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The History of Arctic Village, Alaska

    Arctic Village is on the east fork of the Chandalar River, 100 miles north of Fort Yukon and 290 miles north of Fairbanks. It lies at approximately 68° 08' N Latitude, 145° 32' W Longitude (Sec. 24, T015S, R028E, Umiat Meridian). The community is located in the Barrow Recording District. The area encompasses 67 sq. miles of land and 5 sq. miles of water.

Until the 1950s, the Neets'aii Gwichin ("residents of the north side") lived a highly nomadic life. They traditionally used seasonal camps and semi-permanent settlements, such as Arctic Village, Christian, Venetie and Sheenjak, in pursuit of fish and game. They traded with Inupiat Eskimos on the Arctic coast. There is archaeological evidence that the Arctic Village area was population as early as 4,500 BC. In 1863, Archdeacon McDonald of Fort Yukon observed that the Chandalar Kutchin were important providers of caribou meat for the residents of Ft. Yukon. Reverend Albert Tritt, a Neets'aii Gwich'in born in 1880, wrote that his people led a nomadic life, traveling to the Arctic coast, Rampart, Old Crow, the Coleen River and Fort Yukon in the 1880s and 1890s.

With the advent of firearms in the early 1900s, family groups began to gather more permanently at several locations; there was no longer a need to disperse into small groups to hunt caribou. The first permanent resident at the present village site was Chief Christian in 1909. In 1943, the Venetie Indian Reservation was established, due to the efforts of several area villagers to protect their land for subsistence use. The first school was built in 1959.

When the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed in 1971, Venetie and Arctic Village opted for title to the 1.8 million acres of land in the former Reservation. Residents continue to use the community as a base of operations from which they pursue seasonal subsistence activities.

Arctic Village, Alaska, in the 1960s
Arctic Village in the 1960s: "...with one well and one church, people by Indians, their schoolteacher, and a youth from the Domestic Peace Corps." (Holiday magazine, April 1966)

To Community Histories Index Alaska DCCED Community Database Online

History and map graphic used with permission from the Alaska Department of Community and Economic Development