A sod house (ivrulik) in Anaktuvuk Pass in 1957, shortly after the village was established.
|Regions with significant populations|
|Inland Alaska (United States)|
|Iñupiat language, English|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Nunamiut or Nunatamiut people (Iñupiaq Nunataaġmiut[pronunciation?]) are semi-nomadic inland Inupiat, located in northern and northwestern Alaskan interior, mostly around the Anaktuvuk Pass, Alaska, whose ancestors date back hundreds of years.
The name Nunatamiut means "people of the land."
Early Nunamiut lived by hunting caribou instead of the marine mammals and fish hunted by coastal Iñupiat. After 1850 the interior became depopulated because of diseases, the decline of the caribou and the migration to the coast (including the Mackenzie Delta area in Canada, where they are called Uummarmiut) where whaling and fox trapping provided a temporarily promising alternative.
Historically they hunted caribou. When caribou numbers dwindled in the 19th century, some Nunatamiut migrated towards the Mackenzie River delta. Around 1910, with caribou continuing to be insufficient to sustain the native hunting, Nunatamiut migrated further into the Siglit area. They were spurred by increased demand for furs by the Hudson's Bay Company and the possibility of jobs within the whaling industry. The Inuvialuit of the Siglit area were unhappy with the arrival of the Nunatamiut, afraid that the Nunatamuit would deplete the Inuvialuit's Bluenose caribou herd. But the Nunatamiut, inland hunters of the Iñupiat region, were in high demand by the American whalers.
In 1938, several Nunamiut families returned to the Brooks Range, around Chandler Lake and the Killik River. In 1949, the Chandler Lake Nunamiuts moved to Anaktuvuk Pass; later, the Killik River group moved there also. Anaktuvuk Pass is the only Nunamiut settlement. A federally-recognized Alaskan village is located Anaktuvuk—the Village of Anaktuvuk Pass, the Naqsragmiut Tribal Council.
Recording of culture and history
The Nunamiut were visited after World War II by Norwegian explorer and author Helge Ingstad. He stayed for a period in the Brooks Range in northern Alaska among the Nunamiut, and afterwards wrote Nunamiut - blant Alaskas innlandseskimoer (translation: "Nunamiut - Inland Eskimos of Alaska"). During the last few years of his life, he worked on categorizing and annotating the large quantity of photos and audio recordings (141 songs) he had made while living with the Nunamiut in 1950. The effort resulted in a booklet, Songs of the Nunamiut, with an accompanying CD containing the audio material. This is an extremely valuable contribution to the preservation of the Nunamiut culture, because it turned out that much of what he had gathered in the mid-20th century was now lost locally and was only preserved in his recordings.
According to archaeologist Lewis Binford, the Nunamiut depend on meat more so than any other living hunter-gatherer group. The annual cycle of Nunamiut life revolves around the annual migrations of caribou.
Spring: The main caribou migrations happen in March and April, when caribou move north through Anaktuvuk Pass to feed on the plains.
Summer: The plains thaw and become a marshland swarming with blackflies and mosquitoes.
Autumn: The caribou hunting cycle repeats in September and October when caribou retreat south again.
Winter: There are about 72 days of total winter darkness starting around November 15.
The native language of the Nunamiut is a dialect of the Iñupiaq language. In the late 1960s, the University of California, Berkeley sent undergraduate linguistics student (now Arctic explorer) Dennis Schmitt to the Nunamiut to study their dialect. There are few native speakers today.
The Nunamiut speak English. Their culture is contrasted by strong collectivist and individualist tendencies, both of which are a reflected in their "uncertainty language game". This involves one of five statements as part of a response: "I don't know", "maybe", "probably", "I guess", and "might be". Choosing the neutral "maybe" over "yes" or "no" reflects the cultural importance of a collectivist community. It also reflects behavior avoidance of an individual making a false statement.
- Stephen Adolphe Wurm, Peter Mühlhäusler, and Darrell T. Tyron (1996), Atlas of Languages of Intercultural Communication in the Pacific, Asia, and the Americas
- "People of Mackenzie River". arcticblast. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- "Ivvavik National Park of Canada". pc.gc.ca. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- David Morrison; Curator of N.W.T. Archaeology; District of Mackenzie; Canadian Museum of Civilization. "Retracing an Archaeological Expedition". canadianarchaeology.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-09-30.
- "The Nunamiut Eskimo". Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- "Dennis Schmitt, Arctic Explorer". Archived from the original (The Warming Island Project) on 2007-12-25. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- Erin M. Cline, Belmont University. "Finding the Riverbed: Language Uncertainty in a Nunamiut Eskimo Village" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on December 30, 2003. Retrieved 2007-09-23.
- Binford, Lewis Roberts. Nunamiut Ethnoarchaeology. New York: Academic Press, 1978. ISBN 0-12-100040-0
- Blackman, Margaret B. Upside Down: Seasons Among the Nunamiut. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2004. ISBN 0-8032-1335-2
- Gubser, Nicholas J. The Nunamiut Eskimos, Hunters of Caribou. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965.
- Ingstad, Helge. Nunamiut; Among Alaska's Inland Eskimos. New York: W.W. Norton, 1954.
- Ingstad, Helge. Songs of the Nunamiut historical recordings of an Alaskan Eskimo community. [Oslo, Norway]: Tano Aschehoug, 1998. ISBN 82-518-3778-2
- Kakinya, Elijah, et al. Nunamiut Unipkaanich = Nunamiut Stories: Told in Inupiaq Eskimo. Fairbanks: Alaska Native Language Center, 1987.
- Rausch, Robert. Notes on the Nunamiu Eskimo and mammals of the Anaktuvuk Pass Region, Brooks Range, Alaska
- Spearman, Grant R. Nunamiut History. [Alaska]: North Slope Borough School District, Title IV, Indian Education Program, 1982.
- Documentary- 50 Years of Northern Light, a look at Anaktuvuk Pass as reflected by the village church building. Directed by Caven Keith, 2011
- Documentary- Tradition Meets Modernity in Native Alaska, Wil Carson uses filmmaking to explore the changes in traditional Nunamiut village life, 1998
- Faces of the Nunamiut: Tourist Art and Traditional Knowledge in Northern Alaska- National Science Foundation grant
- Gates of the Arctic National Park Sights Page- the establishment of Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve in 1980 placed Anaktuvuk Pass, the Nunamiut's historic land, in the middle of a national park.
- Interview with Dennis Schmitt-Dennis Schmitt, linguist, Arctic explorer, discoverer of Warming Island, researched the Nunamiut dialect in the 1960s, under Noam Chomsky
- Mask making exhibit
- North Slope Borough School District- public school system
- Restore Nunamiut Kayak-The University of Alaska Museum, Fairbanks, and the Simon Paneak Memorial Museum, Anaktuvuk Pass, are restoring the only remaining Nunamiut (inland) kayak.
- Simon Paneak Memorial Museum- created by the Nunamiut people, located in Anaktuvuk Pass, Aipanni, the newsletter of the Simon Paneak Memorial Museum Endowment Campaign
- A heritage of whales and whaling among the Nunamiut Inupiat- ancient days, traditional times, commercial whaling, whaling today.