Elma Sam is an Inupiaq elder from Alatna, Alaska. She is the eldest daughter of Oscar and Cora Tobuk Nictune. Her sisters include Ann Edwards, Kitty David, and Bertha Moses. Elma grew up living a subsistence lifestyle moving from camp to camp with the seasons and speaking her Native language. Her father and both sets of her grandparents had camps up the Alatna River. When her mother died in 1942, she and her siblings worked together to keep the family going while her father took a job with the Public Health Service and traveled widely throughout the state. In this way, Elma learned many skills such as cooking, sewing, hunting, fishing, berry picking, and caring for her younger siblings. Elma married Frank Sam and they had nine children. Her husband also had two children with his previous wife, Blanche Henry, who died.