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The Bush Travel Guide

Kotzebue

Kotzebue is Alaska's largest Eskimo community, home to more than 3,000 people. Most of the residents of this coastal village are Inupiaq, whose ancestors have had ties to the region for thousands of years. For most of that time the Inupiaq lived in seasonal camps, following caribou, moose, and other wildlife across the landscape. They also depended on whales, seals, fish, and the wide variety

of berries and other plants the rich tundra landscape offers. Besides being talented hunters, the Inupiaq were—and still are—skilled craftsmen and artists, known for their rugged gear, ceremonial parkas, dolls, caribou-skin masks, birch-bark baskets, and whalebone and walrus-ivory carvings.

Built on a 3-mile-long spit of land that juts into Kotzebue Sound, this village lies 33 miles above the Arctic Circle, on Alaska's northwest coast. Before Europeans arrived in the region, the Inupiaq name for this locale was Kikiktagruk; that was changed to Kotzebue after German explorer Otto von Kotzebue passed through in 1818 while sailing for Russia. Kotzebue is the region's economic and political hub and headquarters for both the Northwest Arctic Borough and the NANA Regional Corporation, one of the 13 regional Native corporations formed when Congress settled the Alaska Natives' aboriginal land claims in 1971. The region's other Eskimo villages have populations of anywhere from 90 to 700 residents.

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