Simon Paneak Alaska
Located at the summit of a broad and beautiful glacial valley which cuts through the heart of the Brooks Range, the village of Anaktuvuk Pass is home to the last of the Nunamiut the inland Iñupiat. This community holds many surprises for first time visitors. If you are willing to take the time and effort, perhaps there will be a few meaningful revelations as well.
Initial impressions are commonly a mixture of marveling at the remarkable beauty of the setting, amazement at the modernistic appearance of the community with its ranch style houses, state of the art health clinic, school and fire department, satellite TV dishes, transit buses and personal cars, followed by absolute wonderment at why anybody would want to live here, so seemingly isolated in the middle of nowhere.
Yet for all the surface appearances of permanence and modernity, the true nature of the community and its people – their commitment to a subsistence lifestyle and traditional values – runs far deeper and is more complex than might be evident at first glance.
Anaktuvuk Pass is a village of recent origin and home to a people with an ancient history. As recently as the 1950’s, the Nunamiut were still much as they always had been: highly mobile, semi-nomadic hunters of caribou. Hunters by conviction as well as tradition, they knew no permanent home. Traveling by dog-team and sled in winter, and on foot in summer, living in tents of caribou skin and houses built of moss, they roamed the land in pursuit of game: hunting, fishing and trapping throughout the mountain valleys of the Brooks Range and their northern foothills. They were, in fact, the last of North America’s nomadic peoples to settle into village life.
Anaktuvuk Pass is a young community, both in its history and in its make up. Today, Anaktuvuk is a thriving bush community of just over 300 people, 90% of them are of Nunamiut heritage, and over 60% of which are under the age of 30. Even more remarkable is the fact that the median age is only 20 years. It is truly a young community, and one poised to grow rapidly in the future.
Pictures and information were provided by Simon Paneak
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