Bring yourself back to your ten-year-old mind. Little you. Look at little you and say this: “Imagine, in your mind’s eye, what a scientist looks like.” Little you will think about this, and likely picture a person in a white lab coat with goggles on. Maybe they’re wearing gloves and holding a steaming beaker. They’re likely in an indoor lab. You know, a scientist, right?

    But older you knows that scientists come in all persuasions: Some of them work in labs, sure, and others work outside. In the field. They wear boots and coveralls or mosquito nets or gaiters and crampons. They’re versatile. Diverse. Sure, we know this. But, let’s go back to our ten-year-old self again. Ask another question: “What do scientists do?”

    Hm. Older you knows part of that answer. They… test things, right? They do things. Come up with questions. Answer the questions! Collect the data, analyze the data... they science!

    True. Very true. But, do you know what else they must do?

    Paperwork. Loads of it.

    You would think that a scientist important enough to receive funding to go do science out in the world has more important things to do than paperwork. But, that’s simply not the case.

    Since being involved in my upcoming field work in Utqiagvik, I personally have had to fill out several pieces of paperwork ranging from evacuation insurance to land use access permits for the Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corporation to guest registration forms to flight information, etc. So much paperwork, and, in the words of one of the coordinators, “Layers deep of government budgets.” There is so much to a project like this beyond simply going to a place and gathering data. And no, I don’t imagine I’ll be wearing a white lab coat any time soon!

    Wait, wait, you have a question? What’s UIC, you ask? Well, dear reader, let me tell you. But, let me tell you in their own words. Straight from their website, which is to say: Straight from the horse’s mouth. (Buckle up for some history, civics, and culture, people!)

    “The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was passed in 1971 and gave Alaska Natives as a group $944 million and title to 44 million acres of land – in exchange for our claims to 340 million acres of traditional lands, including the oil-rich area of Prudhoe Bay. During the development of ANCSA, our leaders were creative and resourceful in adapting to the changing world around them, just like our ancestors had been.

    When UIC was established, Barrow was still very much a subsistence-oriented community. We knew little about business, let alone running an ANCSA-mandated, multi-million dollar corporation. Whalers became corporate executives overnight and we rose to the challenge.

    On March 30, 1973, the people of Barrow gathered to decide how to shape our village corporation. These future shareholders selected “Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation” as its name, to honor the town’s ancestral heritage.

    Lloyd Ahvakana, with his military background and a strong sense of organization, was elected chairman. Arthur Panigeo was elected president and brought energy and wisdom we needed to make things happen. Vice President Arnold Brower, Sr. helped design the corporation so it would mesh with our subsistence lifestyle. Beverly Qalu Ahgeak, well-organized and good with numbers, kept the day-to-day operations running as secretary/treasurer. Other founding board members included Roy Nageak, a smart young man who came from ASRC with new ideas, and Lewis Suvlu, who contributed his budgeting, planning, and accounting skills. James Matumeak, Warren Matumeak, and Lester Suvlu also contributed their time and talents.

    'It was a crazy time,' recalls Nageak. 'It was also exciting.'

    UIC was officially incorporated on April 19, 1973. UIC operations formally commenced on July 1st with three employees: Arthur Panigeo, president; Wesley Aiken, land chief; and Lucille Adams. The corporation’s first major venture was the 1974 purchase of Shontz Store, later to become Stuaqpak. UIC landed its first loan and built a new, larger store featuring the town’s first butcher shop and storage for fresh produce.

    Then, to take advantage of the Borough’s rising housing market, UIC established its first wholly-owned subsidiary in 1978: UIC Construction. The company thrived, started landing major contracts, and gave UIC the strength to expand into other areas.

    UIC took advantage of the North Slope development boom in many ways. We anticipated the need for Native-owned insurance services so we created Umialik Insurance Company in 1981. We saw our ship come in – literally after forming Bowhead Transportation Company and entering the barging business in 1982. We envisioned various development opportunities and created the UIC Development Company in 1996. We recognized the value of technical expertise and bought LCMF that same year.

    In 2000, UIC began to take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s '8(a)' program, which is a business development program created to help small disadvantaged businesses compete in the American economy and access the federal procurement market. UIC’s core business practice commitments continue to be Safety, Quality, Business Ethics, and Shareholder Development and Value.

    Over the years, as our family of companies grew, so did our commitment to our people. UIC was one of the first Native corporations to adopt a Shareholder Homesite Program. Young married couples had priority for the first distribution in 1982, followed by several other distributions totaling some 2,200 lots.

    In 1992, UIC set aside 7,400 acres of private land for scientific research, creating the Barrow Environmental ObservatoryA location used for observing terrestrial and/or celestial events.. Every year, researchers come from a variety of universities to study the Arctic. We believe that by supporting western science we ultimately support the Iñupiat way of life.

    Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) is headquartered in Utqiaġvik, Alaska and provides social and economic resources for over 2,900 Iñupiat shareholders. We are proud to enrich the lives of our people in many ways.

    With the wisdom, energy, ideas, and guidance of the men and women who have served as UIC Board of Directors over the last 49 years, we continue to be a strong and stable Alaskan Native Corporation.”

    And there you have it. A history lesson on UIC. And, the knowledge that scientists do, in fact, have to do paperwork.

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