Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Prophet Of Point Hope?
Mr. Nashapuk, who's grandfather told of his prophecy. It seems like such a long time ago since I was a police officer in the village of Point Hope, Alaska. It was an interesting time in my life. Being a police officer in a very remote village will teach you a few things about life and about yourself. Some of those things you might not want to know. The village is home to just under a thousand people and is the largest remote village in the North Slope Borough. Barrow Alaska is the equivalent of a county seat. Barrow being the farthest northern community in the United States. The only way to get to Point Hope is by aircraft or across the tundra by snow machine when there is snow, and of course by boat. Point Hope is said to be one of the longest continually occupied areas in North America. It is the site where the land bridge extended from what is now known as Russia.
Point Hope is made up of 98% Inupiaq natives. The rest are a mix of folks who have moved to Point Hope for various reasons. If you live there one thing is for sure, you better be tough, and when I lived there be ready to pay over $6.00 for a gallon of milk. That was back in 2001. There were supposed to be three police officers in the village but it was just another officer and myself while I was there. I will save those stories for my “Life In A Sandbox” tales to be continued at some point in time. For now I will just cover some interesting people and places as well as non related law enforcement tales about Point Hope. One such tale is about the gentleman in the photo. I actually cannot remember his first name but I will never forget his last name, Nashapuk. The name is important to me because of his brother Henry, but that is a different story. The gentleman in the photo is holding a handcrafted baleen basket. It is small but expensive. I bought one like it for my then wife Julie. They are weaved from baleen which is the inner upper portion of a bowhead whales mouth. These can range in size from 2ft to as much as 12ft in length. The baleen is used to separate sea water and food in the whales mouth. The whale will take krill or maybe small fish into its mouth. The whale then forces the water out using the baleen as a strainer. Once the water is ejected, the whale will swallow the food left behind. In the early days of whaling until the early 1900’s, baleen was used to create things such as corsets for woman because of its flexibility and strength. As its use dwindled as a result of new manmade materials, the natives began to improvise turning it into art work that could be traded and sold. The little basket in Mr. Nashapuk’s hand would be valued between $200.00 and $400.00. The small white piece at the top is ivory. The top is usually carved into shapes such as whale tales, polar bears, seals and such. I love talking to people and Mr. Nashapuk was no exception. He offered up a story about his grandfather that made wonder about the future. It was shortly after Sept. 11th, 2001. I stopped at his house to tell him I was leaving Point Hope to work on the Prudhoe Bay oil field. We sat in his living room and 9/11 attack was the topic of conversation. He relayed a story about his grandfather some sixty years prior, standing outside staring to the south. He said that his grandfather spoke slowly as he described his prophecy. He said that he could see thousands of people moving across the tundra heading north trying to escape the great fire! With the attacks on our country so fresh we pondered the possible scenarios. Did his grandfather see a nuclear war, or perhaps climate change? Maybe a celestial object such as a meteor striking the land to the south. What ever the case it was chilling.