Artic oil here we come! Inuit tribe dread oil drilling coming to their homeland
Longest inhabitants of North America fear their delicate food chain will be disrupted
The Inuit community of the coast of Alaska is North America's longest known inhabitants, with a lineage dating back to 800 B.C. Now, Shell Oil has finally been given permission to begin exploratory drilling there after decades of legal wrangling. The native people there view this development with dread, as they far it will cut off the delicate marine life that is their main source of food.
The ritual of the Inupiat is dictated by environmental concerns. They are only allowed to catch 10 bowhead whales a year and the first nine boats to harpoon the whale receive shares.
The small community of only 800 people fears that their food chain will be destroyed. Over 80 percent of the food eaten in Point Hope is caught by the people themselves.
They say that the exploration will disrupt the migration routes of the marine mammals, driving them away from the coastal waters. "Their proposed Arctic drilling is right in the path of the animals' migration routes," Oomituk says.
"We live in a cycle of life that hasn't changed for thousands of years. We know where the animals are coming. We know when they are going north, when they are going south, this is our home, our land, our identity as a people."
Oomituk recognizes the national need for an independent fuel source. A very poor community, jobs are also a major concern. While he says that many people would benefit from a new local employer, it would end a way of life here that has endured for thousands of years.
"You want jobs for the people, you want the economy to come up, but do you want to sacrifice your way of life to have that happen? To endanger a way of life that's been here for time immemorial?"
The ritual of the Inupiat is dictated by environmental concerns. They are only allowed to catch 10 bowhead whales a year and the first nine boats to harpoon the whale receive shares. The lead whaling crew divides the head between them. The butchered skull is then returned to the sea, whereupon the skull will "dress itself again" and become another whale. The flipper is then pickled and offered to the elders.
The U.S. Congress imposed a moratorium on offshore oil or gas drilling in 1981. A move to explore the nation's natural resources in order to provide an independent energy source has gained momentum over the last several years. Onetime vice-presidential hopeful Sarah Palin called for an end to the ban, with the slogan "Drill, baby, drill". President Barack Obama at one time opposed it, but once elected, he allowed drilling in some offshore areas, including the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska.
"If they have jobs I will work for them no problem," one resident says. He adds that "If an oil rig spilled and made a mess of the ocean, how am I ever going to eat a whale that's not contaminated? Crude oil stays on the bottom of the ocean."
© 2012, Catholic Online. Distributed by NEWS CONSORTIUM
- - -
Pope Benedict XVI's Prayer Intentions for January 2013
General Intention: The Faith of Christians. That in this Year of Faith Christians may deepen their knowledge of the mystery of Christ and witness joyfully to the gift of faith in him.
Missionary Intention: Middle Eastern Christians. That the Christian communities of the Middle East, often discriminated against, may receive from the Holy Spirit the strength of fidelity and perseverance.
Keywords: Bowhead whale, Inuit, Alaska, oil exploration, drilling, environmental concerns, food supply
Rate This Article
Leave a Comment
More U.S. News
- Bridge that collapsed in Washington State was structurally unsound
- Gay youths to be allowed to join Boy Scouts: Controversy rages
- Violent Tsarnev friend killed by FBI after blaming Tamerlan for unsolved murders
- Eric Garcetti becomes Los Angeles' first Jewish mayor
- 12,000 homes damaged or destroyed in Moore, daunting road to recovery underway
- US Supreme Court Accepts Religion Case: Will Legislative Prayer Survive Religious Censorship?
- In the Wake of the Moore Tornado: What Can we Learn from the Disaster?
- Priests for Life: Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act Most Significant Legislative Step Forward
- Homeless man whose face was eaten away in cannibal attack recovering
- Fr. Paul Schenck: Finding Living Faith on Catechetical Sunday
- The Movie Yellow: Incest as 'Normal' and Cassavates's Slides Into the World of Woes
- The Chicago School Teachers Strike Reveals the Need For School Choice
- The Sexual Barbarians and the Dissolution of Culture
- The Happy Priest Challenges Us to Ask: Who is Jesus to Me?
- Michael Coren on Canadian Public Schools: Teachers, leave those kids alone
- We Cannot Ignore Our Consciences: Cardinal Dolan On Religious Liberty
- In the Face of Danger, Successor of Peter Travels to Lebanon as a Messenger of Peace
- Reflections on the Dignity and Vocation of Women: Who or What?