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By Joseph Knowles

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Today there are about 98,000 Alaska Natives—27,000 of whom live in the cities of Anchorage and Fairbanks— out of a total state population of 627,000 people of all races. Consequently, Alaska Natives must learn to walk in two worlds. The North Slope’s Iñupiat, who hunt the bowhead whale from open boats as their forefathers did, must also know how Main Street in Hyder. 29 ALASKA IN DEPTH A aska Today 2 to negotiate for their take in international diplomatic meetings. And they have to use the levers of government to protect the whale’s environment from potential damage by the oil industry.

Bering Glacier started to float on a cushion of water, and Yanert Glacier slid on a cushion of mud. But most of the time, the advance or retreat is measured in inches or feet a year. It took some time to figure out how glaciers work. The living glaciers of Alaska, like living fossils from the last ice age, helped show the way. In the 1830s, scientists in Switzerland found huge rocks (now called glacial erratics) that appeared to have moved miles from where they had once been a part of similar bedrock.

On the Arctic Coast, the sea eroded ground near Barrow that contained ancient ancestors of the Eskimos who still inhabit the same neighborhood. In 1982, a family was found that apparently had been crushed by sea ice up to 500 years ago. Two of the bodies were well preserved, sitting in the home they had occupied and wearing the clothes they had worn the day of the disaster, perhaps around the time Columbus was sailing to America. Sea ice is the frozen ocean that extends from northern Alaska to the other side of the world.

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