Contemporary Influences and Clothing

Clothing in all Arctic groups was influenced by contact with Europeans and other indigenous groups. The introduction of manufactured materials such as fabric, thread, and beads, and new tools such as metal needles and sewing machines affected indigenous clothing, inspiring creative syntheses of traditional and introduced materials and techniques. Another influence was the social pressure to conform to the standards of colonizing newcomers. Contact with Europeans and others who formed the national governments of Arctic countries marginalized indigenous groups. Pressured to conform to so-called civilized standards of dress, language, and religion, many native peoples adopted commercially produced clothing, retaining traditional garments only for special occasions or for winter hunting or herding activities. More recently, however, native peoples have begun to renegotiate the conditions of imposed assimilation and are reclaiming their rights to their indigenous identities. Changes in the social and political environment in the circumpolar north have empowered indigenous groups, fostering a climate favorable to claims of ethnic identity and self-determination. Traditional clothing, worn in political as well as social settings, has become an important statement of indigenous rights and political power.

Cyd Martin

See also Chukchi; Dolgan; Enets; Evenki; Evens; Inupiat; Inuvialuit; Khanty; Mansi; Nenets; Nganasan; Saami; Shamanism; Siberian (Chukotkan) Yupik; Yakuts; Yukagir

Further Reading

Chaussonnet, Valerie, "Needles and Animals: Women's Magic." In Crossroads of Continents, edited by William Fitzhugh & Aron Crowell, Washington: Smithsonian, 1988 Gjessing, Gjertrud, Lappedrakten: en skisse av dens opphav,

Oslo: Aschehoug, 1940 Hall, Judy, J. Oakes & S. Qimmiu'naaq Webster, Sanatujut. Pride in Women's Work, Hull, Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1994 Hatt, Gudmund, "Arctic skin clothing in Eurasia and America: an ethnographic study." Arctic Anthropology, V(2) (1969): 3-132 Issenman, Betty, Sinews of Survival, Vancouver: University of

British Columbia Press, 1997 Jannok Porsbo, Susanna, Samedrakter I Sverige, Jokknokk:

Ajtte (Skrifter frân Ajtte), 1999 Jenness, Diamond, Material Culture of the Copper Eskimo, Volume XVI, Report of the Canadian Arctic Expedition 1913-18, Ottawa: Edmond Cloutier, 1946 Levin, M. & L. Potapov, The Peoples of Siberia, edited and translated by S. Dunn, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956

Murdoch, John, Ethnological Results of the Point Barrow

Expedition, Washington: Smithsonian, 1988 Nelson, Edward, The Eskimo About Bering Strait Washington:

Smithsonian, 1983 Oakes, Jill & Rick Riewe, Spirit of Siberia, Washington,

District of Columbia: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1998 Rinno, Soile, Lansi-Enontekion saamelaisvaeston puvuissa ja niiden kaytossa tapahunerta muutoksia vuosina 1939-1969, Rovaniemi: Lapin maakuntamuseo, 1987 Simpson, John, "Observations on the Western Esquimaux and the country they inhabit; from notes taken during two years at Point Barrow, by Mr. John Simpson, Surgeon, R.N., Her Majesty's Discovery Shop 'Plover.'" In The Journal of Rochfort Maguire 1852-1854, edited by John Bockstoce, London: Hakluyt Society, 1988 Stefansson, Vilhjalmur, The Stefans son-Anderson Arctic Expedition of the American Museum: Preliminary Ethnological Report, New York: American Museum of Natural History, 1914 Volkov, N.N., The Russian Sami: Historical-Ethnographic Essays, St Petersburg: Russian Academy of Sciences, 1996


Coal is a nonrenewable fossil fuel, accounting for over 90% of the world's fossil fuel reserves by energy content (natural gas, 5%, and oil, 4%, make up the remainder). Coal is widely distributed around the globe, having formed from decaying plant matter in ancient forests and swamps. This decayed plant material formed peat bogs that were in turn buried by sediment. As this overburden of sediment accumulated, it exerted both heat and pressure on the peat and transformed it into coal. More than 4.6 billion tons of coal are mined around the world each year. These mining operations can be in the form of removing overburden to get at the coal seams (strip mining), working sideways into seams (drift or gallery mining), and sinking entries deep underground to obtain coal (shaft mining).

Being formed from various types of plant matter and subject to varying amounts of time, pressure, and heat, coal can differ widely in its contents and quality. Coal is "ranked" according to the degree to which the original plant matter has been transformed into carbon. Anthracite is the hardest and most completely transformed into carbon, and as such is high in heating value and low in oxygen and hydrogen. Bituminous coal, ranked just below anthracite, can be metallurgical—used to make coke for the steel industry, or thermal-used to generate electricity. Subbituminous coal is softer and heavier than bituminous, with a higher water content, while lignite, the lowest-ranked coal, is softest and holds the lowest heating value.

Coal deposits in the Arctic have been known since at least the 1600s, being observed by expeditions of the English whaler Jonas Poole to Svalbard as early as 1610. Coal was discovered and used by Captain Nathaniel Portlock at Port Graham on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula in 1786. Modest coal deposits are known to exist in Canada's Yukon and Nunavut territories, but their remoteness has left them largely unexplored and undeveloped. Coal deposits along Russia's vast northern coastline were not explored and exploited until well into the Soviet era. Coal mining began at Qullissat on Disko Island in Greenland in 1924. Throughout the North, short shipping seasons combined with logistical and labor difficulties involved in the construction and operation of mining operations have acted to constrain the history of coal mine development.

In Alaska, the Russian American Company exported subbituminous coal from Port Graham to California from 1855 to 1865, and ships of the US Revenue Cutter Service refueled later in the 19th century using Arctic coal beds at Cape Sabine. From 1890 to 1910, mines along the Yukon and other Alaska rivers supplied fuel for river traffic, until coal was supplanted by oil. US mining laws were extended to the Alaska Territory in 1900, and a separate Alaska Coal Act passed in 1904 allowed for claims to be made without prior government land surveys. This led to several cases of fraudulent claims and a government scandal, and caused President Theodore Roosevelt to remove all Alaska public lands from potential coal claims. Initiation of construction of the Alaska Railroad in 1914 revived coal mining in the region, and production of both bituminous and subbituminous coal increased to 174,000 tons per year by World War II.

Intensive geological study of coal-bearing deposits in Svalbard was undertaken in the Kings Bay region by Swedish chemist and geologist Christian Wilhelm Blomstrand as a member of the Swedish Spitsbergen expedition of 1861. Coal was discovered further south, in the Isfjord region at Bohemanneset in 1862, and 1000 tons were brought to Norway in 1899 by the Troms0 sealing skipper S0ren Zachariassen. After the turn of the 20th century, the development of Arctic coal mines provided the basis for settlement of previously uninhabited Svalbard. The English Coal and Trading Company operated an unprofitable mining camp at Hiorthhamn on the east side of Advent Fjord in the early 1900s. A Swedish expedition under Bertil Hogbom claimed the area around the Pyramiden mountain in 1910, a claim bought by the Svenska Stenkolsaktiebolaget Spetsbergen in 1921 and sold in turn to the Anglo-Russian Grumant Company in 1926.

The first significant capital investment in Svalbard coal was undertaken on the western shore of Advent Fjord by the Boston-based Arctic Coal Company owned by Frederick Ayer and John Munro Longyear. This company founded Longyear City (Longyearbyen), now the seat of government in the archipelago. The Arctic Coal Company operated its mine adjacent to Advent Valley, known as the American Mine or Mine No. 1, from 1905 to 1916, when it was sold to the Store Norske Spitsbergen Kulcompagni Aktieselskab (Great Norwegian Spitsbergen Coal Company). Russian interest in Svalbard coal is manifest at three major works in the Isfjord area: Grumantby, Barentsburg, and Pyramiden. A Russian expedition in 1912 under W.A. Rusanov made a claim to the coal-bearing area around Coles Bay—a claim hotly contested at the time by Longyear—and a mining operation commenced there at a place the Russians called Grumant (the Russian name for Spitsbergen) in 1919.

Higher prices caused by World War I shortages intensified the investments already made in Svalbard coal. After sovereignty over Svalbard was conferred upon Norway by the Treaty of Svalbard (February 9, 1920), and Norway took formal possession of the islands (August 14, 1925), the regulation of mining activities and worker protection fell to the Norwegian Commissioner of Mines.

Workings by the Svenska Stenkolsaktiebolaget Spetsbergen were undertaken at Braganza Bay from 1917 to 1925. The Swedish claim was eventually sold to Store Norske (1934), which sought to restart the mines prior to World War II. Competing claims to the coal seams around Green Harbor were eventually bought from the Arctic Coal Company and others by Store Norske (1916) and from the Dutch Nederlandsche Spitsbergen Compagnie by the Russian State mining company Arktikugol (1932). Arktikugol began operations at Barentsburg in 1932, and extended these workings throughout the decade first to Grumant and then to Pyramiden at the head of Billefjorden, both tracts having been purchased from the Anglo-Russian Grumant Company in 1931.

Mining operations in the Arctic and Subarctic have historically been extremely arduous, leading to both predictable and unique labor and management situations. Some of the difficulties faced by the miners themselves are evident from a 1941 US Government report on Svalbard: "Entrance to the Longyearby mines is by cable railway running up the sharply sloping side of the hills to a height of about 800 feet. Horizontal galleries, or 'adits,' lead through the outcropping seams; their entries are wide enough to contain certain offices and mine-railway machinery. When the miner extracts coal from the seams he must lie face down for hours. The average seam thickness is twenty-four to forty inches... The temperature of the earth immediately surrounding the coal seams is well below freezing—the range is between 4° and 10°F, a satisfactory working temperature for the miners; it also precludes the formation of water and eliminates pumping; likewise at this temperature a minimum of shoring is required. Trouble with dust explosions, however, may develop, the common method of preventing such accidents is to dampen the atmosphere, but there are physical difficulties in sufficiently dampening air that is 20° below freezing, with the result that the moisture of the air condenses out and settles as rime" (Capelotti, 2000: 50). In many cases, the dark, cold, and cramped physical constrictions had psychological manifestations. There are ample reports of alcoholism, depression, insanity, and suicide among coal miners in these extreme environments.

The laissez-faire attitude that prevailed toward the owners of capital in the late 19th and early 20th century also led to repeated confrontations between miners and management. Newspaper reports of alleged maltreatment of Norwegian miners by the American owners of the Arctic Coal Company helped to pressure the Americans to sell the mines to Norwegian interests in 1916. John Longyear, who in 1911 proposed that the Svalbard Archipelago be chartered as an independent international corporation, tended to blame the agitation on Scandinavian socialism and government reluctance to take action against it (see Dole, 1992, Volume ii, pp. 229, 266-267). On at least two occasions, Longyear contemplated importing miners from China, both to deflect strikes and because he could pay Chinese miners less than half the daily wage of Scandinavian miners. A trade union for Greenland miners was formed in 1947. Its descendant is today called Sulinermik Inuussutissarsiuteqartut Kattuffiat (SIK), meaning the "Organization of People who Live by Wage Earning."

In the Soviet Union, the work of mining coal in both Svalbard and along the vast northern coastal areas of Russia itself was, in the mid-1930s, brought under the control of a giant bureaucracy known as Chief Office for the Northern Sea Route (GUSMP or Glavsevmorput). Into this huge organization, as well as its counterparts, the Main Administration for Construction in the Far North (Dal'stroi) and the Main Administration of Corrective Labor Camps (GULAG), went thousands of convict and forced laborers who worked coal deposits on Novaya Zemlya as well as Taymyr, Vorkuta, Pechora, Vaigach, and elsewhere.

After the occupation of Norway in 1940, a raiding party was sent to Svalbard in the summer of 1941 to evacuate the populations of both Norwegian and Russian coal miners and to deny the Germans use of the mines. The combined British-Norwegian-Canadian expedition to put the mines out of commission was accomplished only after a demolition team disabling the mining machinery at Barentsburg accidentally set fire to a wooden building. The fire soon became a conflagration and burned most of the town and set fire to the coal dumps. In September 1943, the Germans sent the battleships Tirpitz and Scharnhorst to Svalbard to destroy both Barentsburg and Longyearbyen, the final time the German Navy initiated surface action in the war. Arrayed against insignificant Allied opposition, the battleships and their destroyer escorts quickly leveled both mining settlements—setting a coal mine fire in Longyearbyen that burned into the 1960s—and left the Arctic.

The mining operation at Kings Bay in Svalbard, called the Kings Bay Kullkompagnie, was taken over by the Government of Norway in 1929, and then closed in 1963 after a series of fatal accidents. The disasters at Kings Bay were felt as far away as Oslo, with the result that worker protection issues were removed from the portfolio of the Commissioner of Mines and placed under the jurisdiction of a special Commissioner of Labour Inspection for Svalbard. The Kings Bay area has since developed into a major international polar research village. Production in the Store Norsk mines in and around Advent Valley, taken over by the Norwegian State in 1976, has gradually slowed. Longyearbyen itself has in recent years taken on the character of a postmining tourism and research area, while mining activity has shifted in large part to Sveagruva at Braganza Bay.

Post-Soviet-era coal mining in the Russian North has been characterized by almost insuperable management difficulties, leading to repeated strikes, such as the one at the Vorkuta mine in 1997 when 1200 miners struck over the issue of months of unpaid back wages. On Svalbard, the mining town of Pyramiden was closed in 1998, with considerable amounts of the constructions there being sold off as scrap. Approximately 900 Russian and Ukrainian miners continue to export some 300,000 tons annually from the Barentsburg mines, but schools and day-care centers were closed in 1994. Tourism—currently extremely limited—and a modest geophysical institute form the basis for a possible postmining existence.

Postwar production in Alaska, supplying a growing military presence, reached 925,000 tons in the 1960s. The switch to gas power at these bases left the Usibelli strip mine at Healy as the last active mine in Alaska, producing some 800,000 tons of subbituminous coal. Much further north, the great logistical difficulties, combined with park designations and environmental concerns, will likely stifle any attempt to exploit the vast bituminous and subbituminous coal regions of Alaska's North Slope.

P.J. Capelotti

See also Glavsevmorput (Chief Office for the Northern Sea Route); Mining; Svalbard Treaty

Further Reading

Alaska Geographic, Alaska's Oil, Gas and Minerals Industry,

Volume 9, No. 4, Anchorage: Alaska Geographic, 1982 Capelotti, P.J. (editor), The Svalbard Archipelago: American Military and Political Geographies of Spitsbergen and Other Norwegian Polar Territories, 1941-1950, Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, 2000 Dole, Nathan Haskell, America in Spitsbergen: The Romance of an Arctic Coal-Mine, two volumes, Boston: Marshall Jones Company, 1922

Hoel, Adolf, Svalbard: Svalbards historie 1596-1965, three volumes, Oslo: Sverre Kildahls Boktrykkeri, 1967 McCannon, John, Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932-1939, New York: Oxford University Press, 1998 Nordenskjold, Otto & Ludwig Mecking, The Geography of the Polar Regions, New York: American Geographical Society, 1928

Norsk Polarinstitutt, The Place Names of Svalbard, Oslo: Norsk

Polarinstitutt (Skrifter Nr. 80 and 112; Ny-Trykk), 1991 0streng, Willy, Politics in High Latitudes: The Svalbard Archipelago, London: C. Hurst and Company, 1977

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