Seva Foundation A Solution in Sight.

Ilinniagvik Attautchikun "learning together"
Northwest Arctic Healthy Traditional Foods Project

Seva’s grant and technical assistance will strengthen the ability of 11 coastal Inupiaq villages to re-build traditional trading ties as a means to improve community health outcomes.

In the impacted Arctic villages of Ambler, Shungnak, Kobuk, Kiana, Noorvik and Selawik, between 14.3 and 34.4% of people live under the poverty line, and they have seen the cost of living quadruple in recent years.

These factors, along with the remote location, make much fresh and healthful food very cost-prohibitive.

Many people that rely on canned foods ingest highly salted, sweetened, processed goods that worsen health conditions. Only in recent times has the diabetes epidemic has taken hold, now affecting half of adults over 40, and cancer is the number one killer in the region.

Margaret Schaeffer founded Ilinniagvik Attautchikun (Learning Together) to revive the Inupiaq custom of harvesting food, clothing and heating oil from marine and land mammals and fish among native villages ancestrally linked by trading ties.

At Camp Qalhaq people from eleven fresh and salt water villages join as one family to practice traditional techniques of hunting, processing and preserving foods; elders teach younger ones how to extract oil from Ugruk seals for heating and cooking, which is distributed to elders. Villagers bring their own local harvests to trade with others at Qalhaq. Vitamin and iron-rich seal, walrus, caribou, bow-head whale, beluga and fish, as well as native berries and roots, again nourish the community as they did its ancestors. Omega 3 rich-wild salmon is dried on rafters in the traditional way. Even the youngest children are taught to sew the seal hides tanned at the camp.

Ilinniagvik Attautchikun Corp. strives to reinforce Inupiaq culture through rebuilding age-old trading relationships between villages, improving health with traditional foods, and preserving language, crafts and techniques for thriving in the Arctic by supplementing the community’s diet with traditional foods, IA is working to reverse negative health trends, reducing the number of those suffering from hunger and pointing a way toward self-sufficiency through ancestral Inupiaq knowledge.

Together with the Seva Foundation, IA will continue to develop Camp Qalhaq. This will enable more people to visit the camp and enjoy cultural heritage classes, including language, values and Arctic survival skills taught by local elders and the community members. Research on conducting a regional cold storage unit for food staple preservation will begin this summer.

Profile prepared by Daniel Rodriguez, Seva Foundation Program Intern

“With SEVA helping out we can do way more…We’re not alone now. Taikuu (Thank you)!”

Margaret Schaeffer
Ilinniagvik Attautchikun




Ilinniagvik Attautchikun makes the News

Read this great article from The Arctic Sounder
Support this work with a Gift of Service
Traditional foods are an important part of Seva's Native American Community Heath program.  You can support these projects with a Gift of Service!

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