Inupiaq Work to Preserve Food and Traditions on Alaska's North Slope

Tribal Profiles
U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit

Nuiqsut is a traditional Inupiat community located in Alaska's North Slope region on the west bank of the Colville River, 18 miles south from the inlet to the Beaufort Sea. The North Slope of Alaska is well within the Arctic Circle—even during its short summers, the land there is mostly permafrost and ice. People, wildlife, and vegetation in the region have all adapted to live in the cold, mostly frozen environment. However, as temperatures warm across the region, the environment is changing rapidly, and a new Arctic is emerging. In addition to threats to native plants and wildlife, warming conditions can also cause traditional underground ice cellars to melt. These cellars are cut directly into the permafrost to store food. When the permafrost melts, the hard-won caribou, seal, and other meat stored in these cellars can rot and become unusable. Understanding conditions inside cellars and the factors that affect them is critical for determining adaptation options and for building the communities' resilience to the warming conditions. Engineers at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) have developed a conceptual design for an ice cellar featuring an energy-efficient, thermostat-controlled cooling system, a solar- and/or wind-energy power system, and structural supports and ventilation for allowing exchange of cellar and outside air.

U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, Climate Change, Permafrost Melt, Food Insecurity, Community Health, Infrastructure Adaptation