Friday, February 6, 2009

Inupiat Annual Spring Bowhead Hunt

Don't be Turned off by TV

Dressed warmly and mostly in white from the waste up (to be less visible while approaching bowhead on the water), these Inupiat (en-oo-pee-at) Eskimos await the perfect opportunity to strike a passing whale.

Inupiat Eskimos are the only people on Earth permitted by International Whaling Laws to hunt the once declining bowhead whale. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the bowhead whale were hunted by Yankee whalers to the brink of extinction. Only through strict regulations has the bowhead made a come-back.

Students take leave of school to be a part of the 50 teams of Inupiat hunters who head out onto the ice to hunt the bowhead in the Spring. "The sole purpose of hunting is to survive and feed our families," says an Inupiat hunter, "we can't plant gardens, so they go out."

NatGeo's television program, INSIDE, presented a beautifully done piece on the Inupiat whale hunters of Barrow, Alaska last week. Cole and I thoroughly enjoyed learning of the Inupiat's 6000 year (wow!) history in the region, were moved by the bowhead whales' importance in the lifestyle, spirituality, and health of the Native Inupiat Eskimos, and were saddened but realistic regarding the reports of the ever-shrinking Arctic Ice, which the Inupiat's utilize as a platform for their camps and as a launching grounds for their whalehunting expeditions.

If you have the chance, give it a watch (or ck out the link below)! You'll be amazed by how much you learn.

Image courtesy Catherine Yrisarri / Hoggard Films

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