A film by Leonard Kamerling, Sarah Elder,
Language: Siberian Yup’ik,
“When our ancestors hunted a whale,” elder Lincoln Pelaasi from the village of Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, tells us, “They harpooned it right on each cheek. Attached to the harpoon was a walrus skin rope and at the end of each rope was a small bag of water. If the whale went to the right, they shook the bag on that side and he would go to the left, turning away from the sound of the water. Those big whales, just like dogs they would steer them to the land. This is how it was done.” From the roof of a snow-covered house men with binoculars scan the ocean for signs of whales. It is April and the Bowhead whales are beginning their summer migration to Arctic waters. For generations, St. Lawrence Island hunters have waited in this very same place for their arrival. The hunters launch their skin boats under sail and soon an exuberant voice on the CB radio shouts the news of a strike. The boats power up their motors and join the others to help corral and tow the whale back to shore where the three-day task of butchering and distributing the meat begins.