An ethnographic history of the impact of oil development on the native people of Alaska's North Slope
The Inupiat of Arctic Alaska
This ethnographic study is based on research that spans thirty years - from 1959 to 1989. The significance of the study is not limited to Alaska or to the Arctic. It extends to all regions of the world where development is taking place.
Although we tend to think of Third World countries as most dramatically caught up in 'development,' western nations are also undergoing dramatic change that involve many of the same dislocation of human populations, reallocation of resources, opportunities, and environment degradation.
New technology associated with National Defense efforts in Arctic countries raise additional concerns for native populations. In the 1960s, a large public outcry opposed Project Chariot's proposed atomic blast at Cape Thompson, located a few miles from the Eskimo village of Point Hope. In the 1970s, nuclear bomb tests conducted by China resulted in an eight-fold increase in radioactive pollution of Alaska lichens, affecting the caribou that ate them, and a year later, the Inupiat subsistence hunters. And the stories continue...
These are but a few of the issues that are forcing the peoples of the world to re-conceptualize the relationship between their societies - North and South, East and West- and the utilization of nature.
"One day an 'avingaq' decided to venture outside of his hole and assess the rest of the world. When he stood up on his hind legs, lo and behold, to his surprise, he was able to reach the heavens! When he reached down, he felt the ground. When he reached in all directions, he was able to touch the limits of the world. He concluded that he was the largest person on the face of the earth."
"In reality, the poor mouse has surfaced from his hole in the ground into an old Inupiaq boot sole turned upside down! The top of his heaven was the sole of the 'atungak' and the outer limits of his world were the sides of the 'atungak.'"
Edna Ahgeak MacLean, Inupiaq
"Like the avingaq mouse, we too need to reevaluate our relation to the world around us. Today, nature is largely viewed as a commodity among other commodities to be protected as long as it doesn't impede the achievement of material fulfillment or national defense. Underlying this message is the view that once nature is controlled by science, it becomes an object of human satisfaction. If one holds such a belief, the only remaining question is how effective science can be in supplying us with these satisfactions."
"Yet, the problem of supply is not meaningful in and of itself. It only becomes so when seen in relation to demand and need. Hence, two major problems facing the world today - one concerned with the formidable unequal distribution of productive wealth among the world's peoples; and the other with environmental deterioration - are conjoined. In seeking a resolution of these problems we face the ultimate challenge of development."
Norman Chance, author