National Geographic : 1979 Dec
People-is not always easy to discern now that outboard motorboats have replaced native kayaks and the yap of dog teams has given way to the snarl of snowmobiles. Yet nomadic ways persist. Rarely were all the villagers at home when I was there. Some of them had gone out with rifles onto the ice to stalk ugruk, the bearded seal. Others were hunting waterfowl or netting fish. Later they would travel into the hills after caribou and sheep. Listen to the sounds coming from the community hall. It is a modern metal Quon set hut, but the wailing voices and stamping feet within are joined in the songs and dances of the hunt. And listen carefully to the three men talking together at the back. One wears a baseball cap in the latest casual style of the Lower 48, but these Americans are not speaking English. They use their own Eskimo tongue. When then Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton established the Arctic National Wildlife Range in 1960, it was to protect an unusual diversity of arctic and subarctic habitats and the migrations, mating, and birthing of wild creatures that take place within them. By providing room for the great cycles through which the living world renews itself, the formation of the Arctic Wildlife Range also helped ensure that those food chains that sustain the indigenous American culture of the Inupiat and its tra ditions would be preserved. How long will it last, the special balance of old and new I saw in Kaktovik? The mas sive oil-drilling complex of Prudhoe Bay throbs and churns just sixty miles west of the wildlife refuge. More offshore drilling for oil and gas may begin, possibly within a year, at Point Thomson, ten miles from the Arctic Wildlife Range. And there is strong pressure to explore and develop other potential re serves along the coast of the refuge and with in it as well. What will the Real People have to barter to become full members of this modern world? THOUGH THOUSANDS of feet higher than the coastal plain, the mountains of the Arctic Wildlife Range begin their summer two to three weeks earlier. Rock faces absorb immense quantities of the sun's energy, while North Slope lowlands shiver next to that colossal refrigerator, the wind swept pack ice. So I was not surprised to feel warmth on my own face when in mid-July, after flying out of Kaktovik in a freezing fog with my wife, Karen, the plane landed on the south slope of the Brooks Range.