In this Oct. 10, 2014, file photo, snow falls around a sign in Barrow, Alaska. A court hearing is set for Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Alaska for the two sides in a lawsuit challenging the new Inupiat Eskimo name of the nation’s northernmost town. Voters in the town formerly known as Barrow approved the new name, Utqiagvik, by six votes last October. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

In this Oct. 10, 2014, file photo, snow falls around a sign in Barrow, Alaska. A court hearing is set for Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Alaska for the two sides in a lawsuit challenging the new Inupiat Eskimo name of the nation’s northernmost town. Voters in the town formerly known as Barrow approved the new name, Utqiagvik, by six votes last October. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

Judge weighs lawsuit challenging new name of Alaska town

  • By The Associated Press
  • Thursday, March 9, 2017 10:48pm
  • News

ANCHORAGE (AP) — Those suing over the new Inupiat Eskimo name of the nation’s northernmost town said Thursday that the Alaska city broke its own laws by failing to publish a public notice before the renaming question was put on the ballot.

The town formerly known as Barrow countered that publishing notices in a newspaper for elections is optional for anything but tax-related ordinances.

Attorneys for the two sides gave their arguments in a court hearing in the town whose voters approved the new name, Utqiagvik, by six votes last October.

The lawsuit was filed by a local Alaska Native corporation, Ukpeagvik Inupiat Corp., just before the new name became effective in December.

The corporation says the lack of input from the public led to a flawed law being passed, one that didn’t use the correct traditional name for the city. They say the correct word is Ukpeagvik, which means “the place where we hunt snowy owls.”

Matt Singer, an attorney for the corporation, asked the court to pause implementation of the name change until the case is resolved.

Attorney Louann Cutler, who’s representing the city, said the plaintiffs presented a “hypertechnical argument” about notifications. She said the city has a long history of posting notices at seven known places around town.

Superior Court Judge Paul Roetman said at the end of the nearly three-hour hearing that he will consider the case and issue a decision Friday on whether to temporarily halt the name change.

Mayor Fannie Suvlu, who was voted into office in the same October election, had proposed an ordinance to consider asking voters if the new name should be repealed. The City Council turned down the proposal in January. Suvlu has said the council rejected her proposal after locals had several opportunities to address the issue.

City Council member Qaiyaan Harcharek, who is Inupiat on his mother’s side, introduced an ordinance in August that began the process ultimately ratified by voters. He has said the new town name essentially means a place for gathering potatoes.

Judge weighs lawsuit challenging new name of Alaska town
In this Oct. 10, 2014, file photo, snow falls around a sign in Barrow, Alaska. A court hearing is set for Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Alaska for the two sides in a lawsuit challenging the new Inupiat Eskimo name of the nation’s northernmost town. Voters in the town formerly known as Barrow approved the new name, Utqiagvik, by six votes last October. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

In this Oct. 10, 2014, file photo, snow falls around a sign in Barrow, Alaska. A court hearing is set for Thursday, March 9, 2017, in Alaska for the two sides in a lawsuit challenging the new Inupiat Eskimo name of the nation’s northernmost town. Voters in the town formerly known as Barrow approved the new name, Utqiagvik, by six votes last October. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull, File)

More in News

Council member James Baisden speaks in favor of an amendment to the City of Kenai’s budget that would add funds for construction of a veteran’s memorial column in the Kenai Cemetery during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai budget amendment allocates funds for veterans’ columbarium in cemetery expansion

A columbarium is an aboveground structure that houses cremated remains

Council member Alex Douthit speaks in favor of an amendment to the CIty of Kenai’s budget that would reduce funds allocated to the Storefront and Streetscape Improvement Program during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Funding reduced for City of Kenai’s storefront improvement grant program

Just over a year after the City of Kenai established its Storefront… Continue reading

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Hilcorp only bidder in Cook Inlet oil and gas lease sale

8 million acres were available for bidding in the sale, spread across Cook Inlet and the Alaska Peninsula region

Council member Phil Daniel speaks during a meeting of the Kenai City Council in Kenai, Alaska, on Wednesday, June 5, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
City of Kenai approves budget

A draft of the document says that the city expects to bring in around $19.5 million in the next year, and spend $20.2 million

A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
A sockeye salmon rests atop a cooler at the mouth of the Kasilof River on Monday, June 26, 2023, in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kasilof River personal use setnet opening delayed

Low counts for Kenai River early-run king salmon motivate restriction

Ben Meyer, environmental scientist and water quality coordinator for the Kenai Watershed Forum, teaches children about young salmon freshly pulled from the Kenai River during the Kenai River Fair at Soldotna Creek Park in Soldotna, Alaska, on Saturday, June 7, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River Fair debuts with array of activities and education

Previously called the Kenai River Festival, the newly refocused fair featured booths and activities dedicated to education about the outdoors, wildlife and ecosystems

A sign welcomes visitors on July 7, 2021, in Seward, Alaska. (Photo by Jeff Helminiak/Peninsula Clarion)
Seward Pride Alliance rallies after bomb threat displaces drag story hour

The event was able to continue after a delay and a fundraising effort has brought in more than $13,000

Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion
City of Kenai Public Works Director Scott Curtain; City of Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel; Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Peter Micciche; Sen. Lisa Murkowski; Col. Jeffrey Palazzini; Elaina Spraker; Adam Trombley; and Kenai City Manager Terry Eubank cut the ribbon to celebrate the start of work on the Kenai River Bluff Stabilization Project on the bluff above the Kenai River in Kenai on Monday.
‘The future is bright for the City of Kenai’

Kenai celebrates start of bluff stabilization project after developing for 40 years

A Kenai Peninsula Food Bank truck in the Food Bank parking lot on Aug. 4, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai Peninsula Food Bank’s Spring Festival set for Friday

The event will feature a wide swath of vendors, including lots of nonprofits, who will be sharing information about their services

Most Read