The United States

Quick Facts

Arctic Territory
All United States territory north and west of the boundary formed by the Porcupine, Yukon, and Kuskokwim Rivers; all contiguous seas, including the Arctic Ocean and the Beaufort, Bering and Chukchi Seas; and the Aleutian chain.

Arctic Population
Approximately 50,000

Arctic Indigenous Peoples
Aleut, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, Iñupiaq (Northwest Alaskan Inuit), Athabaskan, Tlingit and Haida

The United States and the Arctic Region

The United States became an Arctic nation upon the purchase of Alaska in 1867. Regions above the Arctic Circle include the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough and the Nome Census area. Alaska is the largest and the least densely populated state in the United States. The state has approximately 737,400 inhabitants, over half of whom reside in the two major cities Anchorage and Fairbanks.

Petroleum production and mining have been major industries in Alaska. Other prominent industries include fishing and tourism, which are of rising importance and demand. Nearly two million people travel to Alaska each year to visit its vast glaciers, mountains and wildlife.

The United States has varied interests in the Arctic, including national and homeland security, environmental protection, sustainable development, promoting cooperation and collaboration with the other Arctic nations, involving Indigenous peoples in decisions that affect them and supporting and promoting scientific research across the region. The country’s goal is a secure and stable region free of conflict where its interests are safeguarded, its homeland is protected and Arctic States work cooperatively to address shared challenges. The United States Arctic policy was most recently updated in May of 2013 and supports the 2009 National Security Presidential Directive-66 / Homeland Security Presidential Directive-25.

Indigenous Peoples

Indigenous Peoples in Alaska include the Aleut, Alutiiq, Yup’ik, Iñupiaq (Northwest Alaskan Inuit), Athabaskan, Tlingit and Haida. Of these peoples, the Yup’ik, Athabaskans and Iñupiaq live above the Arctic Circle and rely heavily on subsistence hunting and fishing. Approximately 18 percent of the Alaskan population are Indigenous.

The United States in the Arctic Council

The United States held the country’s first Arctic Council chairmanship from 1998-2000, and again from 2015-2017. Throughout its first chairmanship, the United States’ priorities included:

  • Human health, including telemedicine and disease surveillance
  • The effects of climate change in the Arctic
  • Sustainable Arctic tourism development

Throughout its most recent chairmanship, the United States’ priorities included:

  • Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship, including search and rescue cooperation, oil pollution preparedness and response, maritime protection, maritime shipping and ocean acidification monitoring
  • Addressing the impacts of climate change
  • Improving economic and living conditions in the Arctic, including pursuing innovative technologies, advancing mental wellness research and addressing telecommunications infrastructure

Key accomplishments

  • The United States, together with the other seven Arctic States, launched the International Circumpolar Surveillance (ICS), a region-wide disease surveillance system led by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • The United States launched the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA), the first-ever comprehensive scientific assessment of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, which was completed under Iceland’s chairmanship in 2004
  • The United States and Russia co-chaired a special task force on science cooperation under the auspices of the Arctic Council that led to the conclusion of a legally-binding “Agreement on Enhancing International Arctic Scientific Cooperation,” which was signed by foreign ministers at the Arctic Council Ministerial meeting on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska.
  • The U.S. has served as chair of both Expert Groups on Marine Environmental Response and Search and Rescue in exercising the “Agreement on Cooperation on Marine Oil Pollution Preparedness and Response in the Arctic” (signed 2013) and the “Agreement on Cooperation on Aeronautical and Maritime Search and Rescue in the Arctic” (signed 2011).
Eric Carlson
Senior Arctic Official

Contact for press inquiries

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