Date of Award

Spring 2014

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Laura Zanotti

Committee Member 1

Melissa Remis

Committee Member 2

Myrdene Anderson


This thesis explores how the Iñupiat of the North Slope of Alaska have responded to cultural pressures, specifically those arising from the introduction of missions and schools, and characterized by an increase in permanent outsider settlement, and how they have internalized these pressures into their knowledge system. By examining political, economic, and social factors, this thesis provides a more holistic picture of how and why Iñupiat knowledge has changed through time, beginning with the contact period in the early to mid-1800's until the present day. I find existing models of knowledge transmission cannot account for the ways in which Iñupiat knowledge is passed down. What I show is how traditional knowledge becomes incorporated into the individual by the twin processes of knowledge transmission and knowledge construction, two processes that are often considered apart, but that I forward should always be considered together. This conversation sets the stage for the later discussion on how knowledge has changed in the almost 200 year post-contact Iñupiat world. The post-contact history of the Iñupiat is characterized by the incorporation of new technologies and changing the ways in which knowledge is constructed and transmitted both intergenerationally and within the same generation. I point to two major events, the introduction of schools and missions, in what I term the "Late Contact Period" that truly defined Iñupiat culture change and brought them into mainstream American culture. I argue that these two events, coupled with a rise in `Yankee' whaling, provided communities with limited options and produced drastic changes in Iñupiat culture.