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The People of the Arctic

Nunivak, Alaska, Photo courtesy Northwestern University Library
Nunivak, Alaska, circa 1925.
Whaling captain, Photo by David J Eves
An Iñupiaq whaling captain and boat on the frozen Chukchi Sea.

Artifacts found in western Siberia suggest that people were in the Arctic about 40,000 years ago. There’s also evidence that the first people to reach the Americas may have come through Asia and gone through the Arctic on a land bridge between Alaska and Siberia some 20,000 years later. Scientists believe that the area now known as the Alaska was the first settled region of the Arctic, probably about 15,000 years ago.

Today, the Artic is home to about 4 million people spread across several countries: Norway, Sweden, Canada, Greenland (a territory of Denmark), Russia, the United States (Alaska), Iceland, and Finland. About a third of those people are believed to be indigenous.

The indigenous groups are Inuit (Inuit includes the Iñupiaq and several other peoples), who range from Alaska to Canada and Greenland; the Saami in Scandinavia; the Nenets in northwest Russia; the Sakha (Yakut) of Russia; and the Chukchi of Siberia.

Many indigenous groups in the Arctic have formed organizations to speak with a unified voice and to protect their way of life.


A mother and daughter shopping at Barrow’s main grocery store.
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