Native Village of Ambler


The Native Village of Ambler is located on the north bank of the Kobuk River, 45 miles above the Arctic Circle.

Official Tribal Name: Native Village of Ambler
Official Website:

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

US Culture Region: Artic
Alaskan Ethnic Group: Eskimo

Alaskan Native Culture: Kuuvangmiut Iñupiat, Kowagniut Iñupiat Eskimos

Alaska Geographical Region:

Alaska Borough / Census Area:

Alaska Native Regional Corporation:  NANA Regional Corporation


Language: Inupiaq language, Ambler dialect


Ambler is located 129.3 air miles from Kotzebue, latitude 67° 5′ 9″, longitude 157° 51′ 5,” and is a 45 minute flight from Kotzebue, where it is snugged against the north bank of the Kobuk River, and 45 miles above the Arctic Circle. The Onion Portage archaeological site is 12 air miles west of Ambler, and the Kobuk Valley National Park’s Great Kobuk, Little Kobuk and Hunt River Sand Dunes are 22 to 28.8 air miles away.


Ambler, or Ivisaappaat, is the newest community in the region, founded in 1957-58, when people from Kobuk and Shungnak moved downriver, because of the variety of fish, wild game and spruce trees in the area. A United States Post Office opened in 1963, and the city was incorporated with the State of Alaska in 1971, the same year as the passage of the Alaska Native Land Claims Settlement Act.

The community was named for a tributary of the Kobuk River, which was named for Dr.James M. Ambler, who died of starvation after his ship was trapped in the Arctic ice in 1881.

The story of the prophet Maniilaq states that he predicted in the future a great whale would swim upriver and arrive at Ambler.


As of the census of 2000, there were 309 people, 79 households, and 63 families residing in Ambler, primarily Kuuvangmiut Iñupiat. Like people of the other villages of the NANA Region, the Kuuvangmiut participate in twenty-first century life as indigenous people, rooted to and living on the lands of their ancestors. Hunting, fishing and gathering (roots such as masu) are crucial to the nutritional, cultural and economic life of Ambler’s residents.

The village is located in the large Inupiaq language speaking region of Alaska, and the local dialect is known as the Ambler dialect (related to the Shugnak dialect). As of 1999, over 91% of the community speaks and understands the language, with many young children actively learning the language in school.

About 19.0% of families and 14.3% of the population were living below the poverty line on the 2000 census. The median income for a household was $43,500, and the median income for a family was $43,571. Males had a median income of $30,625 versus $36,875 for females. The per capita income was $13,712.


Ambler is a second class city, incorporated with State of Alaska in 1971, and within the boundaries of the Northwest Arctic Borough municipal government (founded 1986). The tribal government restructured by the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 is called the Native Village of Ambler.


Ambler, on the Kobuk River, is in a transitional zone between wooded areas and tundra areas. The winters are long and cold, and the summers relatively warm (compared to area villages). Average summertime temperatures range from 48-64, with a recorded high in the 90s. Average winter temperatures are around zero, with record highs in the 20s and record lows dipping below minus 60.

Ambler has a subarctic climate with long, extremely cold winters and short, warm summers. Temperatures in the winter often drop below -40 °C/°F, just like most of interior Alaska, but it frequently gets mild spells where the temperatures stay above 10 °F (-12 °C) for several days in a row because of the relative closeness to the Pacific Ocean. Ambler is also wetter due to it’s proximity to the ocean.


Ambler’s major means of transportation are by plane, small boat, ATVs and snowmobile. The primary mode of transportation to Ambler from other areas is by airplane. There are currently no permanent, all-season roads linking Ambler to other area communities.

Air – Public general aviation airport with two perpendicular gravel-surfaced runways, located a mile outside of town. Ambler Airport (AFM) is one of 256 airports owned and maintained by State of Alaska DOT&PF, the largest aviation system in North America.

A local air service, Ambler Air, has flights to Fairbanks, which are $250 each way.

Era Alaska and Bering Air provide regularly scheduled passenger service to Ambler; a 30 day advance round trip fare between Ambler and Kotzebue with Era Alaska costs approximately $400.00 (fees and taxes included) and a 30 day advance round trip fare between Ambler and Kotzebue with Bering Air costs approximately $504.00 (fees and taxes included).

Air cargo rates from Kotzebue to Ambler with Bering Air, Era Alaska or Ryan Air range from $1.25 per pound for major loads (in excess of 5,000 pounds) to $1.45 per pound for loads weighing less than 500 pounds.

Land – Ambler is not connected to other communities by road. In winter, trails are marked for intra-regional snowmobile travel. All-terrain vehicles are used throughout the year. Village roads do extend a short way, providing access to the airport and sanitary landfill.

Water/Marine – The Kobuk River near Ambler is typically navigable between July and October.


Water and Sewer – Ambler’s water supply comes from a 167’ well and is treated at the local water treatment facility, then stored in a 210,000 gallon tank before being piped throughout the village. Over 85% of the 136 village households are on the water and sewer system; outhouses and honeybuckets are used in those that are not. A sewage lagoon collects waste, where it is discharged to a natural watershed, and then to the Kobuk River.

Solid Waste Disposal – A small, non-permitted sanitary landfill serves the solid waste needs of the City of Ambler.

Public Safety – Ambler is within the service area of the Division of Alaska State Troopers stationed in Kotzebue, and local village public safety officers are first responders. When necessary, Ambler Search & Rescue is mobilized, and a volunteer fire battalion responds to fire emergencies.


There are three stores, a National Guard Armory, community hall, health clinic, church, and sewer and water project in Ambler. The village also has a city council, police officer, magistrate, and a volunteer fire department.

Health Services – Maniilaq Association’s Community Health Aide/Practitioner program (CHAP) operates a village health clinic in Ambler. The Maniilaq Health Center, in Kotzebue, is the nearest hospital, and serves as the medical hub for the region’s clinics. Telemedicine also connects the Ambler clinic to medical personnel in Anchorage, at the Alaska Native Medical Center, run by the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

CHAP operates eleven remote village clinics. Most clinics have a full time staff of two to four Health Aides who service about one-half of the total patient contacts.

All clinics are directly connected to the Maniilaq Health Center in Kotzebue, providing access to all medical records and medical libraries as well as visual and audio teleconferencing capability to consult doctors.

Using a computer telemedicine unit, village clinics can send electronic pictures to the Maniilaq Health Center, where physicians view the images, making long-distance diagnosis easier and more accurate.

Several times a year specialized doctors, dentists, and eye doctors make regularly scheduled visits to the clinics to provide specialized care not usually offered in the area. Additionally, Maniilaq Association contracts with a Licensed Air Carrier to provide reliable, safe and timely medevac services.

Electricity – The Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC) provides electrical power to Ambler via 982 kilowatt capacity diesel generators.

Telecommunications – Kotzebue-based OTZ Telephone Cooperative provides a variety of landline, cellular phone and wireless Internet services to Ambler residents and businesses. Internet service is provided through, a cooperative effort between OTZ, Maniilaq Association and Anchorage-based GCI Communications.

GCI also has cellular phone service available in Ambler. OTZ cell service does not work in Amber.

64/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan for $25.00/ mo
512/ 64 Kbps Internet Service Plan for $90.00/mo
Internet service discounts are provided to customers with OTZ long distance and/or cellular phone plans.


Ambler School serves students K-12, and is part of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District. In 2012, approximately 68 children were enrolled.


Ten thousand watt, Kotzebue-based public radio station KOTZ (89.9 FM and 720 AM) reaches Ambler, providing news, regional information and communication and entertainment. Television programming is via the state-owned, Alaska Public Broadcasting, Inc. – operated Alaska Rural Communications System (ARCS). ARCS provides a mixture of programming for free, over the air. Individual households purchase satellite television for their own homes. The City of Ambler provides cable television service to some households, for $65 per month.


Primary employers are the school, the City of Ambler, the Native Village of Ambler, the health clinic (Maniilaq) and a few general merchandise stores.

Five residents hold commercial fishing permits.

Subsistence is a major part of the local economy. Chum salmon and caribou are the most important food sources. Freshwater fish, moose, bear, and berries are also harvested.

Birch baskets, fur pelts, and jade, quartz, bone and ivory carvings are sold in gift shops throughout the state. The community is interested in developing a lapidary facility for local artisans.


There are approximately 130 households in Ambler, averaging about four people in each residence. Half of village homes are owner-occupied, and the median home value is $78,800. Those that rent their homes pay a median rent of $1,313. Most homes are detached, single-family homes, though there are a few multi-family dwellings of 5-9 units apiece.