One Inuit family’s life, straddling national borders

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

  • Bruce Inglangasak watches the wind and water from a cabin at Shingle Point in Canada. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the sea ice could be pushed up against the shoreline, making it difficult or impossible to continue boating to Alaska from Canada. Inglangasak works as an ecotourism guide in Kaktovik, Alaska, when he isn't subsistence hunting.

    Brian Adams
  • Bert Gordon hunts voles outside Bruce Inglangasak’s home in Kaktovik before loading up the boat and heading to Aklavik.

    Brian Adams
  • Bruce Inglangasak and Herman Oyagak go to high ground to look for a way to pass through the sea ice that is close to the shore.

    Brian Adams
  • Tori Inglangasak and her boyfriend, Bert Gordon, take a nap as they wait for sea ice to move away from the shoreline so they can begin their boat trip to Aklavik, Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • The coastline of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from the Beaufort Sea, as seen from Inglangasak's boat on the way to Aklavik from Kaktovik, a 350-mile journey that Inglangasak and his family make twice a year.

    Brian Adams
  • Tori Inglangasak, excited to see her relatives, sits on front of her father’s boat to greet the family waiting on the shore of Aklavik, Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • Arctic char boils over a fire at the home of Walter Inglangasak, Bruce’s father, in Aklavik, Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • Walter Inglangasak plays solitaire in his home. His grandparents originally came from Wainwright, Alaska, but left for the Yukon when they realized that there were no more caribou on the North Slope.

    Brian Adams
  • In Walter Inglangasak’s home, photos show his son, Bruce, running around a truck to get away from a polar bear. Each year, tourists from all over the world travel to Kaktovik to accompany Bruce Inglangasak or one of the other local guides, as they watch the polar bears at the bone pile outside of Kaktovik.

    Brian Adams
  • A stove in a Shingle Point fish camp cabin in Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • Mary Ruth Meyook, her mother Nellie Arey of Aklavik and Carol Oyagak of Kaktovik, play cards at Shingle Point fish camp in Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • Fireweed on Pascal Road in Aklavik, Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • A brown bear at the dump in Aklavik, Canada. The word Aklavik means "barren-ground grizzly place."

    Brian Adams
  • Mary Ruth Meyook and Nellie Arey pull in fishing nets at Shingle Point fish camp in Canada.

    Brian Adams
  • Beluga whale dries outside of the home of Brenda Benoit in Aklavik, Canada. Aklavik, like Kaktovik, is a traditional subsistence whaling village.

    Brian Adams
  • Tori Inglangasak gives Brenda Benoit and other relatives goodbye hugs before leaving Aklavik.

    Brian Adams
  • Family photos hang on the wall in the home of Walter Inglangasak in Aklavik. The Inglangasak family, like many Indigenous families in Kaktovik and the far North, span the U.S.-Canadian border.

    Brian Adams

 

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, . 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 ’ newest body of work, which will document the Inuit people of the circumpolar regions of Canada, Russia and Greenland.

 Luna Anna Archey, NewTowncarShare News associate photo editor