Arctic Inupiat advocate for North Slope land rights

A nonprofit communications network on Alaska’s North Slope has asked a congressional committee to be included as a voice for Arctic Inupiat people in all policy decisions affecting North Slope people. 

Nagruk Harcharek, president of Voice of the Arctic Inupiat (VOICE), made the appeal on Tuesday to the House Committee on Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources in Washington D.C. 

“We are integral to the Arctic ecosystem, as ubiquitous as the caribou, polar bears, birds, berries, and fish. Yet, when Washington takes action in the Arctic our people are an afterthought,” said Harcharek.  His testimony included comment on his contentions of the federal government’s 

historic disregard for the rights of North Slope Inupiat dating back to the Alaska Purchase in 1867. 

Harcharek said that before passage of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 that the federal government sought to appropriate 75% of their land without just compensation. Yet the discovery of oil on Inupiat lands at Prudhoe Bay in 1969 led to ANSCA’s passage within three years. 

Fifty-two years later, not much has changed, Harcharek said.  


“The federal government continues to make decisions about our ancestral homelands – now in the name of environmental justice – with little to no regard for the voices of our people. There is no justice in this approach,” he said. 

Resource development is now a critical part of the North Slope’s economy and Inupiat self-determination, with projects that offer job opportunities and funds for essential services, like water and sewer systems, waste collection, search and rescue, wildlife research, planning and community development, education, and road construction and maintenance. Harcharek has invited members of the committee to come visit Alaska’s North Slope to meet the Inupiat and see lands affected by Washington politics. 

“We refuse to fall victim to policies made thousands of miles away, and will always fight for our self-determination,” he said. “But it does not have to be a fight. Together, we can right historic wrongs, create responsible resource development projects in our region, and fully realize Inupiat self-determination.”