Point Hope, Alaska

The reader writes:

Last week for work I was up in Point Hope, AK, one of the oldest continuously occupied Inupiat Eskimo communities here in Alaska. It’s still pretty traditional in many ways, and a large portion of their food still comes from subsistence, whether it’s salmon, other fish,
whale, walrus, bear (polar, black, grizzly), seal, etc. I believe bowhead whale is the most common for them to get, but they occasionally get beluga as well, and still do their hunting in traditional boats made from seal skin. I was told that when a new whaling captain successfully takes his first whale, in addition to giving away all of the whale itself to the other village residents (with the elders getting priority), he is also expected to give away any of his own possessions (truck, TV, etc.) to anyone in the community who wants them–an absolutely mind-boggling thought to us Westerners!

Anyway, while I was up there working, a kind Eskimo lady gave me some muktuk, which is a layer of whale blubber (fat) attached to the whale skin. I put some small slices of it on a salmon-spread sandwich I was making. I dipnetted the salmon earlier this summer myself on the Kasilof River (next to the Kenai River). This muktuk on the sandwich is from a bowhead whale–the white part is the blubber, and the gray part is the skin. This is being eaten raw, which is pretty common, but it’s often boiled, too. On the sandwich, it wasn’t too bad!