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Henry "Nasaġniq" Nashaknik

Henry Nashaknik

Henry Nashaknik (Nasaġniq) was born in 1906 on the Colville River in northern Alaska, and grew up living along the Beaufort Sea coast as far east at Barter Island. 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 included running a supply boat back and forth to Barrow (now known as Utqiaġvik).

As a young man, Henry lived on the Colville River and did some reindeer herding with Taaqpak's herd. However, he quit herding before he was married and considers himself more a hunter than a herder. In 1931, he married his wife, Evelyn, and in 1938 they moved to Barrow, Alaska, because he wanted Evelyn to be near the doctor when she was having babies. 
Later that same year, Henry moved his family up to the Atqasuk area because there he felt he could provide better for his family, which now included five children. He was more familiar with the inland hunting, trapping, and fishing and Atqasuk had coal, an all-important source of fuel that was easily obtained.

Henry learned about the Meade River area from Walter Akpik's parents and grandparents whom he had met when they were in the east. When Henry and his family came to Barrow, Walter's parents were there, and the grandparents were up at Tikiġluk. Henry says Qakiq, Walter's grandfather, was his main teacher.
 Although he was too old to travel very much, Qakiq was able to tell Henry a great deal about the area. Henry relates how he learned to hunt caribou on the Meade River. The first time, he traveled up river for five days, but later he learned that during certain times of the year, the caribou came closer to the coast and that these times were best for hunting them. Again, he mentions the old man, Qakiq, as teaching him about these caribou movements.

The first winter up the river, Henry and his family stayed at Atqasupiaq in a house given to them by Panikpak. Because Henry already knew a great deal about living inland, and because he set out about 200 fox traps each winter, he was able to support his family. They spent twenty years in the Meade River area where Henry hunted and trapped, stayed at various places including Anauliġiaq, near Qikiqtaqturuq, and at Tikiġluk. Henry would come to the coast at whaling time, but except for two years on the Isuqtuq River, stayed mostly in the Tikiġluk area.
 When the coal mine was started at Tikiġluk in 1944, Henry worked as a tractor driver, transporting coal to Barrow, and to a limited extent, as a miner. In 1944, the men got 50 cents for filling a sack. At first they got coal along the bluffs, but the next fall they started to mine the coal and haul it with tractors.

Henry and his family moved to Barrow in the late 1950s when the school at Tikiġluk closed, and he continued to hunt, trap and whale, and learn about the ice conditions around Barrow. He remained active throughout his life; even as an elder he would take long walks on the beach. He was a respected elder who shared his knowledge and stories at annual Elders Conferences held by the North Slope Borough’s Inupiat History, Language and Culture Commission. Henry Nashaknik passed away in 1999. He was 93 years old.

(Parts of the above are from the biographical section in Quliaqtuat Iñupiat Nunaŋiññiñ - The Report of the Chipp-Ikpikpuk River and Upper Meade River Oral History Project. W. Arundale and W. Schneider, 1987.)

Date of Birth:
May 23, 1906
Date of Death:
May 27, 1999
Henry "Nasaġniq" Nashaknik appears in the following new Jukebox projects: