Village Life Stories
The Iñupiat community of Wales, Alaska, traditionally known as Kiŋigin, lies along a long sandy beach at the base of the Wales Mountain and is located at the most northwestern tip of the Seward Peninsula on the Cape Prince of Wales. Kiŋigin rests alongside the Bering Sea, about 25 miles from Big Diomede Island, traditionally known as Imaqłiq, and about 55 miles from mainland Russia. The population is about 160 today, but was once was about 800. Traditionally, during my great-grandparents time, Inuit traveled back and forth across the Strait by umiaq to visit and trade with family, celebrating our trading customs that spanned from Siberia to up and down the coasts and inland of Alaska. My Amau Kate, my ataata’s mother, was born in Uelen, Chukotka, located in West East Cape Siberia, while her family was over there trading. She was named after her birth place, Ualiq, which in our language is the traditional place name for Uelen.
The Arctic Arc also known as “the hand” is one of our landmarks that look into tomorrow and symbolizes peace and relationship between the Alaskan and Chukotkan Inuit amidst a history of international tension that spanned since the Cold War. David Barr of Michigan partnered with Iñuipaq artist Joe Senungetuk from Kiŋigin to craft the two sculptures. The “hand” in Kiŋigin was the first to be sculpted in 1988 by Barr and Senungetuk and stands tall along the base of the mountain with open wooden hands joined at the wrist and a metal bird being released from the hands, positioned in flight directly across the Strait. The “hand” symbolizes a peaceful handshake between the two countries, an effort by Barr to connect humanity. The other sculpture, located across the Strait, represents a large umiaq positioned as if to sail directly across to the hand in Kiŋigin. The umiaq was sculpted in 1991 by Barr and is located on the other side of the Bering Strait at Naukan, Siberia, Russia (Arlinghaus, 1994). These landmarks strongly represent the relations of our people during the times of trading across the Strait and family ties to our relatives in Chukotka.