Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve
|Caribou antler in Gates of the Arctic National Park (Al Smith/National Park Service)|
The native residents of Anaktuvuk Pass are the last remaining band of Nunamiut Eskimo, a semi-nomadic inland group whose ancestors date back for hundreds of years. They settled permanently in this location in the early 1950s, which historically and to this day is a major caribou migration route. In times past their subsistence needs required utilization of nearly the entire Central Brooks Range.
They continue to depend on caribou and other natural resources for food, clothing, and cultural continuity. The establishment of Gates of Arctic National Park and Preserve in 1980 placed Anaktuvuk Pass in the middle of a nationally recognized unit of the National Park system. The resulting publicity from the establishment of the park has increased visitation to this region and can be disruptive to the community.
Natives today maintain ownership of approximately 175,000 acres in the Anaktuvuk Pass region. Ownership may be through village and regional corporations or native allotments. A majority of the village and regional lands surround the village while native allotments are scattered throughout the park.
Beginning at the earliest stages of planning for the formation of the park, the National Park Service recognized a national interest and was mandated by the United States Congress to insure the protection of the Nunamiut culture and lifestyle, including subsistence use and privately owned lands. The Nunamiut Eskimo of Anaktuvuk Pass retain a strong environmental identity involving traditional use with the surrounding areas. Therefore, the National Park Service has joined with the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and the Nunamiut Village Corporation and have established a cooperative land use agreement. This agreement allows for local residents to operate all-terrain vehicles for subsistence activities during the summer months to certain lands near the Anaktuvuk Pass area. Rangers ask visitors to consider carefully their presence in the village as well as while traveling across native lands. The impact of your visit may be kept to a minimum by following these suggestions:
- Introduce yourself. Be friendly, but respect the privacy of others.
- Ask for permission if you wish to photograph local residents or their homes, particularly in the village, but also in the field.
- Be sensitive toward the native village culture and lifestyle. Often it will differ from your own, so assume nothing and ask if you do not understand.
- Respect any private property that you may encounter in the backcountry and leave it be. This includes structures, camps, traps, and what may often appear as abandoned property.
For public convenience, the village has designated a specific area for overnight camping within the community. This camping area is located among the willows along the east side of the runway opposite the town. Please check at the store, restaurant, community center, or ranger station for more information. Camping within sight of the village but outside of this designated area is perceived as being disrespectful toward the residents and should be avoided.
Native corporation lands completely surround the city of Anaktuvuk Pass and extend for several miles. These are privately owned lands. Maps showing these lands are located at the ranger station in Anaktuvuk Pass. Visitors are allowed access onto these lands by foot and/or dog team. However, camping within one-half mile of an active hunting camp or camping for more than one night at the same site on these corporation lands is prohibited except in emergencies. Inquire locally at the ranger station or Nunamiut Corporation office for further information.
Plan to bring everything you will need with you. Being a bush community, supplies are limited and sometimes not available. Remember that hours for the above services are for the most part consistent with typical business hours, but not always.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication