Sunday, November 13, 2011

Barrow and the Overly Ambitious Hunters

There's a lot to be said about finding food in times of hunger. In the recipe for propagating a successful species, this ability is the key ingredient. Throughout the evolutionary history of life on Earth (and presumably elsewhere) the critters most capable of finding something, anything to eat are the ones that live to mate another day. Ever heard of the snobby Cave Eagle? He wouldn't eat anything that wasn't cooked medium rare and served with a palate cleansing, velvety red wine. Or the self cannibalizing Sycamore Lizard? Or the orangutan eating polar bear? Of course not, and it's not just because orangutan eating polar bears are invisible. It's the crafty species that live on through time. Like the dung beetle, turkey vultures, and garbage eating goats. This ability is what makes the Inupiat people and their story so incredible: they live in a climate too harsh to cultivate crops and there's little available to effectively forage. Hunting thus became their gateway to survival.

I wish I could have been there the first time somebody suggested hunting a whale. I imagine he was in a hungry craze, tired of eating snow and driftwood. And better yet, the first people who actually got out on the water and tried.

Lead hunter: "Alright, here's what we're gonna do. Steve, you jump in the water and try to look like a large tasty krill.
Steve: "No problem!" ::jumps in water and squirms around::
Lead hunter: "Then, when the whale comes to eat krill Steve, Carl here is going to jump on its back and go to town!"
Carl: "Alright! Wait, 'go to town'?"
Lead hunter: "Ya, you know, show 'em who's boss, take no prisoners, that kind of thing. You got this."
Carl: "I'm going to die aren't I?"
Lead hunter: "Most likely. Now jump on that whale."

Needless to say, there was a Carl at some point down the line that succeeded. Little is known about this Carl other than that he had eyes as cold as stone and that he would pummel the whale into submission using some kind of professional wrestling maneuver...possibly a stone cold stunner. And also that he liked the sound of crunching snow. But other than that, nothing is known about him. Except that he collected stones that he thought were pretty. But that's all we know.

This incredible feat of human achievement revolutionized the Inupiat culture. The whale became not only a major food source, but it provided bones that were used for building structures, and oils used to keep their homes warm. The hunted whale became their giver of life and a symbol of their survival. To this day, the whale continues to provide for the native people of northern Alaska. Though the methods have changed, the spirit of the hunt remains as it has been for thousands of years.

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting - I think a lot of the Paleo diet studies came from studying the clans in Alaska...I remember hearing about that somewhere - the premise is that fat and protein are all you need to survive - carbs give energy but provide no building blocks to the body.