For a community of 4400 or so souls, perched on the edge of the Arctic Ocean at the very “top of the world” as we like to say (or at least the top of the US), Barrow is astoundingly multi-cultural. Iñupiaq, as you might expect, and various strands of Euro-American culture, but there are also many residents who originally came from the Philippines, and other Pacific islands. Then there are members of other Native American groups who often got here by meeting a Barrow person at one of the boarding schools to which the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) used to ship students off for high school (in places like Chemawa, Oregon, or Kansas), marrying them and moving to Barrow. We not only have four Iñupiat dance groups, but also a Polynesian one. Pancit shows up at many gatherings. We have a Mexican restaurant, a Thai restaurant, a sushi bar, two Chinese restaurants (both run by Korean families) and two pizza places, plus Brower’s Cafe, which has a fairly eclectic menu including burgers and Korean food..
In recent weeks, that multicultural aspect of Barrow has meant that one could get more exposure to a variety of cultures than one would in an Anthropology 101 class. Aside from the Sweden/Denmark/Bavaria travelogue I did as part of the BASC Schoolyard Saturday, there was a presentation on Aspects of Krishna in four styles of four styles of Indian (subcontinental, not American) art given by a whale biologist from the NSB) North Slope Borough) DWM (Department of Wildlife Management), a talk on Papua New Guinea and various tribes given by a pilot for NSB SAR (Search and Rescue) who had spent two years there flying for a missionary group when he was younger, and a talk on the Netherlands, given by a Dutch social anthropology grad student who is in Barrow doing field research.
Yesterday, ConocoPhillips Alaska and Statoil were holding a public meeting in the conference room of the BARC, where my office is. The folks holding the meeting help with a few things, and came by my office. Two of the Statoil people were Norwegian, and when they introduced themselves, I automatically introduced myself using the Danish pronunciation of my name. We chatted a bit with me speaking Danish and them speaking Norwegian. One of the Barrow people at the meeting had a Norwegian grandfather (I think) and so that was fun.