Honoring the Gift

Honoring the Gift: Ceremony, Celebration, and Community in Tikigaq, Alaska from Maya Salganek on Vimeo.

“Honoring the gift” is a phrase said by Steve Oomittuk of Point Hope (Tikiġaq), Alaska. He described the cycle of life in Tikiġaq as a process “honoring the gift of the whale,” which gives itself to the people.

This film presents the idea that the sacrifice of the whale is akin to the sacrifice the people make of themselves when they play ancient athletic games of strength and agility. When you win a game or land a whale, your entire clan benefits. When your clan prospers, you can feed the other clan, and renew the bond of community. You cannot receive if you do not give. This is how the gift itself is honored.

130 miles north of the Arctic Circle, a spit of Alaskan land points into the Chukchi Sea. The oldest continuously occupied settlement in the arctic, the Iñupiaq Eskimo people call this place Tikiġaq. American Whalers first encountered this community in 1850 while hunting the bowhead whale. They renamed the community Point Hope as the people of this place taught them new whaling techniques to harvest the bountiful sea. 150 years later, the Iñupiaq people still continue their whaling traditions, ceremonies, and ancient rituals in synthesis with modern technologies, American culture, and Christian values. Steve Oomittuk of Point Hope guides our discovery of this place and its people from Christmas Week through the summer Whale Feast of Kaġaruk.

Produced and Directed by Maya Salganek. 2007.