Deering, Kotzebue Sound

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Deering, Kotzebue Sound

by | Feb 13, 2021

Deering is a small community on the Seward Peninsula at the mouth of the lnmachuk River on Kotzebue Sound, about 155 miles (250 km) east-northeast of Point Hope and 57 miles (92 km) south of Kotzebue, Alaska. The village was established in 1901 as a supply station for interior gold mining, particularly the gold mining community of Utica located 20 miles (32 km) upstream on the Inmachuk River. In 1903, Anna Ruhl’s Road House provided food and lodging for miners. Deering was probably named for the Abbie M. Deering, a schooner of 90 feet (27 m) that provided transportation for gold seekers in western Alaska. 

Today, Deering is a predominantly Iñupiat community within historical Pittagmiut territory. The economy is a mix of cash and subsistence activities, with active reindeer herding in the recent past. Regionally, it is part of the Northwest Arctic Borough, NANA Regional Corporation, and Maniilaq Regional Health Corporation. The village is built on a gravel and sand spit that has been aggrading for over 2000 years. The spit is about 1.2 miles (2 km) long with a maximum height of 14 feet (4.3 m) above sea level and is formed by a combination of eastward longshore sediment transport derived from bluff erosion and replenished periodically by storm surges. The spit forms a barrier that tends to impound sediments from the northward flowing Inmachuk River and a tributary called Smith Creek.

In addition to the historical gold rush era settlement, the modern village of Deering is situated atop one of the most significant archaeological sites in the western Arctic. Archaeological research carried out since 1949 has identified at least three prehistorical cultures present along the spit and on the adjacent headland at Cape Deceit including Ipiutak, Western Thule, and historical Iñupiat Eskimo. Beginning around 2,000 years ago, the archaeological record indicates that a new culture appeared in the Bering Strait region called the Northern Maritime tradition recognized by the extensive use of ivory, elaborate artistic engravings on hunting equipment and ritualistic objects, and their near-total reliance on marine resources for subsistence. By about 1000 AD they morphed into a group that is widely referred to as the Thule tradition who are the direct ancestors of Inuit, Iñupiat, and Yup’ik people. Read more here and here. Explore more of Deering here:

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