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Barrow was first home to the Iñupiat, an indigenous Inuit group. The city was originally called Utqiaġvik and was first recorded in 1853 as “Ot-ki-a-wing” by Commander Maguire. The city became known as Barrow from Point Barrow as it was easier for non-Alaska Natives to pronounce and in 1901, a post office helped to dominate the name. Point Barrow is named after Sir John Barrow of British Admiralty by exploer Frederick William Beechey in 1825. In 1881, the us army established a meterological and magnetic research station. A whaling supply and rescue station was built in 1889 and is the oldest wood-framed building in barrow. It was converted to a retail stor in 1896 and in the late 20th century it was used as a café. Barrow was incorporated as a city in 1958 and in 1972, the north slope borough was established. On December 1, 2016 the city officially readopted its original name, Utqiaġvik.

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