Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program

This project includes oral history recordings of residents of the North Slope of Alaska talking about sea ice conditions, observations over time, and changes that are occurring. The collection includes interviews recorded from 1978 to 1980 by Dr. Lew Shapiro, Ron Metzner and Kenneth Toovak for the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) as part of a study related to potential offshore oil development, from 2008-2009 by Dr. Matthew Druckenmiller as part of his Geophysics Ph.D. project at UAF about sea ice thickness along spring whaling trails offshore of Barrow; and in November 2013 by UAF Oral History Program Research Associate, Karen Brewster, and Geophysics Ph.D. student Oliver Dammann about ice conditions in Spring 2013 and long-term changes experienced by Barrow residents. The goal is to offer long-term observations about sea ice in northern Alaska.

Transcripts of some of the original 1978 to 1980 interviews appear in Historical References to Ice Conditions Along the Beaufort Sea Coast of Alaska by Lewis H. Shapiro, Ronald C. Metzner, and Kenneth Toovak (Scientific Report, NOAA Contract 03-5-022-55, Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks, September 1979). The Inupiaq recordings were originally translated by Molly Pederson. New translations were done in 2014 by Muriel Hopson and Ronald H. Brower, Sr. specifically for inclusion in this project. A list of Inupiaq sea ice terminology is also provided.

People

Billy Adams Billy Adams

Billy Adams was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1965, and is the youngest of twelve children of Rebecca and Baxter Adams. Billy learned to hunt from his father, uncles, brothers, and community elders.  Being from a successful whaling family, Billy went out whaling at a young age. He was twelve years old when he first paddled a whaling boat. Billy is a passionate whaler and hunter with much experience and knowledge of the sea ice. Billy has worked for the North Slope Borough Wildlife Department... Read More

Jacob Adams, Sr. Jacob Adams, Sr.

Jacob Anaġi Adams, Sr. is an Iñupiaq elder from Barrow, Alaska. He was born in 1946 to Rebecca and Baxter Adams, and grew up in a family of twelve children that was highly dependent upon hunting and fishing. He started whaling when he was seven or eight years old, learning from his father and his uncle, Whitlam Adams.  Jacob left Barrow to attend the Wrangell Institute boarding school in Wrangell, Alaska, and completed high school at Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska, because at... Read More

Otis Ahkivgak Otis Ahkivgak

Otis Ahkivgak was born in 1891 in Wainwright, Alaska, but lived along the northern Beaufort Sea coast. Typical of Inupiaq families at that time, they moved around a lot following the seasons and available food sources. Starting in 1902, after a measles epidemic, the family spent winters at Flaxman Island. Otis grew up hunting for caribou, seals, and polar bear, setting nets for fish, reindeer herding, and trapping foxes. Otis whaled with Taaqpak at Cross Island, and married his daughter,... Read More

Roy Ahmaogak Roy Ahmaogak

Roy Ahmaogak was born in Barrow, Alaska to Lawrence (Savik) and Myrna Ahmaogak. He started whaling and hunting at a young age. He learned about sea ice from his father and other knowledgeable elders of the community, including Fred Okpeaha. Roy continues to be an active crew member on his family's whaling crew.

Herman Ahsoak Herman Ahsoak

Herman Qallu Ahsoak was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1964, and is one of fourteen children of Mark and Jennie Ahsoak. Herman learned to hunt and whale at a young age from his father, uncles, brothers, and community elders. He is a passionate whaler and hunter with much experience and knowledge of the sea ice, although he says that he continues to learn from elders who have been whaling longer than he has. Since 2004, Herman has been whaling captain of the Quvan Crew. He performs Iñupiaq dances... Read More

Leo Attungowruk Leo Attungowruk

Leo Attungowruk was born in 1913 in Point Hope, Alaska, and lived in Point Lay, Alaska. His parents were Minnie and Jakie Attungowruk. Leo grew up living a subsistence lifestyle, where hunting and fishing were critically important for survival. Leo married Martha Ukpiksoun. In the 1950s, he found work helping with the Coast and Geodetic Survey and other visiting projects. As a life-long seal hunter and whaler, Leo learned to understand the sea ice and how to travel and hunt safely on it. Leo... Read More

Eugene Brower Eugene Brower

Eugene Aalaak Brower is an Iñupiaq elder from Barrow, Alaska. He was born in 1948 to Annie and Harry (Kupaaq) Brower, Sr., and his growing up was focused on living off the land. Some of his earliest memories are of living in a small sod house on the tundra inland from Barrow. He learned to hunt, fish, trap, run a dog team, and be a whaler from his father, who was an accomplished subsistence provider for his family. Eugene started whaling at age eight under the mentorship of Luther Leavitt,... Read More

Thomas Brower, III Thomas “Tommy” Brower, III

Thomas “Tommy” Brower, III was born and raised in Barrow, Alaska. Tommy started whaling and hunting at a young age, and learned much about sea ice and whaling from his grandfather, Tom Brower, who owned and operated Brower’s Store and Café and Cape Smythe Air Service. Tommy continues to be an active captain and crew member of his family's whaling crew. He also has served on the board of directors of Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation (UIC).

Harry Brower, Sr. Harry Brower, Sr.

Harry Brower, Sr. was born in 1924 in Barrow, Alaska. He was the youngest son of commercial whaler and trader Charles Dewitt Brower, one of Barrow’s earliest non-Native residents, and his Iñupiaq wife, Asiaŋŋataq. Harry and his eight brothers and sisters grew up in a mixed household, where they ate American food and spoke English with their father, and ate traditional Inupiaq food and spoke Inupiaq with their mother.  Starting at a young age, Harry learned to hunt, trap and fish in the... Read More

Harold Itta Harold Itta

Harold Itta was born in 1907 in Barrow, Alaska to James Ettak and Lydia Tigiklook Itta. In 1914, the family moved east to Sikulik near Teshekpuk Lake and in 1916 they went to Esook Trading Post at Cape Halkett. Harold grew up along the northern coast of Alaska living off the land and sea. He also was a reindeer herder, and had a whaling crew in Barrow. As a seal hunter and whaler, he gained much experience with local ice conditions. In 1923, Harold married Loyla Egowa. In 1982, Harold shared... Read More

Elijah Kakinya Elijah Kakinya

Elijah Kakinya was born in the spring of 1895 at Tulugaq Lake, near the mouth of the Anaktuvuk River valley, and grew up along the Beaufort Sea coast and inland rivers of northern Alaska. As was typical of families at the time, they traveled a lot in search of food resources and often moved seasonally following the animals. During this time, Elijah learned much about hunting, fishing, and survival. He came especially to understand ice conditions near and around Flaxman Island and Beechey... Read More

Samuel Kunaknana Samuel Kunaknana

Samuel Kunaknana was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1913. His parents were Hattie and Hugo Kunaknana. As a boy, his family spent summers along the Ikpikpuk River, inland from Barrow, hunting caribou and fishing. They spent winters in Barrow. Around 1920, the family moved east along the Beaufort Sea coast. Like others of the time, they moved around and lived in a variety of places, such as Kuukpik, Itqiliqpaat, Piŋu, Oliktok Point (Uuliktuq), Kukpaurak, and Nuiqsat. At least one year they traveled... Read More

Sarah Kunaknana Sarah Kunaknana

Sarah Pausanna Kunaknana was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1921 to Harriet and Paul Pausanna, but when she was only two months old her parents moved east to Cross Island (Napaqsralik) on the Beaufort Sea coast. As was typical of families at the time, they traveled a lot in search of food resources and often moved seasonally following the animals. Her father, originally from the Utuqqaq area near Point Lay, was a successful whaler in both Barrow and Cross Island, and also hunted polar bears,... Read More

Joe Leavitt Joe Leavitt

Joe Mello Leavitt is a whaling captain and subsistence hunter from Barrow, Alaska. He was born in Barrow in 1959 to Cora and Luther Leavitt, Sr.  Joe grew up hunting and camping with his family in all seasons, and learned much of his knowledge of whaling and hunting from his father, a respected whaling captain. Joe is a well-respected expert on sea ice and frequent collaborator with researchers on sea ice projects. He provides ice observation data to Dr. Hajo Eicken of the Sea Ice Group at... Read More

David Leavitt, Sr. David Leavitt, Sr.

David Ungudruk Leavitt, Sr. is an Iñupiaq elder from Barrow, Alaska. He was born in 1929 at Cape Halkett, Alaska to Mae and George Tukak Leavitt, Sr. His father was a reindeer herder and worked at the local trading post run by Oliver Morry. The family moved to Barrow in 1943, when David was fourteen years old. David grew up in a traditional way where hunting and fishing were critical to survival. He learned a lot about sea ice while growing up seal hunting and traveling by dog team on the... Read More

Vincent Nageak, Sr. Vincent Nageak, Sr.

Vincent Nageak was born in 1903 at Beechey Point, Alaska to Kenton and Ahlak Kuguyuk, and lived along the Beaufort Sea coast in northern Alaska, in particular at Oliktok Point, and in Barter Island (Kaktovik) and Barrow. He was an expert seal hunter and whaler who developed a great understanding of how to travel and hunt safely on the ever-changing sea ice. He also worked as a reindeer herder and was a successful trapper and whaling captain. He married Bernice Taalak in 1925 and had three... Read More

Benjamin Nageak Benjamin Nageak

Benjamin (Ben or Bennie) Nageak was born in 1950 to Rhoda and Vincent Nageak and grew up in Kaktovik and Barrow, Alaska. He has ten siblings. He started hunting and whaling at a young age, and learned from his father, who was a successful whaler, hunter, and trapper, and from his many uncles and older brothers. Ben attended Mt. Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska and worked for the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL) in Barrow when he was a young man. He has served as director of the... Read More

Roy Nageak Roy Nageak, Sr.

Roy Maloney Akootchook Nageak, Sr. was born in 1951 at a summer camp at Oliktok Point to Rhoda and Vincent Nageak, Sr. who were living there while his father was working at the nearby Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line) station (POW2).  The family moved to Barrow, Alaska when Roy was five years old. Roy began whaling when he was about nine or ten years old under the mentorship of his uncle, Hoover Koonaloak. Vincent Nageak had a whaling crew, but was worried about having to watch over his... Read More

Henry Nashaknik Henry Nashaknik

Henry Nashaknik was born in 1906 on the Colville River and grew up living along the Beaufort Sea coast in northern Alaska. As a hunter and trapper and reindeer herder, he traveled extensively along the rivers and coastline in all seasons. He learned to understand the sea ice and how to travel and hunt safely on it. He also worked for Jack Smith at the trading post at Foggy Island, which including running a supply boat back and forth to Barrow. In 1931, he married his wife, Evelyn, and in... Read More

Warren Neakok Warren Neakok

Warren Harding Neakok was born to Frederick Thomas Neakok (known as Tommy Neakok or Tommy Knox) and Eva Neakok at Akuliaqattaq near Icy Cape, Alaska, while his family was camped there hunting bearded seals. At age four, Warren was adopted by his grandparents, Neakok and Kimmik Knox and grew up in the area around Icy Cape, Point Lay, and Wainwright, Alaska. He grew up living off the land following a traditional subsistence lifestyle of traveling by dog team and hunting caribou, seals, and... Read More

Dorcas Neakok Dorcas Neakok

Dorcas Neakok was born in 1919, the daughter of Adela and Christopher Tingook. She spent her early childhood in Kiana. Her father was a reindeer herder, so Dorcas had childhood memories of traveling with reindeer herds to villages such as Selawik, Buckland, Kotzebue, Kivalina, Point Hope and finally to Point Lay when she was eleven years old. Dorcas began regular school attendance in Point Lay and lived with the schoolteachers while her parents continued herding reindeer. At age eighteen,... Read More

Bruce Nukapigak Bruce Nukapigak

Bruce Nukapigak was born in 1900 at the head of Kuuguq ravine southeast of Barrow, Alaska. He grew up at Ualiqpaa on the coast south of Barrow and in Barrow, living a traditional subsistence lifestyle of whaling, hunting, fishing, trapping and traveling by dog team. As a whaler and seal hunter, he learned to understand the sea ice and how to travel and hunt safely on it. After he was married, he moved to Barter Island (Kaktovik), and learned about the local ice conditions as far west as... Read More

Nathaniel Olemaun, Jr. Nathaniel "Nate" Olemaun, Jr.

Nathaniel “Nate” Olemaun, Jr. was born in Barrow, Alaska, but spent thirteen years living away from the community in the Lower 48. Nate returned to Barrow in 1970, and re-learned his native Inupiaq language and traditional hunting and whaling skills. He married Ida Oyagak and went whaling with her father, Roxy Oyagak from 1970 to 1991. He learned much of his sea ice and whaling knowledge from his father-in-law. Nate has served as the mayor of the City of Barrow off and on for many years, and... Read More

Crawford Patkotak Crawford Patkotak

Crawford Ahkivgak Patkotak was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1966 and was raised by Susan and Simeon Patkotak, Sr. He grew up in Barrow and at Peard Bay, hunting and gathering. He started whaling when he was about eight years old. His father was a successful whaling captain, and his mother came from the Ahkivgak whaling family, where she learned from her grandfather, Taaqpak. Crawford has been whaling captain of the Patkotak Crew since 2008, after his father got too old to continue whaling. In... Read More

Simeon Patkotak, Sr. Simeon Patkotak, Sr.

Simeon Patkotak, Sr. is an Iñupiaq elder from Barrow, Alaska. He was born in 1932, and has spent his entire life hunting, fishing and whaling. He has a subsistence camp at Peard Bay, southwest of Barrow, which is an especially important area to him. Simeon started whaling when he was seventeen years old under the mentorship of Otis Ahkivgak, his wife Susan’s father. In the late 1950s, Otis Ahkivgak lost all his whaling gear during a big ice pileup (ivu) event that caused many crews... Read More

Lewis Shapiro Dr. Lewis Shapiro

Originally from Bronx, New York, Dr. Lewis “Lew” Shapiro came to Alaska in 1971 after completing his Ph.D in geology at the University of Minnesota. Previously, he served in the US Army from 1953 to 1957, worked in Arizona in drilling and mining, and in 1962 obtained his bachelor’s degree from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City. Lew was interested in seismology and tectonics, but found himself involved in the rapidly growing field of sea ice research, in particular... Read More

Kenneth Toovak Kenneth Toovak

Kenneth Utuayuk Toovak was born in Barrow, Alaska in 1923 to Timothy (Quilluq) and Ethel (Agnik) Toovak. He grew up hunting and whaling, and learned to understand the sea ice and how to travel and hunt safely on it. Starting in 1949, Kenneth worked for Arctic Contractors and then the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory (NARL). For over twenty years, he operated heavy equipment, served as project support foreman, helped build the NARL camp, worked on the ice island research stations, and... Read More