The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Reconstructing the Effects of European Contact on North Slope Iñupiat Populations Through Genetic, Archaeological, and Ethnohistoric Research


1Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 2Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation Science, LLC, 3Department of Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, 4Department of Anthropology, Northwestern University, 5Center for Genomic Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University, 6Population Research Center, University of Texas at Austin

March 26, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2 Add to calendar

When the HMS Blossom landed at Point Barrow, Alaska in 1826, it initiated the first European contact with the Iñupiat peoples of the Alaskan North Slope. In the years that followed, commercial, scientific, and religious expeditions brought increasing numbers of outsiders to the region, with some visiting transiently and others settling permanently in Iñupiat communities. Recent genetic studies of these communities have investigated the prehistory of the North American Arctic, but considerably less attention has been paid to this more recent history — particularly the genetic impact of these interactions between Iñupiat populations and outsiders.

Here, we discuss the results of a multidisciplinary study of the effects of this contact. Using SNP arrays and next generation sequencing, we collected genome-wide data from consenting participants in eight communities of the Alaskan North Slope. We investigated the demographic effects of admixture and changes in population size after contact across the North Slope, as well as within individual Iñupiat communities. We found evidence of demographic shifts and extensive male-mediated European admixture in these populations. By integrating these genetic data with archaeological, historical, and ethnographic information about changes to settlement patterns, subsistence practices, and economic activities (particularly whaling) after contact, we constructed a detailed picture of the post-contact history of these North Slope communities. Together, these multiple lines of evidence provide a rich understanding of the process and impact of contact in this region.

Norman Hackerman Advanced Research Program, National Science Foundation