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Sharing is the sweetest dish served this holiday season

November 25th, 2011 | Jason Evans Print this article   Email this article  

There are many traditions during Thanksgiving that almost always include families and friends getting together and working all day to prepare the Thanksgiving feast. Many people include other traditions beyond the food and make it a family event to watch football or the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or play board games.

In Barrow, the Thanksgiving traditions are similar but with a whaling twist. The traditions are centered around sharing the bounty from successful fall whaling hunts. Seven whaling captains will distribute hundreds of boxes of whale meat and muktuk to the community this year.

The centuries-old tradition of sharing the whale with the whole community has been combined with the new-world traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas. This tradition is carried throughout the whaling communities on the North Slope and into communities where whales are beyond reach.

When a whale is caught, about half of the whale is distributed and divided into crew shares. The remaining half of the whale is distributed during Thanksgiving and Christmas. The whaling crews spend days cutting and boxing the meat and muktuk to distribute to the churches.

The churches then hold Thanksgiving feasts and distribute the whale to individuals and families. At the church they will hold Eskimo dancing and the captains will go out for two dances.

Nuiqsuit is also sharing their whale bounty in a unique way. Whaling Captain Isaac Nukapigak is working out the logistics of shipping 4,000 pounds of whale from Nuiqsuit, on the northeastern coast of Alaska, hundreds of miles to the northwestern coast and the people of the NANA region.

Thanksgiving is a holiday with many traditions, but the tradition of sharing what God and nature have given to us seems to be universal throughout the Thanksgiving celebrations around the United States. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving with a turkey or muktuk, what makes it so yummy is the sharing of it with our friends and family.


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