Still from documentary THIS IS INDIAN COUNTRY: Hanging on at the Top of the World, narrated by Billy Frank Jr.

Native American Heritage Month: Iñupiat in Barrow, Alaska, Hang on at the Top of the World

ICTMN Staff
11/17/12

This hour-long documentary chronicles the ebbing cultural life of the Alaska Natives who live on the edge of climate change. It's not just Caribbean islands getting swallowed up by the rising oceans. 

"Every wave that comes in takes more of Native Alaska with it," renowned rights activist Billy Frank Jr. intones in the beginning of the film. He leans down to gaze at the encroaching waves. "I may be freezing now," says Frank. "But they just had the warmest September ever. That tells us that there's changes going on."

Barrow, he tells us, is "all about the whales." The opening scenes depict the celebration that erupts as the whale hunters come back dragging their catch, four bowhead whales. The whaling culture is strong, the people are strong, and the villages ultimately are not going anywhere, at least not figuratively. 

Villagers come together from all around, laughing, greeting one another, playing games and lugging away cartons of whale meat. Everyone's food is provided for the winter, he says. "Everyone in the village is going to have freezers full of muckduck." 

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