Artifact Discovery during the Trenching of Fiber from the TERRA Kotzebue Tower to the GCI Earth Station

In order to bring 3G wireless internet to Kotzebue, Unicom, a wholly owned subsidiary of GCI, connected fiber optic cable from its TERRA tower to the GCI Earth Station. The fiber runs aerially with the KEA power poles until the design called for buried fiber to avoid the airport glide path. In 2013, numerous artifacts were unearthed in this trench on Kikiktagruk Inupiat Corporation (KIC) land.

TERRA is the next-generation communications network for Northwest Alaska. In the past, schools, health clinics, and local governments relied on expensive private satellite networks which experienced slow connections, low reliability, and limited capacity. Kotzebue’s connection to the TERRA “backbone” via terrestrial microwave in 2015 increased internet bandwidth and provided 3G wireless for the first time ever.

Portions of the TERRA telecommunications “backbone” utilizes lands owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) therefore BLM is leading the mitigation efforts associated with the disturbance of artifacts. A Memorandum of Agreement was signed with the BLM, State Historic Preservation Officer, Unicom/GCI, and the land owner KIC in order to mitigate impacts to archaeological sites and find the most suitable route to lay the fiber in 2015. GCI is paying for the long-term curation of the artifacts at the UAF Museum of the North as well as this website which stores long-lasting educational materials for the community of Kotzebue.