Nome: A Tale of Two Towns

Updated: Jan 8, 2019

Nome provides complex layers of history that play out in day-to-day life. Pass by Old Saint Joe’s Park in the center of town and you will see life-sized statues of the “Three Lucky Swedes” standing next to the world’s largest gold pan. In the far corner of the park, with much less fanfare, stands a memorialization of Constantine Uparazuck and Gabriel Adams, the two Sitnasuak boys who gave the Swedes their luck by telling them where gold could be found.

The history of Sitnasuak, the Inupiaq name for the settlement that preceded Nome, has often been overshadowed by the story told of the famous Gold Rush at the turn of the 19th century. During the summer of 1900, it is said that 60,000 would-be miners descended on Nome’s “Golden Sands,” establishing a relative metropolis on the Bering Sea coast. Nome’s heyday as the largest settlement in Alaska was short-lived, and by 1920 the population dropped below 1000 and has since inched upward to its current level of around 3,800. Nome is once again majority Alaska Native.

For a truly local perspective, visit the Katirvik Cultural Center, located in the new Richard Foster Building. KCC is a museum and a place for revitalization of the region’s diverse Alaska Native cultures. The museum showcases some of the incredible history and culture of the region’s Inupiaq, Yupik, and Saint Lawrence Island Yupik residents.

KCC staff are proud to show off a parka made from 200 auklet pelts, traditional hunting tools, digital collections of artifacts collected across the region, and to share their own experiences of growing up among the region’s many Native communities. KCC is also a gathering place for traditional ceremonies and events, such as drumming and dance groups.