The Inupiat population of Barrow, Alaska looks forward to the fall whaling season, where the skin and blubber of one whale can feed a family for a winter.
A watermelon typically costs around $20 at grocery stores in Barrow, Alaska. Bananas are a luxury item, and it’s not uncommon to see a bag of charcoal going for $50 or more.
The cost of living in the northernmost city in the United States is driven up by the need to import food mostly by cargo plane or by ships in the summer. There are no roads connecting Barrow to other cities in Alaska.
With sky-high prices of food and basic necessities, subsistence hunting and fishing means life or death for Alaska’s tribes. The Inupiat of Barrow have hunted bowhead whales in the Arctic Sea for thousands of years, and the fall whaling season is a time of joy for the community.
After a whale is caught, local officials inspect the catch to ensure the hunters have followed international laws regarding native communities. Once the okay is given, the Inupiat begin the hard work of carving and distributing the whale amongst the community.
View the slideshow to see the traditional whaling ceremony
Images via AP Images
Bringing It In
The captured whale is hauled to shore by several tiny boats, a process that can take hours. The captain of the whaling boat is awarded the first cut of meat.
Two Inupiat women take a selfie with the whale. A captured whale is cause for celebration in the entire community.
Everyone is Happy
An Inupiat girl stands in front of the bowhead whale that will feed several families, including hers. The Inupiac have been hunting these whales for thousands of years in the Arctic Ocean.
Whale of a Time
Children often play and slide down the whale before adults begin the cutting.
A cutter takes a break and drinks a hot soup made from the whale’s meat and blubber.
Two men haul away sections of meat and blubber, which is shared throughout the community.
No part of the whale goes to waste. After the cutting, the bones of bowhead whales are revered, and used to mark the graves of loved ones.
The cutting can often go late into the long, cold Alaskan nights. The hard work involved in cutting a whale saves many families thousands of dollars that would otherwise be spent on marked up, imported food.
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