After decades of uncertainty, Native Alaskans celebrate whaling rights

In 1977, the International Whaling Commission imposed regulations on the whaling practices of the Inupiaq people in Alaska. Decades later, the group has finally gained the ability to hunt more freely, even as offshore oil drilling threatens their livelihood once more.

UTQIAGVIK, ALASKA

A few days before whaling crews set out to brave the frigid Arctic seas in October, a congregation of several hundred Native Alaskans gathered at the Utqiagvik Presbyterian Church to bless the bowhead whale hunt.

This year's service was more than a blessing: It was also a celebration of a historic victory to preserve their indigenous whaling tradition in the face of international geopolitics.

For centuries the Inupiaq, a Native Alaskan group living north of the Arctic Circle, have hunted bowhead whales for food. But since 1977, they have been subjected to regulations set by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

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