The Arctic Territory: Ownership of Once Unexplored Land

The Arctic is an unique haven for archaeologists. The freezing temperatures have been a wonder allowing countless artifacts to remain pristinely intact in nearly 180,000 archaeological sites (Markham 2018). Unfortunately, rises in global temperature have begun to have a significant effect on the Arctic climate leading to what could be irreparable damage to its archaeological sites. While melting ice changing the landscape is one factor threatening Arctic archaeology, the fact that new land is now opening up present another danger. As these previously untouchable land becomes increasingly available, many countries have expressed an interest in the once unattainable natural resources of the land. This has created a conflict of interest between the desire to attempt to preserve the history of the Arctic and the interest in the valuable resources now accessible within the Arctic. However, before nations can decide what to do in the Arctic the question of who owns the Arctic must be answered first.

Similar to other previously inaccessible areas such as space, the idea of who has right to the land in the Arctic is a relatively new concept dating back about 100 years. One of the first claims to Arctic can be traced back to explorer Robert E. Peary. On his first successful trip to the North Pole, Peary left a note in a bottle declaring U.S. sovereignty over the region. Though the claim remained unrecognized by any nation including the U.S., his expedition did trigger a response from Canada who in 1925 passed a law effectively claiming sovereignty over a section of the Arctic. (Millstein 2016). Internationally, the biggest agreement so far on how much of the Arctic each nation has a right to is indirectly determined by the Convention of the Law on the Sea (UNCLOS). The UNCLOS specifies that members have exclusive rights to water-based natural resources within 200 miles of their coasts. Despite not being specifically aimed at the Arctic, the treaty has applied some precedent on ownership of Arctic waters.

Map showing the different land claims to Arctic made by nations as of 2015 (Courtesy of Durham University)

Currently, eight nations lay claim to Arctic lands: The U.S., Canada, Denmark, Russia, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Iceland. Studies revealing large amounts of natural gas and oil being hidden inside the territory have sparked an abrupt interest dubbed ‘scramble for the Arctic’ or more sensationally ‘the new Cold War’ (Bryce 2019). This title seems unfitting given the current history of territorial claims for Arctic. No country seems to have made much leeway in acquiring Arctic Territory. For example, Hans Island, an uninhabitable island in between Greenland and Canada, has been one of the few sources of ‘dispute’. In 1984, Canadian troops put a Canadian flag and some whiskey. A week later, it was replaced with a Danish flag and brandy leading to over 20 years of sporadic banter between the two countries. Though it is unclear who will have ownership of the Arctic in the future, for now the history of this territorial dispute is one lacking resolution, conflict, and major consequence.

Beer label of beer made in collaboration of a brewery from Canada and Denmark showing an air of levity in the Hans Island dispute. (Sherbrooke Liquor and Ugly Duck Brewing)

Further Reading :

Timeline of Arctic Territory Claims and Disputes –

Arctic Archaeology and the Threat it Faces from Ice Melting –

References –

Markham, Adam                                                                                                           2018 Rapid Warming is Creating a Crisis for Arctic Archaeology. Union of Concerned Scientists, June 29, 2018., accessed November 10, 2019

Millstein, Seth                                                                                                                       2016 Who owns the Arctic? And who doesn’t?. Timeline. November 28, 2016., accessed November 10, 2019

Bryce, Emma                                                                                                                       2019 Who Owns the Arctic?. Live Science, October 2019., accessed November 10, 2019

The American Basket Weaving Trade and its Effect on Basket Design

Basket weaving is one of the oldest crafts in Native American history. For the Wabanaki, basket weaving goes as far back as the very story of their creation. Historically, basket weaving served a heavily utilitarian role for Native Americans, but in recent centuries, trade has changed the cultural of baskets as well as their designs. (Neptune and Neuman, 2015)

In Northern California for example, the structure and design of a basket often denoted its function in society. Some examples of different woven baskets include seed beaters, storage baskets, cooking baskets, and hats. Seed beaters, used to knock the seeds off grasses and other plants, as well as cooking baskets generally lacked ornate patterns and designs due to their utilitarian usage. Hats and other more formal basketry on the other hand were more ceremonial and would have more ornate designs and patterns.

For Native Americans in Northern California, large baskets like this were used for cooking. Photo from

In the 18th century, woven baskets started gaining popularity as a trade item. As hunting and gathering rights began to get encroached, weavers started to make baskets for the purpose of making money to buy food instead of their original uses as tools. Towards the end of the 18th century, the basket weaving industry began to flourish leading to intricate new basket designs, structures, and forms. The designs of baskets began a transition from the utilitarian and ceremonial wares they were to the part of popular Native American culture they are now. (Shelton, 2019)

Along with the emergence of the basket weaving industry, new technologies also lead to changes in how the baskets were made changing their designs further. In the 1860s for example, aniline dyes became involved the basket weaving process for some Native American groups in Maine due to its ability to save time and labor. The introduction of these dyes allowed for more vibrant colors and lead to a more diverse color palette. Later in the 1880s, new manufacturing technologies such as wood splitters, gauges, and blocks lead to more changes in woven baskets and their designs. Blocks helped hold the basket’s shape allowing basket makers to create smaller, fancier, and more decorative baskets. In the 19th century, baskets began to be embellished with fancy handles, sweetgrass, decorative weaves, and dyed splints due to Victorian influence. (Neptune and Neuman, 2015)

Today, the basket trade is still going strong with various websites dedicated to selling these baskets. However, in Northeastern U. S. the basket trade is threatened by emerald ash borers which cause the destruction of the ash trees used to make the baskets. To learn more about the modern basket trade and basket collecting visit To learn more about a local basket maker in New York and the struggles she now faces visit

This is a Hopi sifter basket. Historically used for sifting acorn flour. The basket displayed in this picture is being sold online. Picture from seller,


References –

Antique American Indian Art
2018 Northern California Basketry Forms. Electronic document,, accessed 9/22, 2019.

Editorial Staff
2013 Exhibit Highlights Native American Basket Design. Electronic document,, accessed 9/23, 2019.

Jennifer S. Neptunea * and Lisa K. Neumanb * a Maine Indian Basketmakers Alliance, Indian Island, ME, USA b The University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
2015 Basketry of Wabanaki Indians. Encyclopaedia of the History of Science, Technology, and Medicine in Non-Western Cultures:1-10.

Shelton, Heather
2019 Clarke Museum exhibit delves into Native American basket design. Times Standard 9/1:Lifestyle.