Dynamic Tradition, Tumultuous Landscape: Inupiaq Responses to Changing Freshwater Regimes on the Seward Peninsula http://www.uaf.edu/water/projects/ICWHA/HARC_C10.html
Elizabeth Marino1, Peter Schweitzer1, Josh Wisniewski1 and Jack Omelak1
1University of Alaska FairbanksOver the last 30 years, appreciable climate change has been observed in the Arctic and recent studies indicate that this change in climate will significantly affect Arctic hydrological systems. As human life is dependent on water for survival, among other things, changing fresh water regimes in the Arctic alter ways in which communities are able to collect water, travel on the land, participate in subsistence economies, and experience landscape. This paper has two main goals. First, it will provide an overview of fresh water use in four communities on the Seward Peninsula. Secondly, it will address the question of how changes to the freshwater environment are perceived and experienced in different ways and which strategies are employed to respond to them. Our data show significant local differences in the impact of change, the valuation of change, and – accordingly – the ways to cope with them. Generally, it seems that adaptation among Inupiat today involves a creative mix of traditional and modern strategies for living with and within a dynamic environment. Beyond the documentation of local perceptions and responses, the paper raises general questions about the adaptability of subsistence-based societies to environmental and social changes. Obviously, the Arctic has always been a tumultuous and dynamic environment and Arctic peoples have continuously demonstrated their abilities of adapting to dynamic systems. Today, as climate change and socio-economic change are co-existing phenomena in indigenous Arctic communities, new strategies are becoming necessary. The main interest of the authors is to better understand the intersection of changing environments and changing societies, as perceived through and acted upon dynamic cultural practices.