The 50-Year Arctic Career of Ernest S. Burch, Jr.: A Personal Ethnohistory, 1960–2010

Igor Krupnik, Kenneth L. Pratt and Igor Krupnik


The paper explores the scientific legacy of Ernest S. Burch, Jr., 1938–2010, one of the leading experts on the social life and ethnohistory of Alaskan indigenous people. Burch’s professional career is viewed through the lenses of five monumental projects (initiatives) that he accomplished over 50 years: the study of subsistence ecology in Kivalina, Alaska (1960–1985); reconstruction of the early 1800s Iñupiat nations in North Alaska (1969–1980); the National Geographic map, “Peoples of the Arctic, ca. 1825” (1979–1983); the multivolume series, Cultural and Natural Heritage of Northwest Alaska (1983–2003); and the history of caribou herds in Alaska (late 1990s–2010). Several projects that Burch had started but did not bring to conclusion are also discussed. Burch’s research set the highest professional standards in the discipline of arctic anthropology for over four decades, and the resulting loss of knowledge and expertise will be hard to overcome.

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