18 June, 1999
Friday, June 18th 1999
Contents: EIDER SURVEY/BLANKET TOSS FESTIVAL
GUEST SPEAKER: 15 YEAR OLD MICHELLE REAKOFF
Pictures: On the 4 wheeler, Michelle Reakoff, the blanket toss, whale parts that are edible (I guess they all are!)
Hi all! Today we spent the morning gearing up, making plans for the day, and breaking up into pairs for the eider surveys. I did a foot survey with Cathy Donaldson, who works for the Endangered Species branch of USFW (United States Fisheries and Wildlife). We took the 4 wheelers today and left the truck for another crew. The 4 wheelers are fun! So many people use them and snowmobiles here instead of cars, so no one looks twice at a person driving through town on one. I had to dress extra warm to ride on one though, so I borrowed a heavy parka and thick leather mittens that the ARF (Arctic Research Facility) keeps handy for working outside in really cold conditions. Cathy and I surveyed a small area on the far end of town, and it took just over 3 hours. We saw 3 pairs of Steller's Eiders and one lone male eider. They were all near the road, so we walked all over for nothing! Well,not actually for nothing, because it is as important to find where the eiders are NOT as it is to find where they are. This part of the study - just going out and finding the birds - is important for 3 reasons:
1. To find out what kind of habitat they use normally 2. To find out what plots of land they are using, so
these plots can hopefully be saved from development
3. To see what stage they are at in terms of their behavior. Last week, the eiders were much easier to find, as there was not as much ice-free water and they had to congregate together. Now, the eiders are seperating out more into their pairs, as the tundra is "opening up" (ice and snow cover is melting).
Hopefully, they will be beginning to make their nests soon ("nest initiation").
After we finished doing our survey, we went into town and checked out the 1st blanket toss festival (called a "naluqatak", but I am not sure I spelled that right!). Every crew that kills a whale during their spring migration past Barrow celebrates by co-hosting a blanket toss festival.
People only work 1/2 days during naluqatak, and most of the town shows up. Their are 6 festivals this year, all within 10 days of each other. There were 18 whales successfully hunted this year, and each festival is hosted by 3 or more of the crews (I was told there is around 42 crews in Barrow alone).
I have heard that the blanket toss is a way that eskimos used to get high enough to look for whales - but I haven't checked up on that information yet!
The main function of these is to dole out parts of the whale to the whole village to eat, so people bring boxes lined with garbage bags so that they can take some whale parts home with them and freeze to eat all summer.
One of our crew members, Michelle Reakoff, is still young enough (15 years old) to be brave and go jump on the blanket and get tossed around! She is the "Guest speaker" of the day, and she can tell you about the naluqatak better than I can!
Thanks so much to everyone who is following along on this adventure. Please note that pictures have been added to previous journals, and I am slowly filling in on the days that I was unable to connect! Michele Hauschulz (Teacher Experiencing the Arctic)
GUEST SPEAKER: Michelle Reakoff
Hello! My name is Michelle Reakoff. I am 15 years old. I come from a very small village called Wiseman. It is located in the foot hills of the Brookes Range.Our population last winter was 19 people! I am related to most of the people. Wiseman is three miles off the Dalton Highway. The Trans-Alaska Pipline parallels the Dalton Highway. We also have a river that goes by our village. It is called the Middle Fork of the Koyukuk River.We can see all of this from our kitchen window. There are several mountains right around Wiseman. The highest peak is about 4,600 feet. I've climbed most of the mountains around there with my brother and dad while we were out hunting for Dall Sheep. Last fall I shot my first ram. I was really happy to get it. Dall Sheep are a prized meat to most people that have tried it. We have to hunt for our winters meat supply every fall. We usually get two moose, a few caribou, a sheep, and once in awhile we'll get a bear (we've got both Black & Grizzly Bears). In the winter we get our main income by trapping the different fur bearing animals that live around there. My dad has over 130 miles of trapline and my brother and I have a short 4 mile trapline. For the four years that my brother and I have been trapping we have gotten two wolves, five lynx, and about eight
foxes. To be a trapper you have to be very patient. We live in a house that is partly made from logs and partly from a frame. We heat our cabin by wood. For many years we have had to do homeschooling, but this coming fall we will be getting a charter school, which means we have got funding from the State of Alaska to hire a teacher, teacher's aide, curriculum, and other things needed to have a school. Homeschooling is good to a point, but if you're like me, it is very hard to sit down and do school on my own. And because of it I am a grade behind, but hopefully with this teacher around I'll have a chance to catch up. I really want to graduate on time, because I want to go to college and become a Wildlife Biologist. And I figure the sooner the better! This spring I got hired as a Resource Apprentice through a summer youth employment program which is being funded through a Native Corpiration (I'm 1/4 eskimo). I mainly work for the National Park Service and Kanuti Wildlife Refuge and they send me out on different projects. My first project I'm working on is this Steller Eider Breeding Study they are doing up here in Barrow, Alaska for two weeks. It is my first time away from home on my own, so I was pretty homesick for the first few days of being here (I got here on Monday and it is now Friday). I met your teacher the first day I was here. She's a real great person and I enjoy working around her (we share a bunk together). All the people up here are really nice. I'm really enjoying my stay here. It is my first time to Barrow and even though it is a lot different then my village, I think I could live here--for awhile. Here in Barrow they have about 4,200 people, it is extremely flat, there's no trees at all, and they get a lot of fog. Wiseman is the exact oppisite. What I think I like most about Barrow, is that there are more people my age. Today I got to meet quite a few people my age. After working in the field we went to a big whaling festival. I would write the name of the festival in eskimo only if I knew how to spell it. Sorry! At this festival they were celebrating the fact that different whaling crews had gotten whales this spring. The whole village together had gotten 18 whales this spring! All day they serve food. They had duck & goose soups,candy, cakes, fruit, bread, and most important of all was the whales that were split between the village people. The parts of the whale that got split up were
the frozen meat, Muktuk(blubber & skin that is eaten raw), and parts of the flippers. I got some to take back home to my family. I actually really like the taste of it even though it sounds really bad. They also had a blanket toss. It is like a trampoline, but made out of sowen together Bearded Seal skins that are tied to poles with ropes and also ropes along the outside of the skins so people can hang on. A lot of people get all around the blanket and hold it and then bounce the blanket up and down while someone jumps in middle. I tried it and it was a lot of fun, because we would go up so high. After everything else the have traditional native dancing and that pretty much ends the day, because all that lasts until midnight or later. I might go watch them do the native dances, because I've never seen it done before. So I should end here for now. I feel very honored to have shared a part of my life with all of you and I hope you have enjoyed it, for I surely have! Take it easy and good-bye:-) If you have any questions for me, be sure to write!
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