About the www.Alaskool.org project and its developers


*Ernest S. Burch, Jr., is a Research Associate in Anthropology of the Smithsonian Institution. He has published extensively on the history of northwest Alaska Eskimos.

1Elements of this paper have been presented over the years at annual meetings of the Alaska Anthropological Association. An earlier version of this specific paper was presented as a lecture to the thirty-second Alaska Science Conference, in Fairbanks, on August 25, 1981. I thank Michael Krauss, Albert Heinrich, and James H. Ducker for their constructive comments on that version, and James W. VanStone for his comments on a revised draft of same.

2The singular form is Inupiaq, and the plural is Inupiat. The Eskimo language also has a dual number which does not exist in English.

3Robert F. Spencer, The North Alaskan Eskimo: A Study in Ecology and Society (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1959), 71.

4See Lawrence Irving, "Simon Paneak," Arctic 29, no. 1 (1976): 58-59.

5See Charles V. Lucier and James W. VanStone, 'An Inupiaq Autobiography," Etudes/lnuit/Studies 11, no. 1 (1987): 149-72.

6See Frederick William Beechey, Narrative of a Voyage to the Pacific and Bering's Strait to cooperate with the Polar Expeditions: performed in His Majesty's Ship "Blossom" . . . in the years 1825, 1826, 1827, and 1828 (London: Colburn and R. Bentley, 1831), 2:283. Other relevant data are in Edward Belcher, "Journal kept on board H.M.S. Blossom," May 26, 1826-December 12, 1827, University of British Columbia Library, Vancouver, B.C. (photocopy, MS no. 1044/1, in Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England). For another example in a more recent publication, see John Bockstoce, ed., The Journal of Rochefort Maguire 1852-1854 (London: The Hakluyt Society, 1988), 101ff.

7See Beechey, Narrative, 285, 287 and Belcher, "Journal."

8James W. VanStone, ed., A.F. Kashevarov's Coastal Explorations in Northwest Alaska, 1838 (Chicago: Field Museum of Natural History, 1977), 30, 45, 48.

9Ibid., .54.

10Knud Rasmussen, Across Arctic America: Narrative of the Fifth Thule Expedition, (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons), 332.

11My findings on Inupiaq warfare were published as "Eskimo Warfare in Northwest Alaska," Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska 16, no. 2 (1974): 1-14. Those on the Inupiaq "nations" of northwestern Alaska were summarized in "Traditional Eskimo Societies in Northwest Alaska," Senri Ethnological Studies 4 (1980): 253-304. Similar findings were made by Dorothy Jean Ray on the Seward Peninsula. See her paper "Nineteenth Century Settlement and Subsistence Patterns in Bering Strait," Arctic Anthropology 2, no. 2 (1964): 61-94, and The Eskimos of Bering Strait (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1975), 103ff. For an overview of international relations in general, see my paper "War and Trade;" in William W. Fitzhugh and Aron Crowell, eds., Crossroads of Continents: Cultures of Alaska and Siberia (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution), 227-40 and Ernest S. Burch, Jr. and Thomas C. Correll, "Alliance and Conflict: Inter-Regional Relations in North Alaska," in Alliance in Eskimo Society: Proceedings of the American Ethnological Society, Supplement, ed. D.L. Guemple (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1971).

12Regarding the structure of exchange marriage, see my article "Marriage and Divorce among the North Alaskan Eskimos," in Divorce and After: An Analysis of the Emotional and Social Problems of Divorce, ed. Paul Bohannan (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1970), 152-81 and Burch and Correll, "Alliance and Conflict," 26-28.

13Regarding the distinction between history and myth, see Froelich G. Rainey, "The Whale Hunters of Tigara;" Anthropological Papers of the American Museum of Natural History 41 (1947): 269. For accounts of Inupiaq story-telling, see Diamond Jenness, Myths and Traditions from Northern Alaska, The Mackenzie Delta, and Coronation Gulf, vol. 13, pt. A of Report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-18 (Ottawa: The Kings Printer, 1924), 1-2.

14Regarding Indian-Eskimo relations, see Burch and Correll, "Alliance and Conflict," and my paper "Indians and Eskimos in North Alaska, 1816-1977: A Study in Changing Ethnic Relations," Arctic Anthropology 16, no. 2 (1979): 123-51.

15The camp of one infamous Uyaraarmiit warrior named Saityat has since been precisely located on the headwaters of the Alatna River by Joe Imaluzaq Sun, a well-known historian from Shungnak. See Joe Sun, My Life and Other Stories (Kotzebue: NANA Museum of the Arctic, 1985), 113ff. and the Survey Pass quadrangle map (T. 27N, R. 17E.) accompanying the tape transcripts of his interviews by David Libbey (copy in possession of the author).

16Regarding Dihai-Inupiaq relations from the Inupiaq side, see Nicholas Gubser, The Nunamiut Eskimos: Hunters of Caribou (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965), 44 and Edwin S. Hall, Jr., "The Late Prehistoric/Early Historic Eskimo of Interior Northern Alaska: An Ethnoarchaeological Approach?" Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska 15, no. 1 (1970): 1-11. For the same phenomena from the Dihai side, see Edwin S. Hall, Jr., "Speculations on the Late Prehistory of the Kutchin Athapaskans," Ethnohistory 16, no. 4 (1969): 317-33, Robert A. McKennan, "Anent the Kutchin Tribes," American Anthropologist 37, no. 2 (1935): 369 and The Chandalar Kutchin (Montreal: Arctic Institute of North America, 1965), 23-25, and Frederick Hadleigh West, "On the Distribution and Territories of the Western Kutchin Tribes;" Anthropological Papers of the University of Alaska 7, no. 2 (1959): 113-16. In Old Crow, Yukon Territory, Canada, the late William Irving met a very old woman, the last survivor of the Inupiaq conquest of the Dihai at Anaktuvuk Pass, who fully confirmed the Inupiaq account of the event (personal communication, 1976).

17Rochefort Maguire, "Proceedings of Commander Maguire, Her Majesty's Discovery Ship 'Plover,' Commander Rochefort Maquire" in Further Papers Relative to the Recent Arctic Expeditions in Search of Sir John Franklin and the Crews of the H.M.S. Erebus and Terror (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1855), 905-42.

18For information on the Indians' return to Fort Yukon and their subsequent trip to Collinson's ship on the Arctic coast, see Richard Collinson, Journal of H.M.S. Enterprise . . . 1850-1855, ed. T.B. Collinson, (London: Sampson Law, Marston, Searle and Rivington, 1889), 320, and John Murdoch, "Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow Expedition," in Ninth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology, 1887-1888 (Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Ethnology, 1892), 50-51.

19Interregional travel could not be undertaken willy-nilly, however. Except at certain times of year, or under a promise of safe passage, it was extremely dangerous for a party from one society to cross that of another on the way to attack or even visit the members of a third. Such an intrusion would be regarded as a violation of territorial sovereignty and be met with a violent response.

20This possibility is not as farfetched as it might appear. There was a famous case in Canada in which the Hudson's Bay Company hired a Chipewyan Indian leader to guide Samuel Hearne from Churchill to some reported copper deposits located near the mouth of the Coppermine River, on the Arctic coast. Several other Chipewyan joined the party for no reason other than to have the pleasure of participating in a massacre of Eskimos they expected to find nearby. The massacre itself, which is vividly depicted in Hearne's account, is probably reminiscent in many respects of the one that occurred at Nuvuraluaq: it was carefully planned, and brutally carried out, yet the raiders knew nothing about the people they attacked beyond the fact that they were Eskimos. See Samuel Hearne, A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern Ocean . . . In the Years 1769, 1770, 1771 and 1772 (London: A. Strahan and T. Cadell, 1795), 148ff.

21I include the caveat "whom the Natives consider competent historians" because there are incompetents and charlatans, as well as genuine experts, among Alaska Native peoples, just as there are among all peoples. The Natives know who is which, although, out of politeness, they generally listen to every elder who expounds on legendary or historical matters, regardless of the truth value of that person's remarks. In any event, oral accounts, like written accounts, must be subjected to rigorous historiographic evaluation and critical analysis. Some ways to go about this are summarized in my paper "The Method of Ethnographic Reconstruction," which was presented at the Sixth lnuit Studies Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, October 17-20, 1988.