Arctic Social Sciences Program | 2001 Workshop

Wednesday, 17 January 2001 to Saturday, 20 January 2001
Seattle, Washington

In January 2001, the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) organized and convened a workshop on arctic social sciences research on behalf of the NSF Arctic Social Sciences Program. Over 70 participants gathered, bringing academic arctic researchers together with social scientists based in other regions, federal and state agency scientists, and policy and decision-makers working on related issues. The workshop's format included posters, panels, and round-tables, with ample opportunities for brainstorming and informal discussions.

The goals of the January 2001 workshop were:

  • to generate increased awareness of the opportunities for innovative social science research in the Arctic,
  • to provide models of social science research contributions to human dimensions questions, and
  • to focus attention on priority or emerging areas of arctic social science.

Key themes of the workshop included exploring interdisciplinary linkages between the social sciences, international collaboration, and the interrelationships between social and physical and biological sciences.

Small working groups focused on the themes of:

  1. the role of humans in northern environmental history and pre-history;
  2. institutional development in the Arctic, such as self-governance, common property management, and informal decision-making;
  3. linkages between identity and socioeconomic transitions in the Arctic; and
  4. traditional knowledge and the intersection between the social sciences and the humanities.

A brief summary of the working group discussions is available in the Resources tab above.

An exciting part to the workshop was a round-table discussion about the perspectives of federal and state agencies on arctic social science research, which was organized by the Polar Research Board.

The workshop organizing committee thanks everyone who attended the workshop and the NSF Arctic Social Sciences Program for funding it.

We invite you to browse the ARCUS web site to learn more about the workshop, read poster and presentation abstracts which are available in the Abstracts tab above.

Organizing Committee

Harald Gaski, co-chair
Faculty of Humanities University of Tromsø
N-9037 Tromsø
Phone: +47 7764 4259
Fax: +47 7764 4239

Carole Seyfrit, co-chair
Assistant Vice President for Research and
Graduate Studies Office of Research and Graduate Studies
210 Koch Hall
Old Dominion University
Norfolk, VA 23529-0013
Phone: 757/683-3460 or 6419
Fax: 757/683-3004

Debra G. Corbett
Division of Realty, Biology, and Archaeology Branch U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
1011 E Tudor Road
Anchorage, AK 99503-6199
Phone: 907/786-3399
Fax: 907/786-3635

Yvon D. Csonka
Department of Prehistory
University of Neuchâtel
52 Pierre-à-Mazel Neuchâtel, CH-2000
Phone: +41/32721-2204
Fax: +41/32725-6008

Henry P. Huntington
Huntington Consulting
PO Box 773564
Eagle River, AK 99577
Phone: 907/696-3564
Fax: 907/696-3565

Dennis H. O'Rourke
Department of Anthropology
University of Utah
270 South 1400 East
Room 102
Salt Lake City, UT 84112-0060
Phone: 801/581-7454
Fax: 801/581-6252

Rick Wilson
Department of Political Science
Rice University
226 Baker Hall, MS24
Houston, TX 77251
Phone: 7013/527-8101 x3352

Workshop Abstracts

Wilderness in Alaska: The Need for Cross-Cultural Understanding of Meanings and Values
Lillian Alessa, Depts of Biology and Education, University of Alaska
Alan Watson and Brian Glaspell, Aldo Leopold Wilderness Research Institute Wilderness means many things to many people and this is partly influenced by legislation, agency policy, changing societal values, human perception inherent in culture and regional definition. In the U.S., the Wilderness Act of 1964 culminated a romantic legacy established by historically recent figures such as John Muir and Aldo Leopold. Subsequently, this has led to confusion among groups of people regarding the nature and value of ìwildernessî at a time when scientists, communities, policy makers and resource managers are being confronted with issues that revolve around how ìwildernessî should be utilized and, ultimately, viewed as a component of the local, regional and global culture. In Alaska, this is complicated by the fact that a number of factors which created and protected wilderness in the contiguous U.S. are incompatible with circumpolar regions. We propose that, in order for a cohesive and useful body of knowledge to develop, the following approaches should be adopted in order to better understand the process of wilderness perception and valuation in Alaska: (a) cultural differences in the uses of the word (concept) ìwildernessî in primary literature and in society requires clarification and agreement; (b) critical research to further our understanding of the role of wilderness meanings and values in society, science and politics and the forces that threaten these meanings and values needs to be identified; and (c) methodologies that will allow us to collect meaningful data and develop a critical mass of research such that an ongoing body of knowledge can be built need to be developed.

The Arctic System Science Data Coordination Center (ADCC)
R. J. Dichtl and C. McNeave, National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado, Boulder

The ARCSS Data Coordination Center (ADCC) at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), University of Colorado at Boulder, is the permanent data archive for all components of the ARCSS Program. Funded by the National Science Foundationís Office of Polar Programs, our focus is to archive and provide access to ARCSS-funded data and information. The concept of System Science depends on the accessibility and exchange of data and information within the scientific community. The ADCC strives to be a catalyst to facilitate that accessibility and cooperation.
A major concern of the research community is the availability of reliable data for research. Working with ARCSS investigators, the ARCSS Committee and NSF, the ADCC is continually acquiring data and developing data products appropriate and useful for the research community. Integration of the data and information from ARCSS projects described on this poster is a high priority at the ADCC. We also work with other national and international data centers to provide optimum accessibility to data and information from the ARCSS archive.
The ADCC strives to provide the most contemporary means of data accessibility to the scientific community. We have developed ingest procedures to assist ARCSS researchers in data and information submittal to the long-term archive. The ADCC home page ( has become an important tool for data accessibility and integration within ARCSS. Data and information are also distributed on other media (CD-ROMs, disks, data catalogs, etc.) when appropriate. The ADCC maintains a complete backup of the ARCSS archive to ensure data and information collected from the program are available on a long-term basis.

Political Traditions for the Future
Stephanie Fox, PhD Student, University of Cambridge, England

The Deh Cho region is located southwest of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada, and encompasses 13 Slavey (Dene) communities. The First Nations are united under the Deh Cho First Nations (DCFN), which is located in Fort Simpson. The DCFN has been engaged in negotiations with the federal government for several years; most of that time has been spent working out a process for the negotiations. The Deh Cho is reknowned as the only group of First Nations in the Northwest Territories committed to determining its own process based on traditional Deh Cho principles, beliefs, and values. This has resulted in the ìDeh Cho Process,î which will be a negotiation about how Deh Cho and non-Deh Cho peoples will share and manage the regionís land and resources; it will also include talks on Deh Cho government. This poster describes the Deh Cho region and people, their negotiating process, and the work I will be doing researching political traditions and customs beginning in July 2001. As the work has not yet begun, it will highlight some issues and challenges that I expect to encounter during the research process.

Oxygen Isotope Composition of Human Dental Enamel as a Record of Climate Change
Henry C. Fricke (1), James R. OíNeil (1) & Niels Lynnerup (2)
(1) Department of Geological Sciences, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, U.S.A.
(2) Laboratory of Biological Anthropology, University of Copenhagen, Denmark

The d18O value of human tooth enamel (d18Op) can be used to infer the value of ingested local meteoric water (d18Ow). d18Ow is in turn a reflection of local climate variables such as temperature and humidity. Human remains found in archaeological sites then provide a possible continental record of climate change. In the first such study, the analyses of Greenland Norse and Eskimo teeth validate the relation between d18Op and temperature. The spread in d18Op values between the most northern and southern sites is similar to the spread of values for modern-day meteoric waters. A 3º decrease in d18Op from sites in Greenland dating from AD 1400 to 1700 implies rapid cooling during the so-called Little Ice Age.

Early Holocene Maritime Adaptations on the Northwest Coast of North America: Excavations at 49-PET-408.
E. James Dixon, Ph.D., Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado at Boulder

Human remains of an adult male dated to 9,880 +/- 50 BP delta 13C -12.1 o/oo (CAMS-32038) (pelvis) and 9,730 +/- 60 BP delta 13C -12.5 o/oo (CAMS-29873) (mandible) have been excavated from 49-PET-408 (On Your Knees Cave), an archeological and paleontological site on Prince of Wales Island, Southeast Alaska (Dixon et al. 1997, Dixon 1999). AMS 14C results indicate these are oldest reliably dated human remains yet recovered in Alaska and Canada. Delta 13C values demonstrate a diet based on marine foods, and the 14C age should be adjusted to c 9,200 based on the regional marine carbon reservoir extrapolated from the Queen Charlotte Islands (Fedje et al. 1996). The human remains appear to be contemporary with a cultural occupation dated by three 14C AMS dates on charcoal (8,760 +/- 50 BP (CAMS-43991), 9210 +/- 50 BP (CAMS-43990) and CAMS-439899, 9,150 +/- 50). Obsidian, microblades, bifaces, and other tools have been recovered from this statigraphic unit. An undated underlying stratigraphic unit contains bone fragments, charcoal and lithic flakes; possible evidence of an earlier human occupation. Bone and shell tools from different chambers of the cave are 14C AMS dated to 10,300 +/- 50 BP (CAMS-42381), 5780 +/- 40 (CAMS-42382), and 1,760 +/- 40 BP (CAMS-64540) suggesting several periods of use/occupation of the cave. These data indicate that by c 9,200 BP, humans along the Northwest Coast of North America were coastal navigators with an economy based on maritime subsistence and established trade networks for obsidian. Trace element analysis documents at least two sources for the obsidian, Mount Edziza on the British Columbia mainland and Sumez Island in Southeast Alaska. These data suggest earlier human occupation in order to establish this broad regional adaptation by 9,200 BP and strengthen the theory that humans may have first entered the Americas using watercraft along the Northwest Coast of North America during the late Pleistocene (Fladmark 1979).
References Cited
Dixon, E. James, T. H. Heaton, T. E. Fifield, T. D. Hamilton, D. E. Putnam and F. Grady. 1997. Late Quaternary Regional Geoarchaeology of Southeast Alaska Karst: A Progress Report. Geoarchaeology: An International Journal 12(6):689-712.
Dixon, E. James. 1999. Boats, Bones, and Bison: Archeology and the First Colonization of Western North America. University of New Mexico Press, Alberquerque.
Fedje, D. W., A.P. Mackie, J. B. McSporran, and B. Wilson. 1996. Early Period Archaeology in Gwaii Haanas: Results of the 1993 Field Program. In: Early Human Occupation in British Columbia. Roy L. Carlson and Luke Dalla Bona, eds. pp. 133-150. University of British Columbia Press.
Fladmark, K. R. 1979. Routes: Alternative Migration Corridors for Early Man in North America. American Antiquity 44:55-69.

The International Kuril Island Project: Archaeological Perspectives on Island Biogeography, Quaternary Geology, and Maritime Settlement of Southern Beringia
By Ben Fitzhugh, Scotty Moore, Christopher Lockwood, Cristie Boone, Yoshihiro Ishizuka, Carole Mandryk, Valerii Shubin, Kaoru Tezuka, and Theodore Pietsch

In the summer of 2000, the NSF-funded International Kuril Island Project (IKIP) united American, Russian, and Japanese archaeologists, ethnohistorians, biologists, and geologists in a quest to understand the biogeographical consequences of Quaternary processes in the remote and almost unknown Kuril Islands (south from Kamchatka). IKIP biologists have now completed surveying the contemporary biodiversity of the Kuril chain. Ongoing archaeological and related research seeks to bring archaeological, ethnohistorical, paleoecological, and geological data into this picture to build an understanding of (1) the evolution of Kuril biodiversity and biogeography and the human role in this evolution and (2) the human maritime migration and settlement history of Beringia and the Northwest Pacific (possibly as far back as the late Pleistocene). This poster presents the preliminary results of the prehistoric/historic research and the future goals of an expanded project, including a web-based data sharing system now under development and a larger multi-year field project beginning in 2002.

Population Replacement in Human Prehistory as Assessed by Ancient mtDNA
M. Geoffrey Hayes and Dennis H. OíRourke Anthropology, University of Utah

Sharp transitions in the archaeological record are often postulated to represent either population replacement or cultural diffusion events. We have studied the genetics of two such transitions in the North American Arctic which provide contrasting results. In the Eastern Canadian Arctic a transition occurs approximately 1000 years ago with the replacement of the Dorset culture by the Thule culture. These two cultural complexes are substantially different in terms of their material remains, but not in their craniometrics. The opposite pattern characterizes a transition that occurs at approximately the same time in the Aleutian Islands. Here, there is good evidence for cultural continuity over the last 4000 years, and instead the transition is delineated by a brachycranic population (Neo-Aleut) replacing a dolichocranic population (Paleo-Aleut).

To assess the genetic relationships of pre- and post-transition populations, ancient DNA was analyzed from relevant archaeologically recovered individuals. Four restriction site or length polymorphisms, which define a minimum of four ubiquitous Native American mitochondrial haplogroups (A through D), were amplified and electrophoretically scored for the presence or absence of the marker. In the Eastern Canadian Arctic, >25 individuals have been analyzed and the haplogroup frequency distributions of the Dorset (33% A, 67% not A) and Thule (100% A) are statistically significantly different from one another (p = 0.025, Fisherís exact test). In the Aleutian Islands, >35 individuals have been analyzed and the haplogroup frequency distributions of the Paleo-Aleut (50% A, 50% D) and Neo-Aleut (31% A, 59% D) are not statistically significantly different from one another (p = 0.428, Fisherís exact test). These results preliminarily suggest population replacement in the Eastern Canadian Arctic and population continuity in the Aleutian Islands. The inclusion of additional samples and the examination of HVR I sequences are currently underway to further investigate this phenomenon.

Bowhead Whale and Gray Whale Selection by Prehistoric and Early Historic Alaskan Whaling Societies
Allen McCartney and James Savelle

In 1996 and 1998, we carried out zooarchaeological field investigations at a number of archaeological sites in the vicinity of Barrow, Point Hope, Cape Krusenstern, Wales, and Gambell. These investigations focused on the examination of exposed cetacean remains to determine the species represented, intraspecific size selection, and bone elements use within an architectural context. This poster summarizes regional variation in (a) relative abundance of bowhead and gray whales, and (b) intraspecific size selection within these two species.

Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic: TEA Bringing Research into Classrooms
Debra Meese, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

The centerpiece of the Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) Program is a research experience in which a K-12 teacher participates in a polar expedition. The TEA teacher works closely with scientists, participates in cutting-edge research, and is immersed in the process of science. Enveloping this field experience is a diversity of professional development opportunities through which TEA teachers increase content knowledge, enhance teaching skills, transfer the experience to the classroom, assume leadership roles, and collaborate with a network of researchers and education colleagues. TEA is a partnership between teachers, researchers, students, the school district, and the community.

Arctic Social Sciences Research: Two Examples from the North Bering Sea
Carol Zane Jolles, Anthropology Department,
Indiana University-Purdue University-Indianapolis

Arctic social sciences research reaches across the divide which often separates the researcher-outsider from local communities. In so doing, it opens up research to issues which concern local families and their larger communities. In the two research projects illustrated in this presentation, the first deals with the critical roles played by Yupik women as teachers, parents and community workers. In the second, whaling in all of its aspects is the subject in the two traditional whaling communities of Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, and Ingaliq, Little Diomede Island, Alaska.


2001 Workshop Summaries

The Arctic Social Sciences Workshop in January 2001 was a working meeting, the core of which was breaking into working groups and having informal discussions to answer some basic questions. Each working group focused on a separate theme and addressed a common set of questions in the context of that theme.

The themes and working groups were:

  • the role of humans in northern environmental history and pre-history;
  • institutional development in the Arctic, such as self-governance, common property management, and informal decision-making;
  • linkages between identity and socioeconomic transitions in the Arctic; and
  • traditional knowledge and the intersection between the social sciences and the humanities.

The questions addressed in each working session were:

  • What is the ìstate of the artî in this area of research? What are the critical unknowns (the gaps in knowledge that prevent further inquiry in these areas)?
    With regard to these unknowns, which are most tractable and mature (ripe) for research efforts?
  • What are the impediments to the conduct of this priority research?
  • What unique lessons can be learned from the arctic environment? How can comparative research be designed to help sort out the unique contributions of the arctic?
  • What research questions would benefit from more extensive collaboration between academia and agencies? How?
  • What research questions in the identified thematic area intersect with other fields, either within or beyond the social sciences disciplinesói.e., in the natural sciences and the humanities?
  • What is needed to move research in this area forward and how could that best be accomplished? (i.e., improved interagency collaboration, a focused research initiative, better links with scientists of other disciplines, more international research collaborations, more dedicated funding.)
  • What planning mechanisms will best support these actions (i.e., small focused workshop or a series of workshops, a large conference, a single proposal, other?) Is planning needed?

Following is a brief summary of the discussions in each working group. This is by no means a comprehensive statement of what was discussed.

Working Group 1: The Role of Humans in Northern Environmental History and Prehistory

The study of human-environment interactions is inherently interdisciplinary, as researchers examine the web of natural and social factors that define the relationship between humans and the environment. Studies to date have offered insights into abrupt ecological changes and human responses, the environmental impacts of human settlement, and the ways that social and technological changes have altered resource use over time.

While our knowledge is increasing, gaps exist in chronological and geographical coverage of arctic populations. In addition, researchers need to look beyond the Arctic to identify similar patterns or critical differences. Today, a number of areas are particularly ripe for research. These include integrative diachronic and synchronic studies, the inclusion of local knowledge and perspectives in interpreting findings, and the development of data repositories. The area of data archiving and dissemination represents a crucial need. Efforts to define appropriate scales of resolution for data, analysis, and dissemination are only beginning.

Working Group 2: Institutional Development in the Arctic

Three vital areas of current institutional development in the Arctic are self-governance, common property arrangements, and informal decision-making. Many indigenous and some other groups throughout the Arctic are asserting their preferences for self-government in various forms and at various geographic scales, from village-level governments to Sami Parliaments to Nunavut. The institutions being developed to carry out these functions blend modern government forms with traditional societal practices, though how such structures will function in the long term remains to be seen, especially in their interactions with the nations of which they remain part.

Common property management, long a topic of fascination for political scientists, is an important topic in the Arctic as groups seek new ways of managing resources that reflect customary patterns of resource use and access, often held collectively rather than individually. Underlying evolving Arctic institutions is a system of informal decision making operating as a parallel and at times dominant means of addressing societal issues. The relationship between formal and informal systems is of critical importance to our understanding of the effectiveness and resilience of Arctic institutions in the face of major challenges such as those posed by rapid social change. The diversity of conditions, histories, and experiences around the Arctic makes comparative research especially promising in this area.

Working Group 3: Linkages between Identity and Socioeconomic Transitions in the Arctic

People identify themselves according to gender, age, family, community, region, ethnic group, nation, and perhaps even international groupings. The relationship among these forms of identity affects the way individuals perceive all forms of societal issues and conflicts, from governance and resource management to cultural development and mental health. The range of possibilities in self-identity can provide opportunities, but it often produces tension both within and between individuals. Conducting research in this area requires special sensitivity to community interests and views, including the fact that perceptions of identity are likely to vary across generations. Comparative research offers promise. This area of research also needs to develop collaborative networks of interested people in Arctic communities and among researchers.

Working Group 4: Traditional Knowledge and the Intersection between the Social Sciences and the Humanities

Traditional knowledge encompasses a vast array of disciplines and interests, from natural history to nomenclature, from archeology to philosophy. With such a breadth of approaches, research into traditional knowledge is hard to compress into a unified framework or methodology. In recent years, a great deal of progress has been made in terms of recognition of the value of traditional knowledge and its applicability to a range of research, management, and social questions. In addition, the richness of what is lumped together as ìtraditional knowledgeî is appreciated more and more, for example through the growing role of the humanities in exploring the philosophical, literary, artistic, and spiritual aspects of traditional ways.

One result of these developments is a more sophisticated approach to the use of traditional knowledge by researchers in different fields. Building on these advances, further research is needed in several areas. The perpetuation of traditional knowledge within Arctic communities is of great concern. Comparative reviews of the study and use of traditional knowledge can identify what works and what doesnít. A summary of available literature can illuminate critical problems in concepts, methodologies, and outcomes. In other words, those active in this area need more opportunities to learn from one another and to recognize the larger implications of their work.