Ada Blackjack: the real Robinson Crusoe

An Alaskan Inupiat woman named Ada Blackjack was hired in 1921 as a cook and seamstress, to go on an expedition to Russia’s Wrangel Island, north of Siberia. The hope was to claim it for Canada. Four men plus Ada set out. And they reached the island! Unfortunately, the expedition was poorly planned. They soon ran out of rations and were unable to trap enough animals to eat. So, on January 28th, 1923 three men decided to try crosssing 700 miles across the frozen Chukchi Sea to Siberia for help and food. The left behind Ada and one other man who was sick with scurvey. She cared for him until he died, and then Ada was left alone, on a Siberian island, with just the expedition’s cat, Vic.

The three men were never heard from again. But Ada survived. She learned to live in the extreme freezing conditions for seven months! Ada was rescued on August 19th, 1923 by a former colleague of the expedition’s leader. She made no money on the subsequent publicity and books, just her pay for the expedition and a couple hundred dollars from the furs she trapped while on the island. Ada returned to Alaska and lived there till her death at the age of 85.


An inuksuk, also called an inukhuk or inukshuk, is a stone cairn or landmark used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other indigenous people of North America (predominantly Northern Canada and the US state of Alaska).

Usage and structure

The most recognizable inuksuk are those that are “human shaped”, typically consisting of 2 base stones (legs), a pile of stones on top of the base with a large stone spanning across the pile and jutting out like arms or—as some have suggested—a Christian cross, and another small pile of stones on top. There is debate over whether or not this design developed before or after the arrival of European missionaries and colonists. However, there are also simpler inuksuk that can be a single upright stone, or a small pile of stones very similar to a cairn. In any case, it’s thought that, given the size of some of these constructions, that the building of an inuksuk was a communal effort.

Inuksuk vary widely in usage, and this is likely because the peoples lived (and still live) close to the Arctic Circle, which lacks natural landmarks, so it would only make sense that they would have to develop landmarks of their own in order to navigate, assign travel routes, signify safe camp sites, hunting grounds, fishing grounds, or demark a food cache. The Inupiat, for example, even used them as drift fences for hunting, and to assist in herding caribou.


The word inuksuk derives from two words, inuk meaning “person” and –suk which roughly means “substitute,” some combined it can be taken to literally mean “in human likeness.”  That said, it’s a word with many contexts, and in the context of seeing a literal inuksuk it takes on the addition meaning of “someone was here” or, perhaps more accurately given their usage “you are on the right path.”

Modern Incarnations and Historical Sites

The Inuksuk has become something of an official symbol of Canada in more modern times. Markers have been built throughout the country and used as logos for various events ranging from World Youth Day to The 1986 World Transportation Expo to the 2010 Winter Olympic Games held in Vancouver. And several historical and modern inuksuk have been donated to other countries by Canada as a gesture of peace and friendship. And of course it is the main image on the provincial flag of Nunavut.

There is at least one major site of national historic value and importance in Canada where a collection of over 100 inuksuk located at Enukso Point on Baffin Island is federally protected as a Historic Site.

Anonymous said: Do you know of any reputable lists of Alaskan Native names? Preferrably Inupiat or Yupik, but other nations would be helpful too.

If anyone would like to be a resource for this anon on Inupiat or Yupik names, please respond to this post.

Thank you!


A FRIENDLY REMINDER: Please do not send us messages responding to this post. We cannot privately pass them along to the anon for obvious reasons. It is better to cut out the middle man and just reply to this post. 

Important note about the word "Eskimo"

Canadian and Greenlandic Inuits find the word “Eskimo” offensive.  Do not use the word “Eskimo” to mean and Inuit person from Canada or Greenland.

However, when you’re talking about Alaska Natives, it’s a little different.  "Eskimo" is used to mean a group of Indigenous peoples including Inupiat and Yupik.  The term is used because, while they are Native Americans, they aren’t “Indians” like Athabaskans are. Two different ethnicities. 

For example, I’m King Island Inupiaq.  I am an Inupiat Eskimo, not an Inupiat Indian.  Similarly a Yupik person may refer to themselves as a Yupik Eskimo, but never a Yupik Indian.  A person of Athabaskan descent might call themselves an Athabaskan Indian, but never an Athabaskan Eskimo.  And we’re all Alaska Natives.

In conclusion:

Eskimo =/= Inuit

Eskimo = Inupiat and Yupik

thank you for your time, good people of tumblr


For thousands of years, a community of Inupiat Eskimos lived, survived and thrived in one of the harshest environments in the world. This is King Island and these are the improbable cliff-hanging houses of Ukivok that a displaced community still calls home more than 50 years after its abandonment.

In 1959, the Bureau of India Affairs made the decision to close King Island’s only school at the heart of the village. There was a large boulder on top of the rocky island that they believed was ready to fall and crush the school in its path. With the children left without a school, families were forced to seek education for them on the mainland and given no choice but to move from their homes and start a new way of life.

The Inupiat Eskimos survived on hunting walrus and gathering edible plants, but the elders could not manage it alone. The last natives left their homeland in 1970.

Nearly 60 years after its closure, remarkably, the schoolhouse (pictured above) and many of the village’s surrounding houses are still standing and the supposed soon-to-fall boulder has still not moved.

In the summer of 2015, an Alaskan poet and daughter of displaced King Islanders, Joan Naviyuk Kane, raised over $40,000 to help her parent’s generation see their homeland again. Almost impossible to reach, the mile-wide island has nowhere to land by airplane, no beach, only boulders, and a journey by boat (hitching a ride with a crab tender) takes up to 12 hours from the mainland. In fact, the only boats really suitable for getting ashore were the skin boats used by trading natives for thousands of years. You can start to understand why no one has been able to return.

This remote island village stands defiantly against the elements despite the passing of time and the absence of man, as if it were expecting its inhabitants to return any moment and resume life as it was before. Perhaps one day, life may very well begin again here, on remote islands such as this when man is forced to return to its hunter & gatherer ways, in search of the last civilisations who thrived in the harshest of environments.
Tragedy of a village built on ice
Climate change is threatening to make this Arctic village unlivable. But can it be reborn in a new location?
By John D. Sutter, CNN Video by Bryce Urbany and John D. Sutter, CNN

Shishmaref, Alaska

As the world warms – thanks largely to the 1,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide we humans are pumping into the atmosphere each second – the ice is disappearing. The planet has warmed about 1 degree Celsius since the Industrial Revolution, when people started burning fossil fuels for heat and electricity, creating a blanket of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. But scientists say the Arctic, the far-north, is warming twice as fast as the rest of Earth.“I miss that cold, cold weather,” says Hazel Fernandez. I meet her in a community hall; she’d rather be fishing on the ice but says it’s still too thin. “It’s too weird. It’s too warm.”

Outside, thermometers show temperatures in the mid-20s Fahrenheit, or about minus 4 Celsius. That’s freakishly warm for December, everyone tells me. I’m wearing two coats and ski pants, and residents of Shishmaref seem to find that hilarious. This isn’t cold, they say. Their sealskin hats and mittens, the fur-lined hooded parkas – those mostly stay at home.Fernandez, in her early 60s, fondly remembers temperatures of 30- and 40-below Fahrenheit.But mean air surface temperatures increased more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) in the Arctic region between 1960 and 2011, according to the US National Snow & Ice Data Center. Arctic sea ice, measured since 1979, was at a monthly record low in January. And the September sea ice minimum is decreasing at a rate of 13.3% per decade.


August 2016: Globally, it tied for the hottest month of the hottest year on record. In Shishmaref, residents went to the polls to decide whether they would relocate because of warming.The answer: Yes, by a margin of 89 to 78, according to local officials.But the August 16 vote did not solve Shishmaref’s trouble. Far from it.Annie Weyiouanna, local coordinator for the Native Village of Shishmaref, tells me the tribe has no money to fund the move. And this isn’t the first time the village has held a relocation vote. They did so in 2002, as well. Nothing changed. No one in the village today is packing. And Weyiouanna has tried to stop using the word “relocation” – or uses it minimally, sometimes correcting herself – because she worries it will signal to funding agencies in the state and federal governments that the village will be gone soon and doesn’t need help with grants or infrastructure. The reality is that no one knows how long the village will be stuck. Perhaps forever, some worry, or until the island is gone.“ 

They are not safe right now, and their lives are in danger because of the storms that are coming in,” said Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice and a senior research scientist at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She was referring to Shishmaref as well as Newtok and Kivalina, Alaska, which face similar circumstances. “(T)hey just need a large sum of money to get them to the places that they’ve chosen so they can be safe."Shishmaref has identified two potential sites for a new version of the community. Both are inland, meaning hunters and fishers would not be able to access the sea as easily. Some people in the community – particularly elders – believe the move threatens the tribe’s Inupiat identity. Away from the coast, are they still the same people? Why should they move when others are driving climate change? 

Esau has wrestled with these questions, too. His grandparents, Shelton and Clara, the couple in the blue house at the edge of the Earth, who lost their son to the ice, do not want to leave. They want to stay in their home – in the community they know so well – no matter the risks.Esau worries about them. "If you ask the older generations like my grandfather, their views are totally different,” he tells me. “They want to stay on this island forever and ever. And I respect that decision. They’re my elders.” But, to me, I think we have to relocate so that our future generations can still be alive.“

anonymous asked:

I'm full Alaskan native but I wasn't raised in my culture and I don't have the advantage of knowing any elders or relatives who could teach me their language. Do you have any idea how I can learn Inuit,Yupik,or Inupiat languages, or where to start? I'm a bit daunted by the challenge

This is a good question that I don’t have a good answer to. I have some resources on two languages—Uummarmiut and Siglitun—but they’re academic; they’re not focused on teaching you the language. If you actually want to learn it, you need instructional materials. I found this site, which at least one person on Reddit recommended, but I haven’t used it myself, so I can’t speak to how useful it is. It should at least be a place to start. Perhaps others who see this post will have other recommendations, or can reblog to see if we can add some resources. Best of luck to you!


Hit the Road with #mypubliclandsroadtrip 2016 –  Week 1, Places That Rock!

For the geologists, rock collectors and earth science lovers, this week is for you. The #mypubliclandsroadtrip 2016 heads out to find Places That Rock! on your public lands.  All week, roadtrip stops will feature landscapes shaped by cool geological processes and formations – caves, volcanoes, hoodoos and more.

Our first stop is Sukakpak Mountain, one of the most visually stunning areas on ‪‎BLM‬‬ managed public lands along the Dalton Highway in northern ‪Alaska‬‬ (MP 203). A massive wall of Skajit Limestone rising to 4,459 feet (1,338 m) that glows in the afternoon sun, Sukakpak Mountain is an awe-inspiring sight. Peculiar ice-cored mounds known as palsas punctuate the ground at the mountain’s base. “Sukakpak” is an Inupiat word meaning “marten deadfall.” As pictured here from the north, the mountain resembles a carefully balanced log used to trap marten.

Sukakpak Mountain was designated in 1990 as a BLM Area of Critical Environmental Concern or ACEC to protect extraordinary scenic and geologic formations.

Follow all #mypubliclandsroadtrip stops in our @esri storymap journals: Explore #yourlands.