|About the Arctic
People of the Ice
The whale is the centerpiece of our culture. It holds the coastal Iñupiat together. If we lose the whale and the environment that sustains it, we lose ourselves. – Edward Itta, Iñupiaq whalerThe Iñupiat of northern Alaska
Humans are part of the Arctic web of life. The Iñupiat have shared the polar bears’ environment for thousands of years and they have survived in this harsh land by understanding it well.
The Iñupiat have observed polar bears—and their hunting practices—closely. Wearing clothing that helps them blend into the white landscape, they stalk seals on the ice the same way the bears do: moving slowly and patiently until they are close enough to strike.A special bond with whales
Bowhead whales are the Iñupiat’s most important prey. When one is killed, the community comes together to harvest and divide up the meat. Whale hunting remains central to the culture, as it has been for countless generations.Threats to an ancient way of life
Today’s Arctic peoples are players in a world economy, but they remain subsistence based. The survival of Arctic cultures and communities is tied to the environment. With global warming come worries about the future of subsistence food sources, traditional knowledge, and the life of the community itself.
Photograph by Steven Kazlowski