Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) is one of Alaska’s largest companies and is headquartered in Barrow, Alaska – the northernmost point in America. As an Alaska Native Corporation, UIC provides social and economic resources to over 2,900 Iñupiat shareholders and their descendants.
UIC’s core business practice commitments are Safety, Quality, Business Ethics, and Shareholder Development and Value.
Alaskan Native Roots
Like the Native Americans of the 48 contiguous states, Alaska Natives were granted claims to ancestral lands but had no citizenship rights. When Alaskan statehood was granted in 1959, the Federal government claimed most of the land. In response, Native Alaskans began to dispute government claims, making “who owns Alaska” a national issue—particularly after oil was discovered on the North Slope of the Brooks Range. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) was signed into law on December 18, 1971. ANCSA’s intent was to settle all aboriginal land claims by Alaska’s indigenous peoples. Under ANCSA, Alaska’s aboriginal land was divided into 13 regional corporations. Within the regional corporations, individual villages were given the right to establish “village corporations.” In the Arctic Slope region, eight village corporations were established.
Our Parent Company: Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation
During the development of ANCSA, our leaders were creative and resourceful, 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 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 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.
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 Observatory. 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.
Today we are proud to enrich the lives of our people in many ways. With the wisdom, energy, and ideas of everyone who has contributed to UIC over the last 45 years, we have blossomed into a strong, stable, corporation with nearly 3,000 employees, offices in Barrow, Anchorage and across the country, and virtually limitless opportunities for shareholders and their descendants.