Beluga Whale Hunt | Iñupiat and the Whales | 2007 | 59 in. x 74 in.
Early July 2007, Kasegaluk Lagoon, along the Chukchi Sea coast, Alaska. An estimated ten thousand Bowhead and over sixty thousand Beluga whales migrate through the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. The Iñupiat people, who live along the Arctic coast of Alaska primarily depend on marine mammals, including bowhead and beluga whales, seals, and walrus, for subsistence food. Moreover, their cultural and spiritual identities are intimately tied to the whales and the sea. “The Arctic Ocean is our garden,” they say. The Shell Oil company with support from the United States Government has been pushing hard to open up the entire Beaufort and Chukchi seas of Arctic Alaska to oil and gas development, which the Iñupiat regard as a human rights issue. They oppose these projects, as they fear such development would seriously impact the whales and the ecology of the Arctic Ocean, and consequently the Iñupiat culture. Oil drilling in the Arctic Ocean is the most dangerous form of drilling anywhere on earth as no one knows how to clean up a major spill from underneath the broken sea ice in the extremely harsh environment of the far North. For more information on the campaign to stop Shell’s Arctic drilling, see my essay “BPing the Arctic?” (READ ONLINE), in the paperback edition of the anthology, Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point (Seven Stories Press, 2013); my letter to the editor “Can Shell Be Stopped?” (READ ONLINE), in The New York Review of Books (6 June 2013); and my interview “Looming Deadline Creates Window for Protests to Stop Shell’s Arctic Drilling” (VIEW ONLINE), with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez on Democracy Now! (20 July 2012).