Bruce Nukpigak calls out to the community to come and “naluktaq” – to join in the blanket toss from which the whale feast draws its name. The blanket is made from ugruk (bearded seal) skins that once covered an umiak skin boat used to take a whale from the edge of the spring ice in Barrow. The Cross Island hunt is an open water, fall motorboat hunt. To give the blanket extra spring as participants pull on it, it is attached to the top of two tightly stretched ropes. Celebrants can be tossed over 15 feet into the air. It was cold, windy, rain intermittent. I had a particular picture I wanted to take with a 400 mm lens from a distance, way out of iPhone camera range. The wind and rain shortened the event and made the picture I wanted difficult to capture. I have not yet looked at my take and don’t know if I got it or not. This is @billhess on @burndiary from Nuiqsut, Alaska. #nalukataq #blankettoss #iñupiat #arctic#whaling #nuiqsut #alaska

3 Responses to “nalukataq”

  • Your burn diary has been quite an interesting window into your part of the world.
    Not sure if I could eat whale. But here on the east coast, waiting for our first tropical system, whale meat is scarce and of course, they’re protected. I’ve seen them necropsied on the beach here in North Carolina and it doesn’t look appetizing. I’ve also read that those that eat it have a low incidence of cancer…. Any truth to that?
    Nice job, by the way….

  • Thank you, Skiwaves. Traditionally, cancers were rare among the indigenous people of the Arctic, but then along came cigarettes and such, plus historical cases of radiation in some places due to government experiments, so cancer is here. I don’t know what kind of whales you’ve seen necropsied in North Carolina, but they weren’t bowheads and they were probably rotting and if you’ve ever dealt with a rotting steer, that’s not so appetizing either. Studies have been done that shown that the whale and the other natural foods of the Arctic – seals, caribou, etc. are healthy foods, especially for Inuit peoples, among whom there are those who get sick if they are deprived it altogether. The skin on maktak is high in vitamin C. Blubber is very different in texture and taste than beef fat and its cholesterol is the good kind. And if you ever spend any time doing much outdoors, it won’t be long before you will prefer Native food, because it keeps you warm in a way that western foods do not. There are places in Canada where industrial activities have contaminated native foods and the toxins have collected in the blubber. Contamination levels in Northern Alaska are low.

  • You’re right. They weren’t bowheads. On a number of occasions, I’ve seen humpback, finback, right and sperm whales. They were all in the process of decomposition. Anyone walking in that area of beach got it on the bottoms of their shoes and the odor followed them wherever they went.
    It’s sad when an indigenous culture gets displaced with the dregs of modern society.

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