Each year, the Iñupiat community in Utqiagvik, Alaska, gathers for Nalukataq, an annual whaling festival. Whaling crews hand out hunks of muktuk (whale blubber), mikkigak (fermented whale meat), and quaq (whale steak). Kids hand out hot tea and coffee to steel attendees against the Arctic wind. The day starts when whaling crews erect flags at the fairgrounds at 6 in the morning and ends under the midnight sun when the dancing is done.
During the summer in 2023, Reporting Fellow Gabe Allen traveled to Utqiagvik to experience the festival and talk with local leaders and scientists. His story focuses on the work that is done to keep whaling practices, and thereby Nalukataq, alive. Over the last half century, Indigenous whalers and scientists have worked together to study local wildlife, map Arctic ice, and mitigate the effects of climate change. Their collaboration provides a case study of how these two knowledge systems can work together effectively, and when they can’t.