AUGUST 24, 2015 – Kotzebue, Alaska – President Barack Obama announced his plans to visit the city of Kotzebue, Alaska, today as part of his tour of the 49th State.
“We are excited that the President selected Kotzebue as an Arctic community to visit,” said Northwest Arctic Borough Mayor Reggie Joule. “The Arctic region has come into international focus as the United States assumes the Arctic Council chairmanship. We are mindful of the honor and the responsibility of being a host community.”
Kotzebue (Qikiktaġruk, or “almost an island” in Iñupiaq) is the largest community in Northwest Alaska and located along three miles of a 1,100 to 3,600-foot wide gravel spit on the Baldwin Peninsula, extending into the Kotzebue Sound near the mouths of the Kobuk, Noatak, and Selawik Rivers. The city is 26 miles north of the Arctic Circle and 549 air miles northwest of Anchorage. It is the gateway to Northwest Alaska’s other 10 communities and natural wonders such as the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve, the Noatak National Preserve, and the Kobuk Valley National Park.
The current population is about 3,200 and 75% of residents are Iñupiat, the indigenous people of the region. The Iñupiat have lived in the Kotzebue area for at least 600 years. Its coastal location at the terminus of three major rivers made it a major Arctic trading hub long before European contact. Iñuit from across the Arctic and interior communities traveled to the location to trade furs, skins, seal oil and other valuables. Commerce activity increased following the arrival of whalers, Russian fur traders, gold miners, and missionaries.
The federal government introduced reindeer herding to Kotzebue in 1897 and named the community after Kotzebue Sound (named so by Otto von Kotzebue in 1816) with the establishment of a post office in 1899. Throughout the 20th century, expanding economic activities and services in the area enabled the city to develop at a rapid pace to become the largest community in Northwest Alaska.
“We welcome President Obama to Kotzebue, the Gateway to the Arctic,” said Maija Lukin, City of Kotzebue mayor. “It is encouraging to have the President see the real-life impacts of climate change we have faced. We’ve been working as a community to mitigate these impacts for years and look forward to working together on future projects that ensure our residents have a home for generations to come.”
President Obama is slated to visit the community on Sept. 2, 2015.
QUOTES FROM LOCAL LEADERSHIP REGARDING PRESIDENT OBAMA’S VISIT AND LINKS TO CONTACT INFO:
“We see firsthand the effects of climate change in our region,” said Larry Westlake, Regional Elders Council president. “We look forward to discussing climate impacts and solutions with the President.”
“We are humbled by the opportunity to have the President of the United States of America visit our community,” said Dominic Ivanoff of the Native Village of Kotzebue. “We hope the President will leave with an understanding of how climate change is impacting the Arctic. We are eager to share how we are working with youth to strengthen the future of the Iñupiaq language and culture.”
“Maniilaq Association and the 12 Tribes constituting our board warmly welcome President Obama to our Iñupiat homeland,” said Timothy Schuerch, president and CEO of Maniilaq Association. “For thousands of years we have thrived in this region, sustained by the abundant subsistence resources of our lands, rivers, and ocean. We invite President Obama to engage in meaningful government-to-government consultation with our Tribes during his visit, so that we may share with him our challenges as well as successes in addressing the impacts of climate change in Northwest Alaska.”
“One of our goals as a company, in partnership with regional organizations, is to convey to federal and state partners how we fit into the National Strategy for the Arctic Region,” said Wayne Westlake, NANA Regional Corp. (NANA) president and CEO. “As state oil reserves dwindle, opportunities associated with an opening Arctic provide our state and region with a chance to redefine our economies.”
“Remote communities like ours face a unique set of obstacles including a lack of infrastructure, a high cost of living, and impacts to a subsistence lifestyle caused by climate change,” said Cheryl Edenshaw, Kikiktagruk Iñupiat Corp. (KIC) board chair. “We are hopeful that the President’s visit will ultimately lead to improvement in the quality of life for our shareholders. We look forward to him not only seeing the challenges we face but also the beauty of our community and the strength and resiliency of our people.”
“The President’s goal of supporting clean energy initiatives is supportive of our renewable energy goals,” said Brad Reeve, Kotzebue Electric Association (KEA) general manager. “Our wind farm has dramatically reduced our dependence on fossil fuels and we are glad to work with the President’s initiatives to find new innovative ways to use sustainable energy resources.” “We look forward to President Obama visiting our schools and meeting our students,” said Dr. Annmarie O’Brien, superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. “Education in the Northwest Arctic Borough School District is a unique blend of western and traditional knowledge. Our district programs, supported by state-of-the-art curriculum and advanced technological resources, strive to incorporate traditional activities into all phases of the educational programs. We want him to see how we prepare students to be contributing members of a rapidly changing society while building on a strong foundation of family and a rich cultural heritage.”