Friday, February 04, 2005

Heartfelt Thanks

An Attitude of Gratitude.

Heartfelt thanks are in order for a unique group of
unwitting accomplices. I suppose unwitting angels is
a more appropriate description of these fine folks.
The Muktuk Pipeline is a demonstration of the power of
sharing. I think you’ll enjoy this story.

Every year during the holidays, my wife sends baked
goods and subsistence food packages to the Senior
Center. Just like setting a place at your Christmas
dinner table for Tiny Tim’s empty chair, it does a
soul some good to send presents to the place you last
visited your grandma. Last November, Cyrus Harris
contacted us and asked if it was possible for us to
send larger shipments of muktuk, sufficient for feasts
and festivals. Mr. Harris has devoted himself to the
duties of distributing cultural foods to the Kotzebue
Senior Center and also untold numbers of elder Eskimos
all over Northwest Alaska. He informed us that there
is tremendous unmet demand for whale meat and muktuk,
and that he lacked a dependable source.

After agreeing to assist him in meeting this unmet
need, it became apparent I was clueless how to fulfill
such a request. We phoned Mr. Sparrow at KBRW and
broadcasted requests for donations of muktuk, meat and
blubber. When tasked with such an exercise in the
capacity to give, our local Barrow whaling families
vastly exceeded our expectations. None of us were
prepared for what happened next, the following
families proceeded to deliver over two tons of
assorted cuts of whale meat to our front porch.

Ø Kanayuruks
Ø Oleamans
Ø Ittas
Ø Patkotaks
Ø Rexfords
Ø Nayakiks
Ø Hopsons
Ø Browers

I kid you not; the sheer volume of food that arrived
dwarfed our house. Literally, trucks and sleds full
of freshly butchered and aged whale meat and blubber
lined the driveway. The acquisition phase of ‘project
muktuk’ was nailed down in a really big way, but
delivering such a huge pile of heavy food from our
porch in Browerville all the way to the NANA Region
remained a logistical pain in the saddle.

We phoned all of the airlines in Barrow and Kotzebue
lobbying for help with hauling this food. Four
people, who’d never heard of us before, liked the plan
and volunteered free freight services on a space
available basis. Brian Lowe and Alice Brower at Cape
Smythe Air Service and Kerry Cope and Solveig Naylor
at Hageland Aviation offered to haul a mountain of
muktuk, at no charge.

This is truly noteworthy so I’ll say it again. Since
November, Hageland Aviation and Cape Smythe Air
Service have flown over 4000 pounds of whale meat and
muktuk donated by the good folks of Barrow, to almost
every village elders’ council in the NANA region, for
free. That’s free ninety free, zero bucks. Pretty
cool, huh? The only expenses incurred for this
mission were five miles of strapping tape, long
distance phone bills, and lots of cardboard boxes and
plastic liners from AC. With their combined good will,
this collection of angels implemented and reinforced
Inupiaq Values while honoring our elder Eskimos and
praising the spirits of those who have gone before
them with the sharing of lots and lots of really good
food.

Grandma Magdeline always said, “judge a person by
their actions, not their words”. Judging by the
philanthropic actions of all these good folks, it’s a
sure bet they’re sporting shiny halos. The next time
you see any of these angels, take the time to shake
their hand and thank them for their commitment to
divine works. An attitude of gratitude goes a long,
long way.

Karl Ewing and Bessie Tikik
Barrow, Alaska

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