Kotzebue, Alaska


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North America » United States » Alaska » Kotzebue
June 28th 1962
Published: August 11th 2022
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Inupiaq CoupleInupiaq CoupleInupiaq Couple

Inupiat (Inuit) couple and kayak at Kotzebue, Alaska. Alaska067
When the Wien Alaska Airlines Fairchild F-27 touched down at Kotzebue airport, we were officially north of the Arctic Circle. The 1962 Alaska trip included a four day visit to Nome, Kotzebue and Barrow. I must say that I do not recall much about Nome. But Kotzebiue was by far the most interesting stop. Valene had been doing field work for her doctorate in Anthropology among the Inupiaq (Inuit) of Kotzebue. She knew many of the townsfolk personally. The indigenous people of Kotzebue are related to and speak a language similar to that spoken by the Inuit of Canada and Greenland.

The houses of Kotzebue were rustic in 1962. Buildings were constructed of timber, plywood sheets, corrugated metal, tar paper and sometimes finished lumber. Whatever material could be sourced. (Construction in Barrow was similar, often employing several different types of materials in a single structure.) There was a festive air when the Inuit population gathered to perform the Blanket Toss (Nalukataq in Inupiaq). The blanket was made from the skins of seals or walruses. A group of people hold the blanket while different people have a go and are tossed up in the air while the town looks on. The
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Demonstrating an Inupiaq (Inuit) sealskin kayak at Kotzebue, Alaska. Alaska056p1
practice has its origin in a ceremony held before the spring hunt began. Some of Valene's acquaintances showed us their sealskin kayaks and demonstrated rowing them in the bay.

There was no scheduled airline passenger service between Kotzebue and Barrow. Undeterred, Valene arranged for the group to board a C-46 cargo flight to Barrow (now Utqiagvik).


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Wien Alaska Airlines C-46Wien Alaska Airlines C-46
Wien Alaska Airlines C-46

Wien Alaska Airlines Curtis C-46 N1548V at Kotzebue. The destination will be Barrow. Alaska054
Blanket TossBlanket Toss
Blanket Toss

Postcard of the Inupiat Blanket Toss. Alaska100
Polar Bear KeychainPolar Bear Keychain
Polar Bear Keychain

Polar Bear Keychain, Inupiaq (Inuit) carving souvenir. IMG_7028


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