Postcard from Barrow: Nalukataq Barrow 101

Barrow turned out (and up) a few weeks ago to celebrate the spring whale harvest wherein two crews brought in four whales total. The traditional Iñupiaq festival, called Nalukataq, is a thanksgiving for the harvest, so central to a traditional Inuit subsistence community’s way of life. During the day-long fete the community honors the whalers who bring in the bounty, feast on caribou and goose soup and whale delicacies of all kinds, and have - you know - a whale of a good time. In addition, each family receives its share of frozen whale meat (called quaq) and whale blubber and skin (muktuk) from the spring harvest.

This photo, from Fairbanks Open Radio, documents Barrow’s June Nalukataq. The two whaling crews who brought in the whales fly their flags, center, and the community gives thanks for the harvest. Later, everyone enjoys the blanket toss and dancing in the gym. Photo: David Koester

A highlight of the Nalukataq is the blanket toss. Community members gather around a seal-skin trampoline, and toss all willing high into the air. Traditionally, the whaling captains go first, and they throw candy and other treats to watching children.  Good times indeed.

The community blanket toss. Photos: Tracy Sheely unless otherwise noted