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2 The Human Environment The harsh climate of Alaska's North Slope shapes and limits the ways that people there live and work. The most notable factor is the extreme cold, which influences the avail- ability of natural resources, restricts transportation and com- munication, and limits the ways that communities incorporate the amenities of modern western culture. Although there are areas of North America where extreme winter temperatures can be colder than those on the North Slope, the average tem- peratures there are too low to grow food or timber. Agricul- ture as a cash-producing activity, and gardens a traditional supplemental source of food in many other rural areas are not possible. Similarly, forestry is not possible there. Arctic tundra is difficult terrain to traverse in summer. The flat coastal regions of the North Slope are poorly drained, so there are thousands of small shallow ponds and wetlands that impede transportation in summer. Most of the travel between communities on the North Slope, or between these communities and subsistence areas, is by air, by snow machine in winter when the tundra is frozen, or by water in summer. With the exception of a barge that travels to Bar- TABLE 2-1 North Slope Population row once in late summer, transportation between North Slope Native communities and areas off the North Slope is virtu- ally entirely by air. The NSB's eight main communities (Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Barrow, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright) are not connected to each other by road or to the rest of the state by highway. Table 2-1 provides details of past and current community populations. Approximately 70% of NSB residents are Inupiaq Alaska Natives. The remainder of the population is made up of whites (16.8%), Asians (7.2%), other Alaska Natives (2.3%), African Americans and Hispanic people (0.8%), and a sprinkling of other ethnic groups (NSB 1999~. The propor- tion of Inupiaq people is higher in the smaller communities (Anaktuvuk Pass, 92%; Atqasuk, 95%; Kaktovik, 85%; Nuiqsut, 90%; Point Hope, 91%; Point Lay, 92%; Wain- wright,93%) than in Barrow (53%) (NSB 1999~. Arctic Vil- lage, not part of the North Slope Borough, had 152 people in 2000, of whom 92% were Alaska Native (mainly Gwich'in Indians) (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2000~. Anaktuvuk Passa Atqasukb Barrow Kaktovik Nuiqsutb Point Hope Point Lay Wainwright Total 1939 78 363 13 89 257 117 341 1,258 1950 66 49 951 46 264 75 227 1,678 1973 134 2,167 144 128 376 31 353 3,333 1980 203 107 2,267 165 208 464 68 405 3,887 1988 264 219 3,335 227 314 591 132 514 5,596 1990 259 216 3,469 224 354 639 139 492 5,792 1993 270 237 3,908 230 418 699 192 584 6,538 1998 314 224 4,641 256 420 805 246 649 7,555 aAnaktuvuk Pass was settled in the late 1940s. bAtqasuk and Nuiqsut were abandoned, and then resettled in the 1970s, mainly by former residents of Barrow. SOURCE: NSB 1999. 19
20 Isolation from major transportation routes and the area's inability to produce construction materials and agricultural products mean that the prices of goods and the cost of trans- porting them to the North Slope are considerably higher than in the rest of Alaska or the continental United States. In 1998, the cost of a "typical market basket" in Anchorage was $122.19; in Barrow it was $218.03 (NSB 1999) and perhaps double that amount in outlying North Slope villages. Similar proportionate increases occur for vehicles, construction materials, fuel, appliances, tools, and other consumer goods. Because North Slope residents do not have greater per capita incomes than some of their counterparts in the rest of Alaska or in the United States in general (Table 2-2), North Slope residents must accept a lower standard of living, rely to a greater extent on subsistence harvest, or both. By comparison, Arctic Village, which is not part of the North Slope Borough and whose residents also rely heavily on subsistence, had a per capita income of $10,761 in 1999 (U.S. Bureau of the Census 2000~. The cultural knowledge and practices of North Slope people have been refined over many generations in an envi- ronment where one bad decision can lead to an individual death or even starvation of an entire village. The archaeo- logical record shows that there were groups of people whose primary subsistence and economic emphasis was on sea mammals and other groups who relied on caribou from in- land areas. Group composition and resource emphasis changed over time, depending on climate, weather, warfare, and shifting political alliances. Although the affiliations and origins of the Inupiat are still unclear, physical anthropo- logical and archaeological data suggest that the North Slope Inupiat have lived along the coastline from Point Hope on the west to the Canadian border on the east roughly since AD 1250 to 1300. The principal form of social organization traditionally revolved around large, extended families rang- ing from fewer than a dozen to more than 50 people (Burch 1976~. The size of a local family was determined by the re- source base and the ability of family members to exploit it. Larger families were associated with plentiful game, skilled TABLE 2-2 Per Capita Income for 1999 Compared Area or Place Income Anaktuvuk Pass Atqasuk Barrow Kaktovik Nuiqsut Point Hope Point Lay Wa~nwright North Slope Total Alaska United States $15,283 $14,732 $22,902 $22,031 $14,876 $16,641 $18,003 $16,710 $20,540 $22,660 $21,587 SOURCE: Data from U.S. Bureau of the Census 2000. CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF ALASKA NORTH SLOPE OIL AND GAS Blowing snow. March 2003. Photograph by David Policansky. hunters, or both. Most families lived in clusters of adjacent houses. Initial contact with Western culture came in the mid- nineteenth century, primarily with the arrival of commercial whalers and Protestant missionaries (Bockstoce 1978, Spen- cer 1959~. Commercial whalers hired North Slope natives as crew members; and Natives later began to captain their own vessels. By 1915, a combination of the introduction of sub- stitutes for baleen and the decline in the bowhead whale population that resulted from overharvesting brought an end to commercial whaling. However, by this time, the cash economy was well-integrated into North Slope culture. Two sources of income rose and fell during this period. Reindeer were introduced in the 1890s by the U.S. Bureau of Educa- tion. The reindeer population increased dramatically from the 1,250 originally imported to more than 600,000 animals by the 1930s. By the 1950s, however, overgrazing, increas- ing predator populations, and losses because animals joined migrating caribou herds had caused the population to de- cline to fewer than 25,000 (Chance 1966~. Trapping had an even more precipitous trajectory. A1- though North Slope Natives had traditionally supplemented their incomes by trapping, many more began to do so in the early 1920s when arctic fox pelts rose dramatically in value. During the Great Depression the value of fox pelts dropped, and this source of income dried up (Brower 1942, Sonnenfeld 1956~. Steady-wage jobs were first introduced by the U.S. Navy's early petroleum exploration on the North Slope in the 1940s. Construction of distant early warning radar sites in the 1950s also provided some employment. But through- out the 1950s and 1960s, wage-earning jobs on the North Slope were scarce, and subsistence activities supplied the majority of food for most families. SUBSISTENCE Subsistence activities are important to Alaska Native communities of the North Slope. For residents of coastal vil-
THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT lages, individual and community identity is tied closely to the procurement and distribution of bowhead whales. Bow- head is the preferred meat and a unique and powerful cul- tural basis for sharing and community cooperation. Caribou, birds, fish, and plants also are valuable subsistence resources. In inland arctic Alaska in Arctic Village and Anaktuvuk Pass, for example caribou are the most important subsis- tence resource, with lesser use of sheep, moose, and fish. Many people maintain strong cultural and spiritual ties to the resources, so that disruption of subsistence activities affects far more than food supplies. To understand the subsistence economies of the North Slope, it helps to examine annual subsistence cycles for a coastal and an inland northern Alaskan subsistence system. 21 The following are generic cycles, based on a combination of village and regional data sets (Figure 2-1~. For people in most North Alaskan villages, individual participation in the contemporary annual subsistence cycle is both voluntary and variable. Few individuals participate in all activities in every season, but most participate in some. Both the system and the patterns have changed as Alaska Natives have established fixed residential bases and have incorporated new technolo- gies into their subsistence system. Coastal Northern Alaska Subsistence harvest patterns for northern Alaska are well described, and qualitative information is available from FIGURE 2-1 Seasonal subsistence cycle for four North Slope villages. Thickness of bars indicates relative importance. Abbreviation: N/A, food source not available. SOURCE: Galginaitis et al. 2001.
22 history references and ethnographic sources (ADF&G 1999; Brower and Opie 1996, 1997; Hall et al. 1985; Harcharek 1995; IAI 1990a,b; Shepro and Maas 1999; S.R. Braund and Associates 1988, 1989, 1993~. The following summary is adapted from the work of Galginaitis and colleagues (2001~. Coastal villages can be divided into those for which the bowhead whale is the primary resource, and those that are not geographically positioned to take advantage of spring or fall bowhead whale migrations. For the latter, ringed seal, fish, and caribou are typically the important subsistence re- sources. The bowhead is the foundation of the sociocultural system in the villages of Barrow, Kivalina, Point Hope, Wainwright, Nuiqsut, and Kaktovik (BLM/MMS 1998, Galginaitis et al. 2001~. In pre-contact times North Slope residents expected bowhead whale hunting to provide sufficient fuel and food in four out of five winters (Mason and Gerlach 1995, Simpson 1855, in Bockstoce 1988~. In 1852-1853, when few seals and whales were present in the vicinity of Barrow (Bockstoce 1988), people journeyed inland for caribou ear- lier in the year than usual, and they hunted birds, fished, and ate dogs (Bockstoce 1988~. For a variety of social and eco- nomic reasons, Barrow's subsistence varies less from year to year now than does subsistence in the smaller North Slope Borough villages (Galginaitis et al. 2001~. Quotas, level of effort, weather, ice conditions, and whale migration routes contribute to variable success in the bowhead harvest from village to village, and from year to year. Subsistence harvest surveys were conducted in Kaktovik in 1985,1986, and 1992. Caribou harvest surveys were com- pleted in 1987, 1990, and 1991. The caribou harvest over this period was relatively constant, with a spike in 1985, a year in which no bowheads were landed in Kaktovik (Galginaitis et al.2001~. Complete harvest data are available for Nuiqsut for 1985, 1993, and 1994-1995. During these years, Nuiqsut harvested only one whale. In years when the bowhead hunt is unsuccessful, fish and caribou are more important to the overall subsistence economy. In an ideal year, the annual subsistence harvest consists of roughly equal dependence on fish, caribou, moose, and marine mammals in most coastal villages. Inlancl Northern Alaska The committee considered the two inland villages of~ Anaktuvak Pass and Arctic Village. The subsistence patterns of the inland, predominately Inupiaq, village of Anaktuvuk Pass are not as well studied as are those of the coastal vil- lages (Figure 2-1~. Harvest data are available only for 1994- 1995 (Brower and Opie 1996), although estimates are avail- able for 1990,1991,1992, and 1993 (ADF&G 1999~. Those and other historical records (Hall et al. 1985) show that the caribou harvest is the most important subsistence resource in all years (Binford 1978, 2002), but sheep, moose, and fish also are taken. Sharing and exchange with individuals in CUMULATIVE EFFECTS OF ALASKA NORTH SLOPE OIL AND GAS other communities provide Anaktuvuk Pass residents with access to a wider variety of subsistence resources than they procure directly (Galginaitis et al. 2001, Harcharek 1995, Shepro and Maas 1999~. Caribou harvested near Anaktuvuk Pass most commonly come from the Western Arctic and the Teshekpuk Lake herds. The Arctic Village Gwich'in continue to maintain strong cultural and spiritual ties to the Porcupine Caribou Herd and the Arctic Coastal Plain. The Community Profile Database generated by the Division of Subsistence, Alaska Depart- ment of Fish and Game, has no specific harvest information for the Gwich'in community. The limited studies that are available, however, indicate that there is considerable varia- tion in the annual subsistence cycle. The emphasis is on ter- restrial mammals, including caribou, moose, and sheep, and on considerable use of furbearers, hare, squirrel, and porcu- pine. Black and grizzly bears are harvested, but less often than moose or caribou. Ducks, geese, and ptarmigan are sea- sonally important, as are salmon, grayling, and whitefish. Patterson (1974) suggested that fish are almost as important in terms of quantity and calories as are terrestrial mammals. Caribou, however, are still the most important subsistence resource, integrating people across vast landscapes in north- eastern Alaska and Canada. Subsistence is more than the sum of harvest and resource procurement that has just been used to describe it. Subsis- tence is ideological, value-driven, and value-laden an idiom that defines self and community. It is illustrated by specific forms of knowledge about sustainable use of land and resources. It includes a specific suite of behaviors and actions through which wild resources are procured, con- sumed, and distributed among relatives and neighbors across a wide network of communities. Therefore, studies of subsistence should be integrated into broader socioeconomic research on contemporary rural life in Alaska, and subsistence activities should be studied in an integrated way that focuses on the everyday reality of life in Alaska Native communities. If this is not done, valuable traditional knowledge will be lost. NORTH StOPE HUMAN CULTURES IN THE OlL ERA The discovery of oil at Prudhoe Bay catalyzed many changes that affected the human environment of the North Slope and that increasingly moved North Slope residents into the mainstream economy. The discovery of oil accelerated political processes for resolving complex issues of land ten- ure and rights without which investment in, and develop- ment of, the oil fields would have been impossible. Of major importance was passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settle- ment Act in 1971 (see Chapter 4), which established the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the village corpora- tions and led to the founding of the North Slope Borough (NSB) in 1972. The NSB largely overlaps the geographic area of
THE HUMAN ENVIRONMENT Alaska's North Slope. It is larger than any municipality or county in the United States; it is in fact larger than 39 of the other states. With a land area of 230,036 km2 (88,817 mi2) and a human population of 7,555 in 1998, it also has a lower population density 0.033 persons per km2 (0.085 per mi2) than any municipality or county in the United States. The borough' s extremely rural nature and the isolation of its small communities are important to consider when assessing the effects of oil and gas activities (NRC 1994~. The popula- tion is concentrated in eight communities: Anaktuvuk Pass, Atqasuk, Barrow, Kaktovik, Nuiqsut, Point Hope, Point Lay, and Wainwright. (Deadhorse, at the northern terminus of the James Dalton Highway, is listed as a "place" by the census, but it functions mainly as a support center for the industrial complex surrounding petroleum development. In 1990, its population was 26, of whom 24 were adult males.) Approximately 70% of NSB residents are Inupiat. The remainder of the population consists of Whites (16.8%), Asians (7.2%), other Alaska Natives (2.3%), African Ameri- can and Hispanic people (0.8%), and a sprinkling of other Barrow, the North Slope's largest community, from the air. March 2003. Photograph by David Policansky. 23 ethnic groups (NSB 1999~. There is a greater proportion of Inupiat in the smaller communities (Anaktuvuk Pass, 92%; Atqasuk, 95%; Kaktovik, 85%; Nuiqsut, 90%; Point Hope, 91%; Point Lay, 92%; Wainwright, 93%) than in Barrow (53%) (NSB 1999~. Similarly, 92.1 % of Arctic Village's 2000 population of 152 consisted of Alaska Natives (Gwich'in Indians). The NSB taxes oil and gas facilities and is responsible for education and for an array of other services including water and sewer service, electrical power, health care, hous- ing, transportation infrastructure, and police and fire protec- tion. The borough is the dominant economic force in North Slope communities. Among the main effects of the expan- sion of services and the capital improvement program were the creation of jobs in direct employment by the borough, the expansion of the educational system, construction projects for the capital improvement program, and the emer- gence of new businesses as a result of the growing economy. In addition, oil and gas activities have resulted in local en- ergy production for Barrow. The NSB government, school district, and capital im- provement projects; Ilisagvik College; and city, state, and federal governments combined employ 61% of the work- force. Although they are increasingly being employed, North Slope residents are still underrepresented in the oil-field workforce, given that they are approximately 70% of the population. For companies that collected data on residency, of the 7,432 reported individuals who worked on the North Slope in 1999 and who were employed in the oil and gas sector of the economy, only 64 lived in the state's "Northern Region," which consists of Nome and the North Slope and Northwest Arctic boroughs (Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development 2001~. Part of the explanation of the lower employment proportion is the large percentage of young people, but other factors, such as the need for spe- cially trained, mobile professionals, also contribute. Some North Slope residents obtain oil-field jobs and then move to Fairbanks or Anchorage. Some later return to their home village, bringing their education and income with them.