Henry Huntington

Invited Speaker: Henry Huntington

Title: Resources, livelihoods, and sustainable development: Experiences in remote regions of the Arctic

Henry P. Huntington is an Arctic researcher from Eagle River, Alaska, USA. Most of his work examines human-environment interactions, especially concerning Indigenous peoples. In addition to documenting Indigenous knowledge about marine mammals, sea ice, and other topics, he has twice visited Nepal for comparative studies of high latitudes and high altitudes. Huntington has published dozens of scientific papers and other articles, and served as co-chair of a U.S. National Academy of Sciences committee on “emerging research questions in the Arctic.”


The Arctic, like high mountain areas, has Indigenous cultures and remote communities, which are experiencing rapid environmental, social, and economic change. This presentation will review the history of the North American Arctic from the early 1800s to the present. At the beginning of this period, Indigenous communities were largely practicing traditional ways of life, developed over millennia. When explorers and traders began to arrive from outside the region, much changed. New economic opportunities, such as fur trapping, provided access to new materials, tools, and ideas. Overhunting also reduced populations of some animal species, leading to hardship in hunting communities. Government agencies and missionaries opened schools and introduced further new ideas, including attempts to eradicate Indigenous languages, alter traditional economic systems, and more. Resource development shifted from exploiting fish and animal populations to the extraction of minerals and petroleum. These activities provide employment and revenue, but continue to alter patterns of employment and environmental conditions. The term “sustainable development” is commonly heard in the Arctic, as elsewhere in the world, but Arctic regions are at the far end of global supply chains. Resource extraction economies are at the mercy of global markets and prices. Government spending and policies are a major influence on Arctic economic health. As history shows, economic stability is temporary or elusive. Flexibility and adaptability are necessary. Long-term planning should account for major changes and surprises, rather than an expectation of continuity. Similarities and differences between the Arctic and high mountain areas may provide fertile ground for comparisons and sharing of experiences for mutual benefit.