March 28, 2005

30. Hunting For Subsistence.

It's hard to overstate how much hunting is a part of life out here. Even though there are places to buy things, subsistence foods comprise half the village diet. Spring is approaching, the sun is setting later and later (9:00 tonight), and it is nearly seal hunting season. People have been talking about seal hunting all year. I got to taste seal a couple of times. It has a strong, sort of iron-rich anise flavor. It's legal for me to eat anything offered, but laws carefully define exactly what seal hunting is and who is allowed to partake. For example, I am allowed to go out on seal hunts, but could
be arrested if I steer the boat. Native hunters frequently take other protected marine mammals,
such as Walrus and Beluga Whale. Pictured at left is Beluga ready to eat. It's very tough and without much taste. On land, moose, caribou, ptarmigan and duck are common game. A few years ago, officers came to the village to issue citations for moose caught out of season, but were denied entry by up to 100 residents who met them where they landed:
            "50 to 100 residents of Tuntutuliak...barred an Alaska Fish and Wildlife Protection officer and two U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees from entering their village. The officers...were told they weren't welcome if they planned to enforce state and federal subsistence hunting regulations..."
            August 22, 2002 Kenai Peninsula Online
A few days later, the issue was defused when an interpreter cleared up some misunderstandings, but it shows how important hunting is. Some kids get to hunt a lot, while others never get the opportunity. We've discussed how valuable of a school activity it would be for the kids who never get to go, but it is impossible obviously because firearms are illegal in schools. For many of these kids, skill with a firearm will be as fundamental to survival as earning a living.


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