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Know the West

One Inuit family’s life, straddling national borders

Across the Beaufort Sea, Bruce Inglangasak’s 350-mile journey home.


Oftentimes in the Arctic, Inuit family histories stretch across national borders. The Inglangasak family once lived in Alaska, but changes in game patterns eventually brought them to Canada. They now call the tiny village of Aklavik home. The hamlet, which is located on the far northern shore of Canada’s Northwest Territories, housed 1,500 residents until erosion from floods left it unfit for building. So another development was started to replace it, about 40 miles to the east. Almost 50 years later, however, 600 residents, including the Inglangasaks, remain determined to keep their old community alive. They have even coined a new town motto: “Never say die.” 

Another subsistence whaling village lies on the same shore 350 miles to the west, on land that became part of Alaska in 1906. It is to this village, Kaktovik, that Bruce Inglangasak came to work as a tour guide who specializes in the region’s polar bears.

Photographer Brian Adams first met Bruce Inglangasak on a polar bear tour in 2013, when he was working on his first book, I am Inuit. The 62-year-old guide has been in Kaktovik, Alaska, for 17 years, and finds great joy in adventuring with ecotourists. Still, twice a year, he’s drawn home to Aklavik, across the Beaufort Sea, by his siblings and cousins. In the winter, he is able to traverse the frozen rivers by snow machine, but in the summer, he travels by boat along the thawed seashore. On this particular trip, he brought along two friends who were helping their son move back to Aklavik, as well as his daughter, her boyfriend and a cooler full of muktak from a bowhead whale.

This project is the start of Brian Adams’ newest body of work, which will document the Inuit people of the circumpolar regions of Canada, Russia and Greenland.

 Luna Anna Archey, High Country News associate photo editor