"For This Alaska Town, Whaling Is a Way of Life"

"The PBS documentary ‘One with the Whale’ explores the importance of subsistence hunting and gathering in a Yup’ik village—and what happens when mainlanders misunderstand it."

"For many Alaska Native communities, subsistence hunting and fishing is a way of life. For the Apassingok family, it accounts for more than 80 percent of their food. If Daniel Apassingok and his sons, Chris and Chase, have a particularly fruitful day out on the water pursuing seals, walruses, and whales, they can feed their entire Siberian Yup’ik village of Gambell.

So it was a collective victory for the village in April 2017, when then-16-year-old Chris became the youngest person in his community to harpoon a whale: Gambell fed off the bounty for months. But after his mom, Susan, posted about the exciting accomplishment on Facebook and the Anchorage newspaper picked up the news, the family received thousands of online hate messages—even death threats.

At once heartbreaking and heartwarming, this story is the subject of One with the Whale, a new, award-winning documentary that premieres on PBS’s Independent Lens on April 22. Created by co-directors Pete Chelkowski and Jim Wickens with the community’s blessing, it showcases the struggles of subsistence hunting—and the lack of understanding about its importance.

“Subsistence hunting is a traditional lifestyle that’s been passed down from generation to generation, and we rely upon it dearly,” says Daniel Apassingok. “It helps feed not just the community, but the next village and people all over the state.”"

Kate Nelson reports for Civil Eats April 22, 2024.

Source: Civil Eats, 04/29/2024