Alaska Journey Day 67 .2 / by Dave Hileman

Utqiagvik Day - part two

I arrived too early for the museum (NPS park number 237) but it shared a building with the library. So, inside to dry, get warm, check in with Cindy via WiFi and find out more about the town from the librarian. I went into the museum when it opened. It was a small display but very nicely done with a comprehensive perspective on Arctic peoples’ culture. There was a workshop for native carvers to view through a window. One carver waved me inside. His name was John, and he took great pride in showing me around, introducing me to other carvers and showing me the work done in ivory and mammoth tusks. I met Karl, a rather famous carver and renowned hunter, very neat. They use ivory from walrus, antlers from caribou, teeth from seals, bones and baleen from whale - all of which they hunt. Most of their food is shot, hooked or netted. They are allowed to hunt all they can consume as native subsistence hunters, and they use every part of every animal. Very different culture. John pointed out an area where he had seen some snowy owl just under a mile away. I set off in heavier rain and stronger wind. I did not see an owl but did get two more new birds, Parasitic Jaeger and Long-tailed Jaeger. Also saw several Snow Bunting, so three new birds for the trip. Back at the museum, I chatted a bit about the birds and then took a taxi to the high school. It was the last day of Kivgiq, the Messenger Feast, an international festival in the Arctic Circle of dance, story and music that takes place every two years. I watched dancing and listened to a couple of stories half of them told in a native language. Missed the details of the dances except that they are rooted in the culture and passed on for generations. There were people there from several villages spread over Alaska. I was the only non-native person in the gym that I saw. I walked down the hall to look at crafters who brought goods to sell. You could buy furs, sinew, porcupine quills and carved ivory. I did not. I saw one person with coffee and she pointed to a room where they were serving food. I went in and asked if I could buy a coffee (did not want a meal) and was told, “No, everything is free.” I said I did not have a ticket or pay to get in and she said - no one does, it is free and the food is free, please eat. I got the coffee and sat down (glad to sit as I had walked about five miles in the rain at this point.) Now I was the object of interest and two people encouraged me to get some food. The man at the next table said, “There is soup.” I thought I could try some soup. Well, the choices were goose, duck or caribou stew. Oops. I decided to try a little of the stew. The lady also gave me duck soup, “mostly broth,” she offered. Back to the table. I tried the duck soup, not going to get that eaten, tried the stew, not too bad, so I eat some stew. Then I am given a small bowl of black squares. “Frozen whale” I’m told, “Put some salt on it.” So with salt I sampled my first ever whale. I actually tried not to taste it. By that point some 10 year old boys found me and said, basically, are you really going to eat that? So, sure, two or three more pieces. Then they gave me some sort of fresher whale. Got one down - the boys were pleased and left. Thankfully because there was not going to be a second bite of that! I thanked folks and left to try and get back to the arch. I made about 1/4 mile - the wind was now at a steady 40 mph with gusts over that and the rain was sort of sleety and sideways. I was having trouble walking - and it was not the whale! So I went back to the airport 45 minutes early and just read until my flight back to Anchorage, 800 miles south. It landed early because of the tail wind we had. What an interesting day! Missed some birds and some photo opportunities because of the weather but met 6 or 8 people that I talked to at length and enjoyed the generous spirit of the people. I will remember not the harshness of the climate nor the disrepair of the town but the warmth of the folks that live in Utqiagvik.

Cadillac’s Most Correct Viewpoint

Why couldn’t I go? Hunting??? I should pilot, I have the hat!! I’m sulking, don’t talk to me.

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