Barrow (Iñupiaq Utqiaġvik or Ukpiaġvik ) is the largest city of the North Slope Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska and is located above the Arctic Circle. It is the 11th northernmost public community in the world and is the northernmost city in the United States of America, with nearby Point Barrow being the nation's northernmost point.
In the Iñupiaq language, the location of Barrow is called Ukpeagvik, which means "the place where we hunt Snowy Owls".
Archaeological sites in the area indicate the Iñupiat lived around Barrow as far back as AD 500. Remains of 16 sod dwelling mounds from the Birnirk culture of about AD 800 still exist today on the shore of the Arctic Ocean. Their position on a slight rise above the high-water mark places them in danger of being lost to erosion within a short time.
Dr. Bill Streever, who chairs the North Slope Science Initiative's Science Technical Advisory Panel, writes in his 2009 book Cold: Adventures in the World’s Frozen Places:
British Royal Navy officers came to the area to explore and map the Arctic coastline of North America. The United States Army established a meteorological and magnetic research station at Barrow in 1881. The Cape Smythe Whaling and Trading Station was established in 1893.
In 1935, the famous humorist Will Rogers and pilot Wiley Post made an unplanned stop at Walakpa Bay south of Barrow while en route to Barrow. As they took off again, their plane stalled and plunged into a river, killing them both. Two memorials have been erected at the location, now called the Rogers-Post Site. Another memorial is located in Barrow, where the airport has been renamed the Wiley Post–Will Rogers Memorial Airport.
The indigenous people are primarily Iñupiat. In 1940, they organized as the Native Village of Barrow Iñupiat Traditional Government (previously, Native Village of Barrow), which is a federally recognized Alaska Native Iñupiat "tribal entity", as listed by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs circa 2003. They wrote a constitution and by-laws, under the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934. An IRA corporation was also created.
Barrow was incorporated as a 1st Class City in 1958.
Residents of the North Slope were the only Native people to vote on acceptance of the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act and rejected it. The Act was passed in December 1971 and, despite their opposition, became law. The Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) is the for-profit village corporation mandated by the Act.
In 1972, the North Slope Borough was established. With millions of dollars in new revenues from the settlement and later oil revenues, the borough has created sanitation facilities, water and electrical utilities, roads, fire departments, and health and educational services in Barrow and the villages of the North Slope.
In 1986, the North Slope Borough created the North Slope Higher Education Center. Renamed Ilisagvik College, it is an accredited two-year college providing education based on the Iñupiat culture and the needs of the North Slope Borough.
The Tuzzy Consortium Library, in the Iñupiat Heritage Center, serves the communities of the North Slope Borough and functions as the academic library for Ilisagvik College. The library was named after Evelyn Tuzroyluk Higbee, an important leader in the community.
In 1988, Barrow became the center of a worldwide media attention when three California Gray Whales became trapped in the ice offshore. After a two-week rescue effort (Operation Breakthrough), two of the whales were freed by a Soviet icebreaker. Journalist Tom Rose details the rescue, and the media frenzy which accompanied it, in his 1989 book Freeing The Whales. The movie Big Miracle is based on the rescue and was released on February 3, 2012.
The city's name is derived from Point Barrow, which was named after Sir John Barrow of the British Admiralty by Frederick William Beechey in 1825. The location has been home to the Iñupiat, an indigenous Inuit ethnic group, for over 1500 years and is called Ukpeagvik, or "place where snowy owls are hunted", in the Iñupiaq language.