The people of the Northwest Arctic Borough harvest fish, game and plants to feed their families while natural resources provide jobs.
Changes in climate, increased marine shipping, and proposed development are expected in the near future. Responding to these changes and providing a scientifically defensible decision-support tool aligned with Northwest Arctic Borough Code (§9.25.020 Areawide standards, B. Subsistence), Iñuuniałiqput Iḷiḷugu Nunaŋŋuan-the Subsistence Mapping Project-is producing an atlas using science and traditional knowledge with maps showing the following:
- Subsistence Use: Places where people look for food by season in the vicinity of Noatak, Kivalina, Deering, Buckland, Selawik, Noorvik and Kotzebue
- Important Ecological Areas: Places where animals feed, breed, raise young, and migrate on the terrestrial or in the freshwater and marine environments
- Resource Development Opportunity Areas: Places where the surface, subsurface, landscape, freshwater or marine environment could be altered for the purpose of economic development.
The Subsistence Mapping Project focuses on the coastal or near-coastal communities of Noatak, Kivalina, Deering, Buckland, Selawik, Noorvik and Kotzebue. The project promotes subsistence resources and their use in Borough permitting, and aids in the implementation of federal plans including oil spill contingency planning. The communities of Kiana, Ambler, Shungnak and Kobuk are not part of the present project.
The Northwest Arctic Borough drives the project. The project methods protect traditional knowledge. The methods and draft maps were reviewed by a scientific panel and village-based advisory group members to ensure their defensibility and relevance.
The maps were made using information collected from individual interviews, meetings with advisory groups, and through the analysis of existing peer-reviewed publications and scientific reports. Everyone interviewed in the project received compensation.
The maps will be stored in a password-protected geographic information system (GIS) database. A final report (atlas) is currently in press, expected to be circulated soon, and contains maps approved for sharing by the interviewees, advisory group members, Borough Mayor Reggie Joule, and the Northwest Arctic Borough Assembly. Plans for a web-based application are also being considered for development in the near future.
Documentaries about Subsistence in the Northwest Arctic Borough
Documentary filmmaker, Sarah Betcher, has recently completed several films on subsistence, climate change, and related issues in the Northwest Arctic Borough.
Film by Sarah Betcher about Northwest Alaska
Counting on Caribou:
Iñupiaq Way of Life in Northwest Alaska
This film showcases the ways in which the Iñupiat people of Northwest Alaska are seeking to maintain their connection to caribou and the influences that threaten this staple subsistence food.
Running time: 17:05