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Joseph "Joe" Upicksoun
Joseph "Joe" Upicksoun was Iñupiaq and born near the current village of Point Lay, Alaska in 1931. He grew up living a traditional subsistence lifestyle of hunting, fishing, whaling and traveling on the land, sea and ice. He served in the Merchant Marines during the Korean War, and worked for Federal Electric Corporation on the DEW Line (Distant Early Warning Line). Joe became a powerful voice in the Alaska Native land claims movement in the 1960s and 1970s. As president of the Arctic Slope Native Association (ASNA), based in Barrow, Alaska (now known as Utqiaġvik), he represented the Iñupiat of the North Slope in the battle over passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act in 1971 (ANCSA). Along with Charlie Etok Edwardsen, Jr., Joe was outspoken about those on the North Slope receiving their fair share of the settlement, and not losing their land and cultural birthright. He even urged President Nixon to veto the bill, stating that it was a document unfair to the Iñupiat and that ANCSA was not the solution for protecting Indigenous land claims. He was a strong proponent of self-determination and self-sufficiency, and said that Alaska Natives were not asking for welfare, but as the original landowners they were, in fact, the landlords. After passage of ANCSA, Joe went on to become one of the founding members of the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and served as its first president and chairman. Throughout his career, Joe continued to advocate for self-determination, economic development, and financial security for the Iñupiat of the North Slope. Joe Upicksoun passed away in 2005.