The word ‘Iñupiat’ means ‘the real people’ The Iñupiat have inhabited the Arctic for thousands of years, traditionally following animal migrations and subsisting on whale, caribou, walrus, seal and birds.
In one of the earth’s most challenging environments, the Iñupiat developed a rich culture and dynamic set of traditions. Their survival depended on close family ties, a strong sense of community and a deep respect for nature.
Today, the Iñupiat still look to the land for cultural and economic sustenance. Despite changes in technology and lifestyle, most Iñupiat still depend on hunting and fishing for cultural identity and partial income.
Of all subsistence activities, whaling is the most important. When a whaling captain lands a bowhead whale, it gives the entire community an opportunity to come together for sharing and celebration. During Nalukataq, the celebration held after the harvest of a whale, hundreds of people gather to share in the feast participate in games, and enjoy Eskimo dancing.
In addition to the Iñupiat, the North Slope’s population is composed of Caucasians, Filipinos and other ethnic groups. More than three-fifths of the population live in Utqiaġvik, the region’s commercial and transportation hub. Other principal communities are Point Hope and Wainwright.