Celebrate the Whale
ONCE THE VILLAGERS had completed their harvest of all of the meat, bone, blubber, and other usable parts of the whale, had stored all the fruits of their labor, cleaned their tools, and packed everything to return to their village, they were undoubtedly ready to celebrate.
But it might surprise you to know that they did not celebrate the brave harpooners, or the wise shaman, or the clever hunters who made up the crew. They did not celebrate the village or the villagers. Instead, they celebrated the whale. To them, the whale was a gift from the gods, the source of sustenance for the people of their village.
By tradition, the Inuit kept the whale’s head intact during the harvest. When the work was done, a crew in an umiak would tow the whale’s head back into the deeper waters of the sea and release it. There, they would watch it sink deep into the black waters with the belief that it would be reborn, to return another spring. This action completed an eternal cycle that had sustained the village for another year.
The Inuit didn’t view their whale as prey, or an enemy, even though it could have taken their lives. They didn’t even see it as the victim of the hunt. They loved and revered the whale. The whale was a participant in this effort to feed and sustain their ...