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- A photo essay - Tikigaqmuit-
People of Point Hope Alaska
I want to take you on a journey into the arctic, the upper regions of the Arctic and show you via my photographs, and my experiences, and tell you of all that goes on up here in this incredbly vast area of so very few Inupiaq Eskimo's.
We will start our journey into the oldest of all villages in Alaska,
Point Hope Alaska, aka Tikigaq - Tigara on very old maps.
Very few are aware that most villages in Alaska were founded by People from Point Hope, Greenland was founded by the same people(s).
Many thousands of years ago, these people migrated from upper Mongolia, and crossed the land bridge in the Bering Strait, and eventually settled down in Point Hope, this was chosen as the choice spot for the number of different types of animals that migrate to this one spot of land.
Here are a few maps to understand the location,
The Inupiaq people only take that which is needed to eat, and absolutely nothing is ever wasted.
Thanks to the eye in the sky, we can now see the ice building up around the point.
The old town site is the first thing you see as you land in this village
old abandoned houses, and lots of "bones". Whale bones, that were used to construct a dwelling place.
All bones, have meanings and purposes, uses and functions.
They form an iglu, not IGLOO. they are used for Klan festival sites, they mark a famous captains whale, (the jawbones). They mark grave sites, and they form the most unique graveyard in the arctic, the whalebone graveyard.
This is world famous because it is the only one in the entire world.
no other village(s) have this.
I have over 200 very close personal friends of mine buried in this place.
Yes, that is how many people have died in this tiny place, that seems to peacefull, but anything can happen in the Arctic and usually does in many bizarre and wierd ways.
I have noticed here in the Arctic, that people die, mostly because they didin't listen & obey the very last words spoken to them.
It is the most bizarre feeling in the world, I don't know how to explain it, but imagine walking into a grave yard, and you personally know the names of everyone that is buried in there. Gasp, so many have died so young.
tragic stories, and so many needless deaths, thanks to the federal government. google : "Project Chariot"
23 miles from the village is Cape Thompson
It only took one "Rock" to put a stop to the whole damn shameful project.
but a "prize" was left by people that do not know how to think, radio active waste was buried in many places with no markers, Many of the caribou up here have become infected with this radiation, and thus all the elders have died so young due to cancer, it is the # 1 killer in this village.
So many of my closest friends. sob.
Outside of the whalebone graveyard, near the side of the road to the new town site, sites this grave site. The grave of the last chief of Pt. Hope. Atangauruk. This man was a scoundrel of the worst sort, He had six wives, and was murdered when he took another man's wife, for #7.
The jaw bone from his largest whale and the bones marking his six wives. He wasn't counted worthy to be buried in the village graveyard.
Point Hope used to have a population of well over 10,000 Inupiaq Eskimo people. then the whaling companies arrived, the population was reduced to 190 people, through greed, disease, and mass starvation. 22 Klans were reduced to just the remaining two.
The whales were decimated, then the walrus herd was demolisied, the caribou were slaughterd, and there was no food for the people to eat.
To the north of the point, west two miles, it is told of a great whaling ship that went down into the sea, Severly overloaded with its cargo being - walrus ivory. The currents in this part of the ocean are incredibly strong, this is dangerous water and it is just as dangerous when there is ice to be on.
One of the two remaining Klan festival sites, Kamaktauq
On the left side there are three sets of jaw bones of the whales of the famous great hunters of this clan, the middle set of jaw bones are from a 50 foot whale. the huge jaw bones of that large set must be from a whale well over 100 feet.
A bowhead whale weighs an astounding ton per foot !!
you will see later, a 48 foot whale, (no gore) it took a grueling 17 hours to get this animal out of the water, with hundreds of people pulling on ropes. Exhausting work. the only prize. or pay, you get to eat ! That is all these people want and that is the whole purpose of this thread, to enlighten the world as to the plight of the indeginous people(s), and their aboriginal right to eat, their food, their customs their unique tradition for many thousands of years.
These people are on the verge of exinction due to the limitations being placed upon them. This culture must not perish.
Children are our most precious valuable important resource.
Now I know you want to get to the good stuff.. the Ocean Ice.
Lets head down there for the most fantastick journey with the most unbelieveable stories you have ever read or seen on this photo essay.
We will come back to the village later, but it is time to go whaling.
April - May out to the ocean ice.
Imagine cutting a trail with pick and axe for seven miles, just to move equipment and supplies, for people to hunt and gather food. This seven mile journey takes many hours to complete. This is no easy ride. I was convinced that all of my lenses would be shattered when that camera case was opened.
My first trip down to the ocean ice. I have the flu, I am so sick, but a whaling captain named Jake Koonuk requested me, now ! Make sure he brings his camera. The temp was sixty below and I have to sleep outside, with the hunters. I froze the flu. I was 100% the next morning !
7 miles out, some familes stick together out here. but there are 18 whaling captains, spaced out 1/2 - 3/4 a mile apart on the ocean ice to form a gauntlet, There are lots of different types of animals that migrate past the point every year, for thousands of years, since time began.
The hunters must be out here, before the migration starts.
It takes 8 hours to set up a whaling camp out on the ice. When the wind shifts to south it takes 20 minutes. it is mass panic of over 700 people to get off that ice as fast as you can, Ice is coming and it will run right over everything in its path.
Now, I introduce my captain, Umailiaq (oo may lik) Jake Koonuk whaling captain.
He was the one, who made this all possible, The truth must be told Jake told me.
That seal skin is filled with air. it is "avatakpak" (ah vah tuk puk) it is used much in the same manner as a bobber is used in fishing, There is 200 feet of rope attached to this seal skin float. It shows the area that whale might be hiding in.
We wait, for that whale, to give itself over to the captain of its choice !
(much more on this later)
His crew, and everyone else on the ice, was furious, that a white man, was out on this ice pack, with a camera!! Everyone was very upset with me, until I started giving 11 x 14 gorgeous color prints away for free, down on the ocean ice. This has to be a first.
John Denver came to this village in the mid 1970's. under the pretense of helping them with their plight. After what he did, to these people on national television, they were all furious that I was here with a camera !
Paramount Studios tried to gain access to this village, they were denied. The same is true with the BBC in London, they were here, all ready to go out to the ocean ice. Then the truth slipped out. they were kicked out of town.
Jacques Cousteau wanted in here, but was blocked and denied access.
I have been on 5 sacred whale hunts with the Inupiaq people. Twice with Jake,
the other three hunts I was a boyer for the Oktollik crew. Calvin & Irma Oktollik. That's when I found out how much hard work is involved to perform the job of a boyer.
Fresh hot dounuts every day many times a day.!
How do you think, this cook will get that dough to rise ?? It is drafty in that tent and that dough needs to be quite warm to rise. Once that dough is all mixed it is put into a clean plastic bag, then that bag is placed under her back inside of her parky, much in the same manner in which a child is carried here, Under the parky in the back.
The woman making the doughnuts is Emily Lane, The girl carrying the infant is one of her twin daughters Minnie. Minnie & Josie were twin sisters, They were Emily's whole life.
One day in 1991, Emily, her younger brother Frank, and the twins went up to the cliffs to search for fossil ivory, They were warned: do not make any noise up there, this time of year, The snow / ice is ready to katak (fall) off the cliffs, to the area where they were headed to search for fossil ivory. The snow / ice did katak, Frank pulled Emily out when she was buried past her waist. they looked around frantically for the last known place the twins were at. They dug frantically for well over an hour. Sadly they had to give up and go back to the village for help. Many hours later, the twins were found, under a huge pile of ice and snow, .. .. holding hands. - born together, died together @ the young age of only 18.!
Edited by Majik_Imaje on Jun 12, 2008 at 01:17 AM GMT
Edited on Jun 12, 2008 at 10:17 AM