Frenchie Thuotte: Final Project

Abstract (one paragraph):

Annotated bibliography: Briefly describe your most important secondary sources. As you read through them, update the description to create a one-paragraph review of the strengths and weaknesses of this source (from your own perspective).

Primary sources: briefly describe the primary sources you are using. For example, names of scientific journals, archival collections, popular media coverage, government contracts, interviews, etc.

Research obstacles? Briefly note any obstacles you have encountered in terms of finding sources, interpreting data, narrowing or broadening your topic, etc., or any other areas in which you would like help from your peers. We will brainstorm solutions in class and/or in comments on this page.


Abstract: Oil Exploration and Exploitation in Northern Alaska

Oil exploration and exploitation in the Alaskan North Slope had a profound impact on the Alaskan Native Population. The vast majority of Alaskan Native traditionally lived subsistence lifestyle; living off the land as a way of life. The discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay required transportation to an open sea port in Southern Alaska (Port of Valdez on Prince William Sound). In order to build the Alaskan Pipeline the United States Government laid claim to the land these Alaskan Natives used to sustain this their way of life. With passage of the Alaskan Native Lands Claims Settlement Act of 1971, the Federal Government settled numerous litigations launched by the Alaskan Natives. In return for giving up their Aboriginal Land Rights, the Alaskan Natives were awarded relatively small parcels of land and a cash settlement. The U.S. Government mandated that the various groups of Alaskan Native establish corporation to manage these assets. This legislation profoundly changed the way of life of the Alaskan Native from living a subsistence lifestyle to transitioning to a corporate way of life.

This paper examines the exploration and exploitation of oil in Prudhoe Bay Alaska. Specific areas of research include innovations required to discover this oil reservoir some 9,000 feet below the frozen tundra of the Alaskan Northern Slope, the cultural and sociological roadblocks that had to be overcome to allow the exploitation of this National Asset. Specific areas include the resolution of the Alaskan Lands Claims and Environmental concerns at the time.


Primary Sources include newspaper and journal articles from the period of exploration as well as a variety of Alaskan Native sites supporting the environment preservation of the Alaskan Lands.


Secondary Sources and annotated Bibliography (not complete nor comprehensive):

Beier, C.M., 2007. Regional Climate, Federal Land Management, and The Social-Ecological Resilience of Southeastern Alaska. Dissertation for Ph.D. from University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Alaska

This dissertation provides an in-depth look at complex interactions and socio-economic drivers in the development of Southeastern portion of Alaska. Through a series of case studies, the author provides an analytical synopses of the drivers, dynamics and outcomes surrounding the Federal land management in an attempt to understand the regions resilience to change.

Burden, P., Hartley, M.L., Mathiss, C., Cuyno, L., Mundy, N., Schug, D., Fisher, M., Kerr, C., Steele, D., McCoy, T., Lernke, k., Baxter, K., Frerichs, B., and Hodges, H., 1996. North Slope Economy, 1965 to 2005. Anchorage, Alaska: Northern Economics Inc in commission and approved by the U.S. Minerals Management Service.

This Minerals Management Service Study provides a socioeconomic analysis used in the development of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. This study explores the structural changes resulting in significant economic, institutional, and social impacts on the region. Areas specifically analyzed include changes in the employment and economic activities; the role of the (local, state, federal and tribal) government, For-Profit Alaskan Native Corporations, and individual and household economic impact and responses as a result of the discovery and development of oil in Prudhoe Bay and the subsequent Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act.

Colt, S., 1999. Group-based Asset Transfers and Economic Development: Some Results from Alaska’s Native Corporations. Dissertation for Ph.D. in Economics from Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Boston, Massachusetts: MIT Press

This dissertation examines the results of the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 as it pertains to the economic ramifications of converting of the Alaskan Native populations from a subsistence lifestyle to a corporate structure to protect the assets provided by the Settlement Act. Basis of the dissertation is the initial loss of roughly 80% of the initial cash settlement by the 12 largest corporations established by the Act in the two decades following its enactment.

Ervin, A.M., 1976. The Emergence of Native Alaskan Political Capacity, 1959-1971. Saskatchewan, Canada: Musk Ox Journal, 19, 1976

This Journal Article examines the development of the increased political capability of the Alaskan Natives between 1959 and 1971, which provided a basis for the Alaskan Natives abilities to ensure that they received fair treatment under the legislation enacted to allow the exploitation of the Alaskan oil reservoirs. Ervin discusses the transition of the Alaskan Natives from subsistence to a modern economic lifestyle.

Gaffney, M, 1976. Economic and Educational Development in Rural Alaska: A Human Resources Approach. St. Louis, Missouri: Society fir Applied Anthropology

This Journal article looks specifically at the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act and how its implementation may, from a 1976 perspective, be able to allow the transition from subsistence to a monetary lifestyle while maintaining a traditional culture of the affected Alaskan Native impacted by this Act.

Gill D.A. and Picou, J.S., 1997. The Day the Water Died, Cultural Impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill from The Exxon Valdez Disaster: Readings on a Modern Social Problem, pp.167-187. Dubuque, Iowa: Kendall-Hunt Publishing Company

This Journal Article provides an in-depth look at the Alaskan Native subsistence lifestyle showing the cultural implications associated with type of lifestyle from a holistic perspective. After a comprehensive look at the subsistence lifestyle and its implications, the article examines the implications of the Exxon Valdez oil spill on these Alaskan Natives tradition way of life.

Hunt D and King M., 2006. Situation Assessment and Recommendations for Government-to-Government Consultations between Interior Alaska Tribes and the U.S. Department of Defense on Military Impacts in Interior Alaska. Anchorage, Alaska: The U.S. Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution

This Department of Defense study examines the unique Government to Government relationship between the United States Federal Government and the Alaskan Native Tribes that provides the basis for special consideration provided to the Alaskan Natives when dealing with the Federal Government. Specific emphasis is focused on management of the Alaskan Lands in the interior of the State in respect to the environmental and natural resource issues.

Smelcer, J.E. and Young, M.A., 2007. We Are The Land, We Are The Sea: Stories of Subsistence from the People of Chenega, Alaska. Anchorage, Alaska: Chenega Heritage, Inc.

This book provides a compendium of first person vignettes from the people of Chenega, Alaska describing the experience and meaning of living a subsistence lifestyle. Provides personal experience of subsistence way of life, how it is done, what it means beyond merely putting food on the table, what it means to have lost this way of life.

Sweet, John M, 2008. Discovery at Prudhoe Bay Oil – Mountain Men and Seismic Vision Drilled Black Gold. Blain, Washington, Hancock House Publishing

This book provides a first person perspective of the exploration and exploitation of oil in Prudhoe Bay Alaska, by an author who was geologist with the company that made the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay. This full length book provides the background, dating back to the beginning of the twentieth century up through the discovery of oil in Prudhoe Bay, to exploiting this oil through the development of the Alaskan pipeline.


Research Obstacles – the biggest obstacle has been finding specific reference material on the actual discovery and exploitation process of oil in the frozen tundra such as Northern Alaska. Any suggestions are welcome. ;-))


Science In Context - Oil Exploration and Exploitation in Alaska

The exploitation of crude oil in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska had a profound impact on the cultural lifestyle of Alaskan Natives. Traditionally, Alaskan Natives live a subsistence lifestyle where they hunted, fished and gathered as an integral part of their culture. Subsistence, however, meant much more than the simple gathering of food, but rather is a shared experience that provided the opportunity for the community to come together to share a common experience; for elders to teach a cultural heritage; to pass along family and community traditions and folklore.

Discovering and exploiting oil under two miles of permafrost finds its roots long before the actually discovery at Prudhoe Bay in 1967. The Alaskan Gold Rush of the late 19th Century brought with it a need for increasing numbers of geologists in order to be able to find the most promising areas for exploitation of gold. As the geologists traversed the countryside conducting geological survey, stories of oil seepage started to emerge from the Alaskan Native.

In the vast underground oil discovery is typically associated with the presence of water buried deep beneath the earth surface. Since oil has a lighter specific gravity then water, the water tends to push the oil through the minor imperfection in the underground rock formation causing the oil to seep to the surface. The presence of natural gas increases this propensity for oil to seep to the surface.

The interactions between the Alaskan Native who traversed the far-reaches of the Alaskan wastelands and the geologists searching for gold told stories of oil seepage in the Northern reaches of Alaskan. From the early 1900, geologists and explorers started studying the geology of northern Alaska for possibilities of exploitable oil reserves. At the end of WWII the U.S. Navy started drilling test holes and did indeed find some oil, but none commercially valuable. During the 1960 commercial companies joined in the search and by 1966, some 25 million dollars had been expended, producing fourteen dry exploratory well in attempts to find the elusive quest.

Throughout this exploration, conflicts erupted when Alaskan Natives started experiencing ever restricted access to this subsistence lifestyle, due to ever increasing expansion into their frozen frontier. In one case, the arrest of two Eskimos for shooting ducks out of season resulted in 138 Barrow Eskimos protesting, each with a duck demanding to be arrested.

Civil unrest and Natives’ demands and claim of "aboriginal possession" (land ownership) based on use and occupancy, led to the Land Freeze of 1966 instituted by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, which effectively halted all lands transfers in the State of Alaska.

Finally, on March 12th, 1968, the Atlantic Richfield Company (ARCO) hit pay dirt in Prudhoe Bay, Alaska and found the one of the largest oil reserves in the world some two miles below the Alaskan permafrost. However, in order to exploit this discovery, the oil had to be transported from the Northern Slope of Alaska in Prudhoe Bay to an open sea port in Southern Alaska at Valdez.

While little progress was made until the discovery of oil reserves in Prudhoe Bay, on the Northern Slope, exploitation of this reserve required resolution of land ownership to allow construction of the Alaskan Pipeline to transport of these reserves the entire length of the State from Prudhoe Bay to the Port of Valdez.

Given the stakes at hand and the vast amount of natural resources apparently available in Prudhoe Bay, the United States Congress stepped in to find a resolution, which resulted in passage of the Alaskan Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971.

ANCSA of 1971 provided 44 million acres of land and $952.5M cash to 13 Regional Tribal Corporations and 200 Village Corporations and resolved most of the outstanding land ownership claims. However, this Act provided the impetus for a move further away from the traditional subsistence lifestyle as the dependence on a capital economy and corporate management of these assets continued to transform the Native lifestyle.


Added Final Project Paper to files section

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