Arctic - 'What choice do we have?' As the Arctic warms, the Inupiat adapt.
Utqiagvik sits at the very tip of the United States, saddled against the Arctic Ocean.
The Alaska Native Inupiat are set apart from other Indigenous peoples by their subsistence hunting of the bowhead whale. Even today, this unique, centuries-old practice determines the social structure, reflects community values and supplements the people’s nutrient-rich diet. Nearly all of Utqiagvik’s roughly 5,000 residents, the majority of whom are Inupiat, rely on hunting to support their way of life.
Which is why Harry Brower Jr., an Inupiaq whaling captain and Arctic Alaska mayor, finds it odd when outsiders try to explain things to him.
“I’m reading about this research on bowhead whales in different countries,” he told me one afternoon in February. I met Brower in a mahogany-clad office decorated with relics of his hometown: mounted walrus tusks, paintings of icebergs at sea and a portrait of Brower and Utqiagvik’s first mayor, Eben Hopson, standing with other community members under “the Gateway to the Arctic” — two huge whale bones arranged in a dramatic arch.