the intimate respect that the Inupiaq people have for the land, the animals, and each other.  I witnessed how humbled and sincerely grateful they were for all that was provided for them.  Nothing was ever "taken", it was all a gift: the animal was giving itself to them; and they never forgot to thank them for that.  I came away from this slow-moving, spiritual culture with a more profound understanding.  I would have never gained this knowledge through books, or even online.  The best way to learn is by experiencing as intimitely as you can, with hands-on experience.  Maybe not the hunting, but the dancing, the cooking, the singing, and the mask-making.

While I was there, I also had the privilege of leaning some Inupiaq words, although I must say my pronunciation needs some practice:

  • tuttu = caribou
  • iglu = house or dwelling (no igloo)
  • apuyýaq = snow house
  • igluk = two houses
  • iglut = three houses
  • Iñupiaq = one person / language
  • Iñupiak = two people
  • Iñupiat = three or more people
  • apun = snow
  • urlaallutaq = good morning
  • siksrik = ground squirrel
  • alappaa = it's cold
  • siqiñiq = sun
  • aattai = cute

Upon my return to the New Bedford Whaling Museum, I realized that I had wonderful resources right at my fingertips.  I wanted to learn as much as I could about the Nunamuit people and the area that I had just visited.  In addition to spending hours in the bookshelves, I spent a lot of time in storage, looking at Inupiaq Eskimo artifacts.  I was amazed that all of this was right there in front of me this whole time.  While we had a lot of references, I found that I still had to do some digging to find out information on this specific culture.  It just speaks to the fact that we still do not know all that much about this culture and heritage.  

Recommendations for those who can't visit Anaktuvuk Pass

Although I learned unwritten lessons about the Inupiaq culture and people first-hand, I believe others can learn a lot by reading and visiting a museum that has a good Inupiaq collection. Toward that end, I suggest:

  • Look through the books listed below for a look at the cultures and histories, but keep in mind that most of them were written by outsiders like me, who were impressed by the people, but had not grown up in the culture.
  • Find out which museums in your area have good collections of Arctic materials. Ask for a special tour for you or your students that revolves around those collections.
  • Some museums have images of their collections on-line. This is a good way for you to explore objects that reside in institutions far from your home.
  • If you can, locate and bring in some objects that will make a unit on the Nunamiut more tangible: things like caribou fur, sinew, Dall Sheet horn, an ulu, even some walrus ivory -- which the Nunamiut didn't hunt, but did get in trade from their coastal relatives.
  • Check out the Internet for resources. Start with the Alaska Native Knowledge Network, the North Slope Borough Schools District's web site, or the Inupiaq History, Culture, and Language web site.
  • Use my experiences and photographs to explore the area. Help students imagine themselves in the situation I was in and ask them to write or draw about it.
  • Do a science unit on the animals of the Brooks Range. There's loads of information available. Look for nature videos about the Arctic. One good site is the Alaska Department of Fish and Game's Wildlife Notebook Series. Under the Wildlife heading, select Wildlife Notebook.
  • As a hook, you might challenge your students to do research to dispel as many misconceptions about Eskimos (the preferred term is "Inupiaq" or, for more southern people, "Yup'ik") as they can.

References:

Eskimo Life by Fridtjof Nansen (Longmans, Green, and Co,; 1894)

Our Arctic Province by Henry W. Elliot (Charles Scribner's Sons; 1886)

The North Alaskan Eskimo, A Study in Ecology and Society by Robert F. Spencer (U.S. Government Printing Office; 1959)

Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition by John Murdoch (Smithsonian Institution Press; 1892)

Wildlife Management and Subsistence Hunting in Alaska by Henry P. Huntington (University of Washing Press; 1992)

The Eskimos: Their Environment and Folkways by Edward Moffat Weyer, Jr., Ph.D. (Yale University Press; 1932)

The Eskimo of North Alaska by Norman A. Chance (Holt, Rinehart and Winston; 1966)

Abridged Iñupiaq and English Dictionary by Edna Ahgeak MacLean (Alaska Native Language Center and Iñupiat Language Commission; 1980)