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The Inupiat or Iñupiaq are the Inuit people of Alaska's Northwest Arctic and North Slope boroughs and the Bering Straits region. Barrow, the northernmost city in the United States, is in the Inupiat region.
Inupiat people continue to rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing, including whaling. The capture of a whale benefits each member of a community, as the animal is butchered and its meat and blubber allocated according to a traditional formula. Even city-dwelling relatives thousands of miles away are entitled to a share of each whale killed by the hunters of their ancestral village. Muktuk, the skin of bowhead and other whales, is rich in vitamins A and C and contributes to good health in a population with limited access to fruits and vegetables.
In recent years the exploitation of oil and other resources has been an important revenue source for the Inupiat. The Alaska Pipeline connects the Prudhoe Bay wells with the port of Valdez in south central Alaska.
There is a nearly-extinct branch of the Inupiat called Nunamiut, nomads that lived away from the coast and subsisted by hunting caribou and trading with the coastal Inupiat for other items. Most of these moved to the coast or other parts of Alaska when the caribou population collapsed between 1890 and 1910 and in the 1920s. Some of the remaining Nunamiut remained nomadic until the 1950s.
Last updated: 07-30-2005 17:08:23