About Us

Lena Sours and Esther Jessup
Lena Sours and Esther Jessup


The Native Village of Kotzebue is the Federally-recognized Tribal government representing the Qikiktagrukmiut, the original inhabitants of the area of northwest Alaska surrounding modern day Kotzebue (Qikiktagruk). The Tribe, a sovereign entity, is commonly called the Kotzebue IRA due to its organization pursuant to the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act and as amended for Alaska in 1936.

Membership of the Kotzebue IRA is estimated at 2500 persons, most of who belong to the original families of Qikiktagruk, although native peoples from other Tribes are members of the Kotzebue IRA.


The main goal and driving force of the Tribe is to serve our members by providing them the maximum amount of benefit possible with the resources available. A large part of the Tribes responsibility is the administration of Federal programs and services directed at Native Americans. Besides the social and service programs such as Realty, General Assistance, Child Welfare, Enrollment, and Education, efforts are being made to expand the Tribes mission through the creation of a Tribal immersion school (Nikaitchuat Ilisagviat), development of a housing program, and creating economic projects, such as a facility to manufacture foam house panels and a game meat/fish processing business.

The Tribe is also involved with the management of the Natural Resources that sustain our members and provide the base for our culture, which includes cooperative research efforts and Environmental Protection. Legislative issues that may impact the lives of Tribal members are monitored and the Tribe advocates for policies that will result in the greatest social justice for our members. The Tribe also promotes Inupiaq celebrations and incorporates Inupiaq values whenever the opportunity presents itself (Inupiaq Ilitqusiat).


Qikiktagruk is located in northwest Alaska, 30 miles above the Arctic Circle on the Baldwin Peninsula, which is bordered on one side by a large estuarine environment called Kobuk Lake by local residents. The other side of the Peninsula, and the side that the community of Kotzebue is located on, borders the Chukchi Sea by way of Kotzebue Sound. Other major features of the area include the deltas of three large rivers, the Kobuk, Noatak, and Selawik, and the presence of mountain ranges on the mainland across from the peninsula, these being part of a larger group of mountains collectively referred to as the Brooks Range or Minumirauq and Qipaluq.

To learn more about our country use your search engine and the keywords such as: Kotzebue, Noatak National Preserve, Cape Krusenstern, Kobuk Valley National Park and Selawik Wildlife Refuge.

Because of the historical anthropological significance of a large part of the Tribes traditional territory, and due to its undeveloped nature, it was designated of national significance in the 1980 Alaska National Interest Land Claims, to become the Cape Krusenstern National Monument, Noatak National Preserve, and the Kobuk National Park. Our members continue to camp and harvest natural resources from these area's and in fact a large part of the designating legislation is dedicated to the importance of these places to local residents and their continued use and access to meet their cultural and nutritional needs.

Tribal Council

A nine member council directs the tribe while serving staggered three-year terms.

The council is elected from the membership during the tribe’s annual meeting held in early May.


Contact information for council members can be found here.

Seat A
Gia Hanna, Chairperson

2019-2022 Term

Seat B
York Mendenhall, Vice Chair

2017-2020 Term

Seat C
Wanda Baltazar, Member

2018-2021 Term

Seat D
Paula Octuck, Secretary

2018-2021 Term

Seat E
Guy Adams, Member

2017-2020 Term

Seat F
Cyrus Harris, Member

2019-2022 Term

Seat G
Thomas Baker

2020 Term

Seat H
Pearl Greist, Elder Representative

2020-2021 Term
(907) 442-7782

Seat I
Rebecca Jones, Youth Representative

2018-2021 Term

Finance Committee

All Members

Education Committee

Guy Adams
Paula Octuck
Gia Hanna
Wanda Baltazar

Enrollment Committee

Cyrus Harris
Mary Ann Wilson
Paula Octuck

Housing Committee

All Members

Social Services Committee

Guy Adams
Gia Hanna
Rebecca Jones

Transportation Committee

Christopher Collins
York Mendenhall
Rebecca Jones

Organizational Representatives
Chukchi Community College

Paula Octuck

Maniilaq Association

Guy Adams
York Mendenhall - Alternate

Northwest Inupiaq Housing Authority

Cyrus Harris

Alaska TIBC

Paula Octuck
Gia Hanna (alternate)

Inupiat Ilitqusiat

Every Inupiaq is responsible to all other Inupiat for the survival of our cultural spirit, and the values and traditions through which it survives.

Through our extended family, we retain, teach and live our Inupiaq way:

  • Respect for Elders
  • Knowledge of Language
  • Love for Children
  • Knowledge of Family Tree
  • Respect for Others
  • Responsibility to Tribe
  • Respect for Nature
  • Hunter Success
  • Domestic Skills
  • Family Roles
  • Sharing
  • Cooperation
  • Humility
  • Avoid Conflict
  • Hard Work
  • Humor
  • Spirituality
Ice fishing