Thursday, June 30, 2011

BusyTown

Remember Lowley worm!? And Richard Scarry's Busy Town!? My favorite books growing up!

Well, they ain't got nuthin' on Kotzebue...

Don't expect to hear from me for a few days. How about next week sometime!!?

See ya.

Schedule july 1-4

P.S. if you haven't been to Kotzebue, this is the PERFECT time to come!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Done. Finally!

So my Ugruk is finally done.

What starts out with a seal swimming in the ocean, and continues on to gutting, removing the intestines and cleaning them on the ice, to removing the blubber from the meat, the skin from the blubber, the meat from the bones, stripping that meat, hanging it to dry, ends with cleaning the meat, boiling the ingalauqs, and rendering the oil.

Which takes about a week and a half total.

And I'm FINALLY Done. And my body boycotts Ugruk and Seal Oil for about a month after this process because I am already so tired after working full time, that when I have to cut and gut, and strip, and hang, and render...I wear myself out.

But I am happy. My sister in Texas is happy. My mom is happy. And everyone who will share in our bounty will be happy too. Which makes it all worthwhile.

And if you've ever wondered how we render the oil, here's a video of my 8 year old "teaching" my cousin who made the mistake of asking her, "is this the way you do it..." how to correctly cut the blubber into strips to throw into the buckets, that will sit in the shed to self-render (melt essentially) into Seal Oil.

Enjoy.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Qagruq

Aarigaa Qagruq! A time for celebration and giving.

welcome

A time for the whaling crews to share their bounty. And a time for us to enjoy their bounty. It really is ingrained in our DNA to share our food. When you live so far above the arctic circle in such a desolate place, we had to share to survive.

Pt hope

Most (I have to say MOST, because I know people who DON'T share) people up here, share, share, SHARE. They ask nothing in return. They are happy to provide and wish to give thank everyone for their help and prayers.

avatraq

Especially in Point Hope. This year I believe they caught three whales. I could be wrong, but that's what I remember right now!

umiaq

I was able to attend the Qagruq celebration where they gave away Akutuq (Eskimo Ice Cream), Avatraq (Flipper) and Mikigaq (Aged blubber, meat and blood). It was absolutely a beautiful day in Point Hope with the wind blowing, as it usually does, the Umiaq (Skin boats) turned to the side to block the wind for the elders. Plenty of tundra to sit or stand on and lots of fellowship.

aanas

I saw people who knew me when I was a baby, declaring, "You're so big..." Which to a different person, would be offensive. To me? I just smiled and said, "you're so old!" hahaha. My mom's Umaas my dad's Sunnaqs, and even my own classmates and everyone in between.

paulette aana

I waited patiently to hear the words, "Nalauqmiuts!" when giving away the Avatraq, my favorite part. They did say Iglaaqs, which I was one, but man...I can totally claim to be white (I am half!) and really wanted to get another piece!

flipper eating

The crews cut and handed out and the yells were heard above all the commotion. "Pastors!" "My Cousins!" "Brothers and Sisters!" "Visitors!" "My best friend!" Everyone who was called, walked up to the middle and received their piece of flipper. I went home with Mikigaq, Akutuq and one flipper. (Cause I ate the other one right then and there!)

me and daisy

I also came home with Natchiq, and a lot of scrap baleen so my kids could learn to etch. I did manage to purchase a beautiful etched baleen piece for my office too.

mikigaq

The tundra, though still speckled with some snow (yes, SNOW!) was alive and vibrant in color and smell. Tundra Flowers peeked out beneath the carpet of lichen and moss, daring to show their colors to the sky above.

flowers

My favorite part though was seeing old friends, and standing in awe of the awesome sewing skills of the Point Hope women. (The parky on the Right? They sewed that in ONE DAY!)

women

So, Quyaana Point Hope for allowing me to come to your village and experience Qagruq and sharing your wonderful bounty!

flipper

Thursday, June 23, 2011

There is time

There is time to flip Ugruk.

Ugruk
Ugruk in a bucket. Not quite the familiar is it!?

There is time to make jam.

Jam
Midnight Jam Making session called to me....

There is time to spray your dogs down when they're hot and the midnight sun is beating down on you for 24 hours a day.

Spray
Magnus getting the spray-down after work.

And there is time to vote.

Denali

My cousin Denali is the reigning Miss Teen Alaska, after winning the Miss Teen Arctic Circle Pageant here in Kotzebue a few years ago. She is the epitome of cool. Eskimo beauty, bred on the pebble beaches of Sisualik and Katyuuraq. She has blossomed like the fireweed each summer into the most beautiful and grounded person ever. Currently she is attending college at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Miss Teen
Miss Teen Arctic Circle, running down the Sisualik Trail to Aana Katak's!

Next month, she will be heading down to the National Miss Teen Pageant in the Bahamas with my auntie Martha and a few supporters. It's quite an excursion to make when you live above the Arctic Circle and its prime Aqpik picking season. But we know that she will do great and wish her the best of luck.

Den Den

YOU can help! Click HERE and log on with Facebook and VOTE for Denali for People's Choice. Click the Alaska link and vote away. Denali Quyaana ("Thank you" in Inupiaq) Whiting. Little Sisualik girl, all grown up.

Go ahead and vote more than once! Feel free to vote and vote and vote and vote some more. Take a break. Vote. Make dinner. Vote. Flip your ugruk. Vote.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tis the season

Ugruk Season.

men on ice

Every Coastal Eskimo knows what that means. Busy, Busy, Busy. And Bugs, Bugs, Bugs. And pack ice.

seal

Ahhhh, the smell of the ocean breeze. The feel of the spray of water hitting your face in the boat. Brings me back to childhood every time.

koy and tim

Luckily, my 14 year old son is able to experience that too. This weekend, he and the family and friends went Ugruk hunting. A quick jaunt to the pack ice and they came back with two.

koy shooting

Two huge ones, with great hides. The first one I got was an old bull. He had apparently been in some fights, because he was all beat up. Bruises filled his blubber, we had to get cut a lot of it out.

koy braiding

But that's life, I guess.

seal hook

My meat is hanging, my arms are dead from cutting and cutting and cutting. Two other families are blessed with the first catch of the 14 and 15 yr old boys and life is great above the Arctic Circle.

pulling the selas

That is, until you come back to town and see the Mosquito problem.

mosquito problem

Hello Deet, where are you now!?

siksus knives

My Ulu and knives were all made by my father, grandfather, son or husband. Don't forget to check out Siksu's Knives on FACEBOOK or THE WEB

Friday, June 17, 2011

Midnight Sun

So, I finally, after all these years figured out why we have a midnight sun in Kotzebue. I mean, I have worked and played and slept in the sun but last night it dawned on me.

Photobucket
Midnight Sun

We have a midnight sun because this is our largest harvest season besides the fall time, when we hunt Caribou and Moose. This is our Sea Mammal harvest time and when you get 1 or 2 or 3 ugruk, you have to stay up ALL FREAKING night to take care of it.

Photobucket
My favorite Ulu

Especially when its just you. And don't even get me started on BELUGA! They are HUGE!

I remember a few years ago, my "uncle" (he's not REALLY my uncle, but we call him UNCLE!) called me and said, "I got your beluga."

Huh??!?!? You got my WHAT!?

Beluga.

Photobucket
Junie pulling up a Beluga.

He got me a beluga. And it was ready to be taken care of. Right now. At 8:00 at night. After my softball game. Immediately.

Photobucket
Kaisa cutting Ingalauqs.

So, like a good little Eskimo, I went 8 miles out of town and fully expected my husband to be out there with me cutting and gutting and cutting and cutting some more until we were done. Well, he was a medevac pilot at that time and GUESS WHAT. BRIIIIiIIiIIiIiiiiIING! Phone call.

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Our tools of choice. All handmade by my grandfather, dad or husband.

Medevac to Anchorage. That means a 6 hour trip and he had 30 minutes to get there. So, he did what any other guy would do. He left me there. Alone. With a knife. And my softball shoes.

Photobucket
Rishon learning to cut with his Tatta.

To cut my beluga. By MYSELF. And I did. for 8 straight hours I cut and cut and cut, until someone happened by at 8 am and said, "Hi Maija...you need help!?" I said, "DOES IT LOOK LIKE I NEED HELP!?"

kav
Paulette Kavraq'ing (Yes I just put an English suffix on an Eskimo word!)

So he called my aunts and they all came rushing. Like family should IF I had a cell phone to call them.

Photobucket
Shon and Tatta Junie cutting Beluga.

Anyway, every year my other "Uncle" gets me an Ugruk. My husband can't "hunt" marine mammals and I'll be damned if I am not eating that stuff. So, they hunt for me. Cause we do that, we take care of each other.

Photobucket
Beluga in a truck.

This year was no exception. My uncle called and "the Ugruk Fairy had arrived." With an 8 foot MONSTER!!! Dangit and I still had to work. And cook and take care of my family.

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Kookie cutting Ugruk.

THUS THE REASON we have a Midnight Sun. Because when the kids aren't asking questions and flies aren't buzzing around us and work doesn't beckon, then we can ENJOY the midnight sun at 2:00 am and cut our Ugruk in PEACE!

Photobucket
Maddie cutting Ingalauqs. (Seal intestines)

I love the midnight sun. I can sleep in the sun, shade, dark, light, floor, couch, chair, plane, work (oops) thanks to the sun. I can sleep anywhere. People take years to get used to it, but not me. When the sun is out I have more energy (to cut for six hours a night and then get up and go to work the next morning) and I'm not too tired! (Usually!)

ing
Seal Intestines, ready to be boiled, after they're hung for a day.

So, I figured that a long time ago, before full time jobs for mom's they stayed up and kavraq'd and cut blubber and stirred their oil and dried their meat and hung their muktuk all night long, cause it was light out and they could.

Photobucket
Beluga Brain in a Bucket. Pretty good all Boiled up with salt.

For the past several days I have stayed up until about 4:00 am cutting, flipping, boiling, vac sealing, kavraq'ing, slicing, and eating Ugruk and Beluga. I put away at least three packages per month in our freezer so I know I can eat beluga and/or Ugruk at least three times a month until next year.

Photobucket
My meat hanging...

Then I also put away about the same amount of extras that say, "EXTRA" so I can give it away, send it to potlucks, friends, elders, and the sort. My husband travels to the villages to talk to Elders and he always takes beluga and ugruk to them. And then he comes back fat.

But I love him. He likes to share and make elders happy. Me too. We like to share. He doesn't actually "Work" on Ugruk or Beluga though. He just chops the stuff we need chopped with an axe and then gets rid of the carcass and bones when we are done taking all the meat off. And that's fine with me. Cause that's nasty work.

kaisa
Little girls work. Cutting the red stuff off the blubber so your oil isn't yellow!

Last night after the girls went to bed, I got stuck doing "little girls" work. Cutting the blubber into strips to put into the buckets that will render down to make oil. LITTLE girls work. I swear it was cause my BFF Paulette was here and telling me what to do. haha. No complaints though.

me
I'm cutting blubber into strips.

And then that same "uncle" well, not really him, but my other friend Kookie, they caught a Beluga in a net and we rushed through my ugruk and ran down to the beach to help take care of the beluga.

Photobucket
Beluga cutters!

After 2:30 in the morning we were done with a beluga. Record time. Many hands make small work, or whatever that saying is!!! And now THIS YEAR, I have beluga, Ugruk and HOPEFULLY seal oil. (I'm not the BEST seal Oil maker!!! I'll admit that.)

jos
Josie helping while her baby cries inside!!! (that's what we have babysitters for!)

And when my baby sister's friend goes to visit her, she will have Ugruk and Beluga and Seal Oil too. Cause that's what we do. Take care of each other. Did I already say that?

Well it's true. What's up in YOUR neck of the woods! (or willows, since we have no trees here!)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Job Descriptions and Previous Employment

My son is 14 years old, which means he can legally get a job here in Kotzebue. When filling out his previous employment he asked if he could write things down like, "commercial fisherman for 4 years," and "hunter for my family since I was six," etc. I had to tell him that even though, at age 14, if the world were to end, he would survive with duct tape, a snare wire and a knife, that he could only write down professional experience, things he got paid for and he paid taxes on.

fisher girl

When he was a baby, I swore to myself that I wouldn't raise him in a city. A place where you worry about who your children are around or worry about them if you haven't heard from them for a while. Don't get me wrong, I freak out when I don't know where my kids are, but not nearly as much as I would in a city.

fisher maddie

My kids have been shooting, gutting and cutting Caribou since they were out of diapers (before they were two) and taking shot guns out since they were six. They've been cutting Ugruk with me since they could yield an ulu (or knife) and cut the blubber into strips. They've helped me pick 40 gallons of berries for the winter, and fillet 100 salmon, then vacuum seal them for winter. They've sat on the ice fishing through a hole for shiifish so we could eat throughout the year.

scaler

None of that really matters though when you're 14 and want a desk job because being a hunter just doesn't "pay" for your things. Like wrestling camps and basketball camps, which cost at least triple thanks to airfare and lodging away from home. Since he's been fishing with a gill net since he was little, he is going to get his "helper's license" and "help" my cousin commercial fish. So he can go to wrestling camp, or Bible camp, or basketball camp.

aana lena

Today my uncle dropped off an ugruk for me to cut up. Last week I told my kids to go fishing for me and get two buckets of Herring. So they did. Without question, and fully knowing exactly what to do.

herring heads

They then scaled the fish and then beheaded and gutted them and soaked them in a bucket of salt water. During the process, they took out the suvaks (eggs) and ate them right out of the belly. And in a bucket they sit to be pickled so we can eat then during the winter.



I guess that just doesn't cut it though in "the Real World."