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This article appeared June 1985 in the Alaska Native News. James Mumibana Nageak did the translation listening to the tape that the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Captains Office provided.

WHALE HUNTING IN HARMONY
by
Patrick Attungana

February 11-13,1985

This article is used with permission for educational purposes only.

Because I am an Ieupiaq, my Ieupiat name is Kimmialuk. In English it is Patrick Attungana from Point Hope. I will be speaking of things that I know and of those things that I have seen and understand. We are Ieupiat on the shores of the seas. We are living from the east to Barter Island all the way to those we don't understand– the St. Lawrence Islanders (reference to Siberian Yup'ik.) We eat the animals of the seas and of the land. We exist because of those older than we are. We live because we follow their example. Our body fluids are mixed with the blood of animals, with the oil of the animals - like the Ieupiat of old who used the same animals.

So, when I grew up, when I became aware of my surroundings, I followed the hunters. I learned their hunting techniques. Maybe I was destined to be a hunter. I did not follow the government rule that says I must go to school. I did not do this.

Today, I am very thankful I am Ieupiat, living near the seas. I am thankful that there are people that can govern us, to help us live a cautious life. Because there are three different groups: the Ieupiat, the white people, and the animals.

When I became a whaler, I found it was hard to handle the equipment and the people. The advice given to us, generation after generation, through the Ieupiat, to follow their teachings from time immemorial, so far away; changing, changing, changing.

After the changes from the old ways had been made, I became a whaler. I was destined to be a whaler in harmony with my fellow whalers. I have to have this harmony when I catch an animal I have to treat it with respect accordingly. Being a descendent of the Ieupiat of old, I must give aid through compassion to anybody, regardless.

Whaling is not easy. Everything has to be ready –the umiaq, the equipment, the crew. Because of the Ieupiat teachings, we know to depend on each other with the whaling activities. Because of this dependence on one another, the I Ieupiat could catch the whales.

I am not going to talk about my whaling activities, but I want to present my thoughts to those of Barter Island and St. Lawrence Island about the animals of the sea–the whales, the walrus, and the belugas, those big animals.

We understand at Point Hope that these animals travel to the East and stay for awhile to return here; they travel.

I understand little from the book, white man's holy book, called the living book. Today, in the time of change of our lives, the Ieupiat, the white man, and the animals– all three have one breath, they have one life. All three have one source of living. They all eventually die.

The book makes us understand that the spirit does not die, but the body does. The white man and the Ieupiat die. And their spirit lives on. The animals, following their purpose for living, allow themselves to be killed.

From the Ieupiat of the past, a covenant has been passed down. This covenant – a group of intelligent people who have a good sense of perception is like a book to their people. They have good memories and because of them, we can hunt whales today. This holds hunting together. We want our descendents to follow this example. Those of us who are getting older, even older than I, want our descendents to follow the teachings and to be obedient.

A Caribou Legend
The Ieupiat of the past have a legend that says when a caribou gets caught and dies, its head is severed from the body and the caribou's living being leaves and goes to the other caribou. Because the other caribou know of this death, they surround this living being and clothe it, making it a caribou once more. This leaves the first body for food for the people.

 

Whale Legends
Another legend from the Ieupiat ancestors, those from whaling villages such as Barrow, Point Hope and St. Lawrence Island explains that the whales know where these villages are and purposely stop there during their travels, similar to a human's camping spot, thus allowing themselves to be killed. Some of them keep traveling until they reach a whaling village elsewhere such as Point Hope. They camp there and allow themselves to be killed. Others travel as far as Barrow to camp and die.

Another old legend explains that whales do not die. When the whale is caught, just the body dies, but the whole whale gives itself to all the people. The whale being or spirit goes into its bladder, and the whaler who catches the whale removes the bladder from the dead whale and brings it to his village. This is the story or legend that people of Point Hope have. Those whales who stop in each of the whaling villages, their whole being or spirit never dies. And when autumn comes to Point Hope, people have a holiday at the community center. They stop working and sit around watching the whalers begin work on the whale bladders. After they inflate the bladder, they hang it up from the main beam of the community center.

According to the calendar, it starts to freeze in our land in October. This is the time they work on the bladders and the whales return. These whales know of the one that decided to camp here, and when they get to the camp, the dead whale's spirit or being returns to the live whales. The returning whales listen to the whale that had been camping. He tells them that his hosts were good to him. Some of the whales tell the returning whales that their hosts did not treat them right.

The whale that had good hosts begins to wish and hope that it will camp there again the following year. The other whale that did not have good hosts says that it will not camp there ever again, but will go to a different whaling crew next year.

To the white people, the stories of the Ieupiat are unbelievable. We, who are getting older, believe these Ieupiat stories. We believe when you hunt the animals in harmony, you won't have problems catching the animals. This is what needs to be thought about. If the hunters from Barter Island to St. Lawrence Island hunt in harmony, the animals –will continue to be caught.

Because of the change in our lives, it is getting harder to do anything without an education. So, educate yourselves and govern yourselves well; in the correct way. Your fellow villagers will be happy, they will commend you from everywhere when good decisions for the people are made.

The white people's decision –government regulations about our animals has hurt us. It has been three, almost four years, we have done what they have told us to do. We obeyed.

I say, that's enough! You have made us suffer long enough. You have made us feel as though we were in jail (reference to the International Whaling Commission quota limiting the whale harvest).

We need to be in harmony today; making it easier concerning our animals. We are hoping that harmony will come with the hunt. Thank you. That is all.


For more on whaling:

Whaling A Way of Life

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